Pres. Barack Obama endorsed New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine in front of 20,000 people at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel on Thursday, including Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who stayed briefly but was summoned back to Jersey City for an afternoon press conference on a tragic shooting.
Some criticized Healy for attending the speech on a day when five cops were shot and two suspects were killed in an exchange of gunfire on Reed Street. Obama mentioned the shooting during his 20-minute speech and lauded the police officers for their bravery in the line of duty. He also lauded Healy’s work as mayor at another point in the speech.
The president covered a wide range of issues from health care reform to his economic stimulus package. But he mostly tackled the task of listing Corzine’s accomplishments while the Democratic governor is 12 points behind in the polls.
“This is a man who cares about what is right in New Jersey,” Obama said of Corzine.
Corzine, in turn, praised Obama, referring to him several times in the speech as a “partner in the White House” who has provided New Jersey with $17.5 billion in stimulus money.
Residents speak out
At the rally, Jersey City resident Karlett Palmer said she was impressed with the president.
“It was absolutely electrifying hearing him speak,” Palmer said. “I felt like my head was going to explode.”
Lorenzo Richardson, aide to his relative, City Councilwoman Viola Richardson, had organized two buses provided by the Corzine for ’09 campaign to carry people from Jersey City.
“I was just amazed at how he is still on point on the issues that matter in this country,” Richardson said.
Timothy Battle wore an Obama t-shirt and chatted it up with his friends Josephine Thomas and Toni Gray as he waited for the buses. Gray’s 16-year-old daughter Vandie also attended.
Toni Gray, recently unemployed, was looking forward to Obama addressing an issue that has not figured prominently on his agenda.
“I just want to say that I got to shake President Obama’s hand.” – Mahaley Bowles
On the bus, 82-year-old Mary Bowles said of the president, “I hope I can look him eye-to-eye and be close to him so I can talk to him about senior citizen issues and health care, because I think he is caring man.”
Bus organizer Lorenzo Richardson led a prayer and asked passengers to sign forms as the bus was moving out.
Among those at the event was West New York Mayor Sal Vega, a delegate for New Jersey at last year’s National Democratic Convention in Denver. Vega brought along a cameraman to videotape the rally.
“Events like these don’t happen often, and you want to capture the moment,” Vega said.
Coming home on the bus, Mahaley Bowles (Mary’s daughter) stood up proudly as she showed off photos she took at the event.
“I just want to say that I got to shake President Obama’s hand,” said Bowles, eliciting some tired cheers and mock boos.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.