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Corzine Unable to Rally Voters to the Polls

Incumbent Democratic Governor Jon Corzine was defeated at the polls this
Tuesday in the party’s first loss in a statewide election in more than a decade. Throughout
the race, many voters expressed discontent with both candidates. When the polls opened
Tuesday there was no clear winner in sight, but Republican candidate Chris Christie came
out on top with 1,140,134 votes, or 49 percent. Corzine received around 45 percent of the
votes, and Chris Daggett received around 6 percent. Thirteen of the state’s 21 counties
favored Christie.

Corzine made repeated attempts throughout his campaign to link himself to


President Obama. These efforts failed; however political analysts say the outcome is no
reflection on how well President Obama is doing in office. The president made five
campaign appearances with Corzine throughout the state, one as recent as the weekend
prior to the election. Along with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former
President Bill Clinton, Caroline and Patrick Kennedy and their cousin, Robert F.
Kennedy Jr., as well as former New York Governor Mario Cuomo also joined the support
for Corzine.

The voters who came out in 2008 in favor of Obama’s proposed changes have
now turned to Christie for change in New Jersey. Gov. Corzine lost the confidence of
New Jersey residents during the last two years of his term, resulting from higher property
taxes and unemployment during the nation’s economic crisis. Obama stood behind
Corzine. But in the end, the voters weren’t satisfied with the product he was selling, that
being the governor. Voters were disenchanted with a governor whose approval rating
never rose above 40 percent in the last two years.

As Election Day drew nearer, the polls tightened, and Corzine even took the lead
in some polls. But thanks to a strong voter-turnout in key GOP counties, Christie pulled
through and was victorious in one of the most Democratic states in the country. Christie
even won Middlesex County, which is known for being a highly Democratic County.
Exit polls said Christie won independent voters two-to-one. A solid majority of
independent voters decided to punish Corzine for New Jersey’s economic problems and
vote for Christie.

Corzine would have needed a large turnout of urban voters to get re-elected.
Democratic politicians rely upon urban voters, but clearly they did not show up to the
polls this year with voter turnout hovering between 30 and 40 percent. Corzine failed to
rally them to the polls. On the other hand, suburban voters who were outraged by their
high property taxes voted for Christie because he was the only candidate on the ballot
who had a realistic chance of defeating Corzine.

With voter turnout at a record low for a New Jersey gubernatorial election, a large
sector of Democratic voters decided not to vote this year. Though President Obama’s run
for president drew flocks of young people to the polls, they were unseen during
Tuesday’s election. Seton Hall Political Scientist Joseph Marbach said the lack of voters
getting out to vote can be seen as a major reason for Corzine’s defeat.

“Obama’s run was truly historic, a once in a generation event. It got young voters
to come out to the polls. The big question was whether these new voters would keep up
with voting habits. We now know the answer is no,” said Marbach.

Leanne Cavallaro, 21, of Ewing felt voting in a presidential election was more
important than voting for state issues.

“I went out and voted last year for Obama, and most of my friends did too. I felt
as if we were really making an important change. I don’t know why I didn’t care as much
about this election. I guess presidential elections just feel more important,” said
Cavallaro.

Ben Dworkin, director of Rider University’s Rebovich Institute for New Jersey
Politics, agrees that voter attendance was a key factor in the Democrat’s loss.

“The democrats should have won, but democratic areas underperformed and
republican areas over performed,” said Dworkin.

Democrats have a 700,000-vote advantage over Republicans in New Jersey. The


majority party only had a 350,000-vote lead until 18 months ago when President
Obama’s popularity led to a surge of newly registered democrats. The voting turnout in
2009 was less than in 2005, but Tuesday’s election charted lower because of the surge in
numbers of registered voters in 2008.

Malik Peterson, 33, of Trenton, was excited over the Obama campaign, but was
unhappy with Corzine, which led him not to keep his voting practice consistent.

“Voting for Obama was more important to me, because I helped to make history
by electing the first African American President. I wasn’t happy with what Corzine has
done for this state, but I am not a Republican either, so I just didn’t vote,” said Peterson.

Christie’s win came as a surprise to many who know New Jersey as a democratic
state. Commenting on the political tendencies of the state, Dworkin said, “In state
elections, New Jersey is much more purple than blue. This isn’t a new thing and we
shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome of this election”

Christie’s campaign was centered on New Jersey’s economic problems. At almost


10 percent, New Jersey has the highest unemployment rate of any state in the region. It
also focused on the fact that New Jersey has some of the highest property taxes in the
nation. Christie’s running mate, Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno, will become
the first person to hold the recently added post of lieutenant governor.
Christie’s first task will be to name a transition team, which will be led by GOP
lawyer Bill Palatucci and former state Attorney General David Samson. Both men served
under Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey. Their job will include planning the January
inaguration, hiring key staff and cabinet members, and laying the groundwork for
development of the next budget.

Marbach predicts that New Jersey will “see a slow in the growth of state
programs, and an increased tension between the executive and legislative branch” as a
result of this change in state leadership. He believes “it will be more difficult to solve
problems, but the increase of checks and balances could be a good thing for a state that
has been more one sided.”

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, a staff writer at the Trentonian, said this election says a
lot about New Jersey voters.

“The people of this state want the Republican and Democratic parties to work
together to solve the state's problems. While the majority of the voters voted to change
the governor, the majority of the voters also voted to re-elect their state lawmakers. This
election wasn't about kicking out the Democratic Party; this election was about installing
new leadership from the top to work across party lines in moving this state forward,” said
Abdur-Rahman.