Monday, December 12, 2005

THE FORRESTER DEFEAT

I wasn't going to go here.
So, why, over a month after the fact, am I writing on this topic? Because I've followed it in the papers, on other blogs, and just by talking to my fellow Republicans throughout Monmouth County.
Right after his loss to the Bozo-coiffed Jon Corzine, Doug Forrester blamed his defeat in the gubernatorial race to the unpopularity of President George W. Bush. I guess it was Bush's unpopularity that drove New York City's Republican Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg from office in a pounding defeat by the Groucho Marxesque Democrat Fernando Ferrer.
Oh. What's that? Bloomberg won? A landslide? Really? Guess that shoots that theory full of holes.
Bush was a minimal factor here, if at all. But there were many factors here that all New Jersey Republicans should pay close attention to, unless they want to see New Jersey become a total one-party state.
One factor was Forrester and his campaign. This is described very well in the Nov. 16 Asbury Park Press by Carl Golden, the former press secretary to two governors. Although Forrester tried to remain on message with his "30 in Three" property tax reform plan, towards the end he was seen as casting about, on stem cell research, abortion and the public statements of the former Mrs. Corzine, not to mention Forrester's going into defense mode over Corzine's attacks upon his business. Forrester should have had Corzine on the ropes on a multitude of issues, not the least of which is Corzine's ties to the Democrat bosses. But Doug blinked.
Other reasons go beyond Forrester or any one candidate.
What reasons? Hmmm. Well, how about party organization. In the major democrat counties (Hudson, Essex, Middlesex, Camden) there was a concerted get out the vote operation. The Democrats know their voters, and they know how to get them out, with paid "volunteers", buses and other methods which they find to be tried and true. These counties work towards a goal of putting the Democrat over the top statewide, whether it be for President, Governor or U. S. Senate. Republican counties are often happy simply to have the candidate carry their county, as if that county exists in a vacuum. So the Republican nominee may post a plurality in say, Monmouth or Sussex Counties, but it won't be nearly enough to offset the numbers in the Democrat counties. Still other counties, like Burlington, are very happy to elect Republicans to county positions, but regularly go Democrat for statewide office.
Party building. This is very related to party organization. The Democrats have been working hard to expand their party into formerly Republican areas, using every means at their disposal. "Wheeling" occurs when a party boss in one county writes a contribution to the party in a different county. While both parties do it, the Democrats have it honed to a science. So you have money from the Camden Democrats going to the Bergen Democrats, and from the Union Democrats to the Monmouth Democrats. (This happens on the town level too, folks.) The result of this is that the once Republican Bergen County is now strongly Democrat. Other areas where they have made inroads include Passaic, Union, Atlantic and Mercer. Not long ago places like Gloucester were Republican, and there are people alive today who can tell you about the Republican stronghold that was Camden County.
In contrast, Republican gains in Democrat counties have been more fleeting, as the few Republican Hudson County Freeholders elected in the 1980s; Republicans in Middlesex were able to gain a short-lived majority under the leadership of County Chairman Sam Thompson. And Mercer County just lost its last county-wide elected Republican, County Clerk Cathy DiCostanzo. Mercer Republicans actually had a pretty long run with County Executives Wilbur Mathesius and Robert Prunetti, but were never able to hold on to freeholder seats.
No organized popular statewide opposition. What I mean is like in the 90s with Hands Across New Jersey. While property taxes and corruption continue to bedevil the New Jersey taxpayer, along with high auto insurance which just never seemed to go away, there is no organized forum, populist if you will, for people to vent their frustrations. Certainly nothing big enough for the politicians to take notice. "Hands" began as a result of peoples' frustration with tax increases levied by former Democrat Governor James Florio; it mushroomed into a non-partisan movement which ultimately led to Florio's 1993 election loss to former Somerset County Freeholder Director Christine Todd Whitman. Although there are certainly major issues today in New Jersey, it seems that the Hands (that were) Across New Jersey have folded (If I'm wrong, please correct me!) , and nobody has felt strongly enough to start something new. A shame. Hands could have kept both parties in line.
I could keep going on. But the bottom line is, if Republicans want to ever see the inside of the Governor's Mansion again, or to be a U. S. Senator from New Jersey again, our party must actually stand for something, become much more dynamic and be more organized on a grass-roots level. Including turning blue counties red.

9 comments:

Honest Abe said...

If people could stop using "anonymous" I would appreciate it. You don't have to be "Blogger" registered; you don't even have to use your real name. If you click on "other" and just use some sort of a nom de blog it will become a lot easier for everyone to follow the posts here.

Anonymous said...

Gee, Abe, you got a headache yet?

Honest Abe said...

No.

Anonymous said...

I think this is good take: http://www.jerseypolitics.com/nelson.html

The Big Professor said...

Corzine won for one reason that you wouldn't begin to understand: He was simply the better man. He outlined a progressive agenda for New Jersey, with realistic goals to be achieved. He has hit the ground running, and will bring about a golden age in New Jersey's history.

Anonymous said...

Honest Abe

Comparing Bloomberg to Forrester is very disingenuous. Bloomberg is really a conservative democrat, not a Republican. Bloomberg has dialogue with Al Sharpton, routinely distances himself from Republicans on social issues, and only embraces Bush for the money he can get to offset the profligate spending in NYC.

Honest Abe said...

My point was that Bush was a minimal factor, if any, in Forrester's loss.
Some would consider Forrester a conservative Democrat as well, but the fact is both he and Bloomberg were on the ballot as Republicans, both were labeled by their Democrat opponents as "Bushies", yet there were very different results.

Anonymous said...

Corzine's attack worked because Forrester was neither here not there in his stands. Bloomberg was an incumbent so Freddy's charges seemed like nonsense.

Jim Purcell said...

I'd like to throw in my two cents here historically. No one who has ever sat in the governor's chair has ever lost Newark or Essex County (including Robert Morris). Accordingly, show me a candidate that is going to win in Essex County (and it takes a lot more than a photo op) and I'll show you the guy or gal who is going to win the gubernatorial or the U.S. Senate races.

In truth, winning in New Jersey amounts to winning in Essex County and, more and more, Camden County. And, if you can do that, the rest of the state falls out pretty evenly.

So, it's really less about who has the better ideas and "is going to do more for the state" and a lot more about who can take those key areas. Republicans can, from what I've seen, but they have to play "let's make a deal" with the powers that be in those important urban areas.

Other counties are really pretty self important if they think they have a lot to do with who's taking home the trophy at the Fall Classic (a.k.a. November General Election). Since voting patterns are already largely established in areas, and are pragmatic in state- and national-level elections, candidates "X-off" certain counties right off the bat when they even consider running, solidify their bases where they should win, fight in the few battlefield counties that are left, maybe make some effort in counties they shouldn't win...but most of all they win Essex and Camden (which seem to vote similarly).

Sometimes, I feel like the rest of us are window dressing in the big races because it's not readily apparent who the "king makers" in Essex and Camden are these days (and I do not believe that it's one or two people). FYI: Even Whitman had to satisfy leaders in our largest city and largest port city and back off some of her more "conservative" stands, much to the dismay of the conservative fringe of the GOP. But, it's what it took to win and she did it. So, there can be a Republican who wins, just one that is more moderate (whether they like it or not). Come out banging a drum for the 'burbs and talking about "...those big cities like Newark that think they're so hot" (Doug didn't say that but one of his supporters in Monmouth basically said that at some local GOP shindig during the race) and you'll be looking at the next second-place winner in the November sweepstakes.