November 2, 2005

Millionaires fight dirty for New Jersey’s top job

By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The two multimillionaire
candidates for governor of New Jersey have spent millions of
dollars of their own money in a tough campaign that has
alienated many voters with its barrage of negative ads.

The election has pitted Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine, a
former top executive at the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs,
against Republican Doug Forrester, a successful businessman,
and found both men calling for less political corruption and
lower property taxes.

The winner of the November 8 poll will fill an office left
vacant last year when Democrat James McGreevey stepped down
after admitting he had a homosexual affair with a former aide
in a story that made headlines worldwide.

Their fortunes -- Corzine is worth about $300 million and
Forrester about $50 million -- allowed them to finance their
campaigns privately.

According to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement
Commission, Corzine has spent $29 million and Forrester $14.5
million since the state primary in June. The result has been a
blitz of mudslinging and negative television, radio and
newspaper ads.

Opinion polls show Corzine leading, although by a slimmer
margin than had been widely expected in this traditionally
Democratic stronghold.

Forrester created, a Web site that
accuses his opponent of maintaining a network of contacts with
corrupt business people and Democratic power brokers including
former Gov. McGreevey, despite Corzine's pledge to clean up
state government ethics.

Corzine has said that Forrester's plans to curb corruption
are illegal.

It's the first time in the state's history that both
gubernatorial candidates have foregone public funds. Had they
used public funds, they would each have been limited to $9.6
million in campaign spending.

But it is not the first time the candidates have invested
in their political ambitions. In 2000, Corzine spent about $60
million of his own cash on his U.S. Senate campaign, prompting
accusations he had bought the seat. Forrester spent about $8
million on a failed bid for the U.S. Senate in 2002.


Corzine, on a campaign stop in New Brunswick, signaled the
two candidates will continue to attack each other until
Election Day. "Everybody hates negative advertising but it
tends to have real impact if it's not met with equal weight on
the other side," he said.

Forrester spent the first 10 minutes of a recent press
conference in Trenton criticizing Corzine for his business and
political connections, and rejected a reporter's suggestion
that such attacks risked alienating voters who are already
tired of the attack ads.

"Referring to a candidate's political record is not
negative campaigning," he said.

A variety of polls show Corzine comfortably ahead. A
Quinnipiac University poll published on Wednesday showed
Corzine leading Forrester by 50 percent to 38 percent. The poll
had a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

"The relentless barrage of advertising seems to be moving
voters behind Corzine," said Quinnipiac's Clay Richards. "With
a week to go, the only close battle in this campaign is whose
ads are more unfair."

The poll found 61 percent of voters believed Forrester's
ads were unfair to his opponent while 58 percent said Corzine's
ads were unfair.