Corzine Defeats Forrester To Become N.J. Governor

Democrat Jon S. Corzine gives an optimistic assessment of his chances to be New Jersey's governor after casting his vote in Hoboken. Corzine will give up his U.S. Senate seat when he becomes governor.
Democrat Jon S. Corzine gives an optimistic assessment of his chances to be New Jersey's governor after casting his vote in Hoboken. Corzine will give up his U.S. Senate seat when he becomes governor. (By Tim Larsen -- Associated Press)
By Chris Cillizza
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Democrat Jon S. Corzine last night won the New Jersey governorship, after surviving a wild hazing from Republican Douglas Forrester and a bitter ex-wife in the closing days of a free-spending contest.

Emerging triumphant in a Garden State battle of multimillionaires, Corzine will leave the U.S. Senate just five years after winning it in another lavishly self-financed campaign. As the new governor, he will get to appoint a successor to finish his term.

With 95 percent of precincts counted, Corzine had 54 percent of the votes (1,120,272) to Forrester's 43 percent (908,796).

Unlike this year's other major off-year race, in which Tim Kaine won Virginia's governorship in a Republican-leaning state, Corzine relied on his state's natural Democratic edge -- with the result that his victory carries less of a clear message about the political strength of President Bush or the national parties.

Still, the surprisingly emphatic margins reaped by Democrats in both states will be analyzed closely by strategists in both parties. Some said it may vindicate the concerns of some Republicans that the GOP base -- beset with internal rifts and with some conservatives demoralized by Bush's recent poor approval ratings-- was simply not as energized as its Democratic counterpart heading into Election Day.

Corzine, who made a fortune on Wall Street and spent at least $43 million of it on this race, evidently did not win the vote of his ex-wife, Joanne Corzine. Her quote to a newspaper about how Corzine might "let New Jersey down" the same way he "let his family down" with an adulterous affair was featured in Forrester's TV ads.

Across the Hudson River, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- another tycoon turned politician -- coasted to a second term by a margin of 59 percent to 39 percent over former Bronx borough president Fernando Ferrer, after spending at least $65 million of his own money.

The deck looked likely to be shuffled in two other big cities. In St. Paul, Minn., the mayor was beaten by a fellow Democrat, and the same was on track to happen in Detroit.

If Democrats generally had a good night, would-be reformers did not.

Ohio and California were offering voters the chance to remove the power to draw legislative and congressional districts from politicians in state legislatures and give it to independent boards. Reformers said the change would reinvigorate politics by ending the practice of partisan gerrymandering, which tends to produce far fewer competitive races.

The Ohio measure went down to a surprisingly resounding defeat -- losing by more than 2 to 1. The redistricting proposal was part of a package of measures pushed heavily by Reform Ohio Now, a coalition of liberal interest groups, in response to several ongoing scandals afflicting state Republicans. All of the measures, which would have broadened absentee voting eligibility, lowered campaign contribution limits, and handed election oversight to an independent board, were defeated-- a disappointment to national Democrats who saw the proposals as a vehicle for capturing voter unrest in the Buckeye State. As for California Proposition 77, by 1:30 a.m. today, with about 42 percent of the vote in, 56.5 percent of voters had voted against it and 43.5 for it. Proposition 77 is one of four measures backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), turning yesterday's voting into a de facto referendum on his first two years in office and a possible harbinger of his reelection prospects next November. At 1:30 a.m., only one of the Schwarzenegger-backed initiatives -- one that would curtail the use of union dues for political activities without consent from individual members -- was running ahead.

Although polling in the days leading up to the election showed all four measures failing, Schwarzenegger promised a come-from-behind victory and put more than $7 million of his considerable fortune behind that pledge. All told, the forces in support of the four propositions raised and spent more than $50 million; opponents spent double that total.

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