Two nights ago HBO’s Vice News covered the Christie years, the phenomenon of the swaggering insult machine that briefly held America in thrall before his rapid slide just as he thought he had the White House in his reach.
According to Vice News, his rise began here in my hometown in 2010, when he mocked an elementary art teacher who showed up at one of his town halls to take him to task for debasing teachers. That was back when his town halls were Republican road-shows, heavily-stocked with friendlies who got advance warning of when he’d show up so they could fill the room and clap like trained seals when he rolled out whatever insults he had for his constituents that day And on that day, like it frequently was, that was educators, and that art teacher who showed up to talk back was one of my best friends, Marie Corfield.
She hates that her bra strap showed as she challenged the governor on demonizing her profession, but we were impressed at her guts.Because this was when Christie, like the schoolyard bully he is, intimidated anyone who dared disagree with him publicly. So most people didn’t. We saw a state legislator in Marie. After some convincing, she saw it too. And the next 3 years of my life, a core group of some of the best people I know in politics worked to turn a Republican seat into a better Democratic one.
Marie ran the first time against Republicans Jack Ciattarelli, skilled politician and nice guy, who came up through the GOP farm system, and respected GOP incumbent Pete Biondi. But throughout the campaign, Biondi was absent. The Republicans concealed that Biondi was seriously ill and insisted his name be kept in the race. He died two days after the election, and the party got to keep control of the seat, swapping in Donna Simon, who would have hard a harder time beating Marie than the well-liked Biondi. Marie came in within 3 points of winning an Assembly seat her first try, in a grassroots race that surprised the Democratic Party.
Our friends at the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) teach that women who lose their first state race have a good shot at winning their second. The next year, after easily dispatching a primary challenge, Marie ran in the special election against Simon, who now had the advantage of incumbency thanks to the Republicans ethically-questionable, politically-savvy decision to make Republican voters think they could vote Biondi back into office. That was the year we ran a spectacularly successful Money Bomb for Marie, and the national Dems took notice, with the DLCC naming Marie’s the most competitive challenge in the state and the Top Grassroots Campaign in the nation. But it was also the year of Hurricane Sandy, and it took almost to November before all the votes were counted. Again, the Dems underestimated Corfield, and again she narrowly lost, by about 1,000 votes.
In 2013, her third run, Barbara Buono was on the top of the ticket, after 3 years of Christiecrat Dems boosting the Republican governor’s claim that he had the best bipartisan street cred among White House hopefuls. Buono was undercut by (many in) her own party, and that hurt Marie, especially in the crimson parts of LD16’s Hunterdon, where we live. Christie was riding high, with even Tom Moran at the Ledger endorsing him, even as he listed all the things wrong with him. And thus begins the long, ugly slide in the polls, a blue state Republican who built a huge national brand, then watched it all fall down.
We’re proud of Marie standing up to Christie, like this shows. We hope our three years slugging it out in LD16, and calling Christie out when some Dems wouldn’t, helped soften the district. Our LD16 is now majority Dem. Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman are our assembly members. And we’re pumped for the future. Here’s Vice News watching Christie go up, up … then down, down, down, down.