A recent Inside Edge column from PoliticsNJ sizes up the behind-the-scenes machinations going on in Democratic Party circles that could put Acting Governor Codey in the U.S. Senate. Much of it seems to be Edge trying to kick up controversy in the field, with vague talk of interference from Bob Torricelli, Corzine’s “national political ambitions,” and Corzine sending Codey to Washington as a way of “consolidating power in Trenton.” There are quite a few cross-currents of Democratic intrigue he brings up, but one that he does not.
Democrats in South Jersey have not been overly pleased with Codey’s performance as Governor. Earlier this year, Codey proposed a state budget that would suspend NJ Saver property tax rebates for everyone but the elderly and disabled. Assembly Leader Joe Roberts immediately rejected the proposal, saying “I will only consider scaling back the property-tax rebates when I’m convinced we’ve cut every aspect of state spending to the bone…. And I’m not convinced we’ve done that yet.”
And a likely secondary reason that Roberts opposed the plan is that he felt Codey was selling out South Jersey Assembly members facing reelection. While the seats up in Codey’s native North Jersey are relatively safe, the South Jersey seats are not as safe and could be threatened by the elimination of the popular rebates. One South Jersey Democratic operative said that “South Jersey will not go along” with a Codey appointment to the U.S. Senate. If Codey was to be Corzine’s pick and wanted the job permanently, there would almost certainly be a primary battle next year.
In general, Codey’s been known to openly defy South Jersey Democratic powerbroker George Norcross. Most recently, when Casino Reinvestment Development Authority head Curtis Bashaw stepped down last month, Norcross saw an opportunity to pressure Governor Corzine into naming an ally to the position. But Codey immediately named Thomas Carver to the post with a four-year contract. Norcross was locked out of the process.
Interestingly, the logic behind all of this inside baseball works in the favor of Rush Holt. While a Holt appointment would certainly grate on some of the Democrats who have been jockeying for the position, there’s less chance that it would flat-out offend anyone as well. As Jenny noted, a Holt appointment also sends a strong message to the state’s progressive activists that Corzine is listening and is serious about reform. I’m confident that’s something we wouldn’t mind seeing.