Bennett and Doria go On The Record with Michael Aron : Red meat for New Jersey political junkies and history buffs
Two former New Jersey political powerhouses joined NJTV’s Michael Aron on his weekly show, On the Record, this week to discuss the 2013 gubernatorial race, the 2014 U.S. Senate race and to reminisce about the good old days… the governors they served under and how the climate has changed in Trenton since the days when they held power.
Democrat Joe Doria served in the State Assembly from 1980-2004. He was Speaker in the 1990-1992 session. Doria left the Assembly after losing the Democratic primary in 2003. In 2004, he was elected by the Hudson Democratic Committee to fill the State Senate term vacated by the death of Senator Glenn Cunningham, who was also the mayor of Jersey City. Doria also served as mayor of Bayonne from July of 1998 through October of 2007. He resigned from the Senate and as mayor when Governor Jon Corzine nominated him to become the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, one of the most powerful Cabinet positions in the State. His public career came to a sudden end in July of 2009 when Corzine announced his resignation as DCA commissioner after his home was raided in the Operation Bid Rig sweep the resulted in 44 arrests. Doria was never arrested and the U.S Attorney’s Office cleared him of all charges in October of 2011.
Republican John Bennett is chairman of the Monmouth County Republican Committee. He served in the State Legislature for 24 years, 10 in the Assembly and 14 in the Senate. While a Senator, Bennett was co-president of the chamber with Richard Codey during first two years of the McGreevey administration. Bennett was Acting Governor for 3 1/2 days, during the week between the Whitman/DiFrancesco administration and the McGreevey administration when New Jersey had five governors…DiFrancesco, Codey, Bennett, former Attorney General John Farmer and McGreevey.
Bennett’s career as a senator came to an end after he was defeated at the polls by Ellen Karcher, then a member of the Marlboro Township Committee. The Asbury Park Press ran Bennett out of office with a relentless series of articles, over a period of months, over a billing irregularity while he was Marlboro’s Township Attorney. Bennett was cleared of any wrong doing by the Feds in March of 2007.
Bennett is collecting a $90,000 annual pension from his years in the legislature and a plethora of part time law appointments tacked together to provide a handsome income.
On the Record interview highlights
Bennett and Doria agree that now that former Acting Governor and current State Senator Richard Codey has bowed out of the gubernatorial race, Senator Barbara Buono of Middlesex County will be the Democratic nominee for governor. Both men also agree that Governor Christie is the favorite to win reelection, but not by the historic margins that Governor Tom Kean won by in 1985. Kean won every New Jersey town except tiny Roosevelt in’ 85. But as both men noted, the state’s demographics and its gerrymandered legislative map make a Kean type landslide unlikely for Christie in 2013.
Republican Kean was so popular in ’85 that Democrat Doria used Kean’s picture in his campaign materials for reelection to the Assembly. Doria and his running mate were the only Hudson County Democratic legislators to survive the Kean landslide.
Bennett expressed some surprise that Codey did not take his last chance to “reach for the brass ring” and run for his own gubernatorial term. The Republican expressed his close relationship with Codey during the two years that they shared the senate presidency. “Christie has done some of the things that Codey would have done in the same way,” Bennett said in speculating about why his friend decided not to challenge Buono for the right to run against Christie.
2014 U.S. Senate Race
Doria did not take the bait that Aron offered to stir up the simmering battle between Newark Mayor Cory Booker and U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg over the 2014 nomination for Lautenberg’s seat. Doria spoke highly of both men and weaved cliches about how far away that race is in side stepping controversy.
“We’re focused on one election at a time,” Bennett said, preferring to keep the focus on Christie’s 2013 reelection campaign than to speculate about the 2012 U.S. Senate race. Prompted by Arnon, Bennett mentioned Senators Tom Kean JR and Joe Kyrillos, as well as Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno as possible Senate candidates in 2014. Bennett emphasized that he has not heard any of the three he named talking about entering the 2014 fray.
The Good Old Days—-No Mention of Corzine
In reflecting back on their careers, both Bennett and Doria praised every governor going back to Brendan Byrne, with the notable exception of Jon Corzine whose name was not uttered in the 3o minute program. Bennett made sure that his 3.5 day administration when he had “no scandals, raised no taxes and spent no money” while he moved into Drumthwacket, hosted parties including his daughter’s wedding, granted a pardon, appointed judges and had gubernatorial stationary printed, was mentioned in the good old day review.
“What I miss doesn’t exist anymore,”Bennett bemoaned of the old bipartisan camaraderie of dining together and traveling to conferences at the tax payers expense. “Junketing,” Doria called it. “You can’t do that anymore.” “Compromise has become a dirty word.”
Neither man mentioned that under reform legislation signed by both Corzine and Christie, their career paths of dual office holding in Doria’s case and pension tacking in the case of both men, their career paths don’t exist anymore.
Bennett pointed to the consolidation of power and the glare of the media as detriments to bipartisan compromise in Trenton.
“Power has consolidated so tremendously under the presiding officers that many other members of the legislature don’t have the ability to have the participation that was done in the past.” said Bennett, “That’s what we’ve come to in this day and age. It would be on the front of all the newspapers,” if Republicans and Democrats went out to dinner together.
“Living under a microscope is not for me,” Bennett said, prompting Aron to comment, “You had a tough time with The Asbury Park Press for a while.” This lead to probably the best line of the show by Bennett, “but they’re having a tough time now–so what goes around comes around.”