Lobbying for Marriage Equality in New Jersey

gaypridemarchT-blue copyThe Web Goddess and I are headed to Trenton Monday morning to lobby for pending legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.  We’ll be car-pooling with friends both gay and straight from St. George’s Episcopal Church.

I’m covering the event for Maplewood Patch, a charter member of the Maplewood BlogolopolisTM.  Patch already has my preview story posted.

I’ll be wearing the snazzy T-shirt at left, designed by the Web Goddess of course, and available from Cafe Press.

This week is the last chance for at least four years to establish marriage equality legislatively in New Jersey.  If the state Senate Judiciary Committee votes the bill out of committee Monday, the full Senate is likely to vote on Thursday.  Democratic Governor Jon Corzine has said he would sign the bill.  Republican Governor-elect Chris Christie has said he would veto it.  At the committee hearing, the Right Reverend Mark M. Beckwith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark and the Web Goddess’s boss, will be testifying in favor of the bill.

Count One Lackluster Vote for Corzine

Back in July I wrote that I probably was going to vote for Democrat Jon Corzine for Governor in New Jersey, and that he probably would lose, making me a red state voter turning blue in a blue state turning red.  But a funny thing happened on the way to November — the race tightened up.

(I planned to upload a graph showing the tightening survey results, but the @#$^& WordPress upload function isn’t working, again.  The troubleshooting tips start with “reinstall WordPress”, and the reinstall process starts with the instruction to back up your database and files, along with a link to the handy 27-step backup process.  Not today.  So: imagine a red line well above  a blue line at the left of the graph, converging into a red/blue/red/blue dance at the right. Or I suppose you could look at the actual graph at Real Clear Politics.)

Where was I?

Republican Chris Christie lost his chance at my vote when he pledged to veto any legislation enabling same-sex marriage, and to support a state constitutional amendment to the same end.  But it’s one thing to cast a protest vote for the Democrat in what looks to be a lopsided race.  When I realized my vote actually might be meaningful, I had to take another look.

Ex-prosecutor Christie pledges tax cuts and clean government in a corrupt, high-tax state, and I’ll count that as a silver lining if he wins.  But there’s no guarantee he would actually be effective at cutting taxes and fighting corruption, whereas he undoubtedly would follow through on his anti-gay veto threat.

Republicans apparently will sweep the races in Virginia, New York City and NY-23, and a GOP victory in New Jersey would add to the perception of an anti-Obamanomics backlash.  Another silver lining, if it happens.  But I reluctantly hope Corzine wins, and I did my part today.

Loading Up the Corruption Bus in New Jersey

(Welcome, New York Times readers. You might be interested in other posts about New Jersey and Maplewood.)

Corruption BusMy adopted home state of New Jersey has a long sordid history of political corruption.  We’re not yet five years removed from Gov. Jim McGreevey’s resignation after the revelation that he had appointed his unqualified boyfriend to a $110,000 state public safety job. We’ve also had Abscam in the 1980s, indictments of five of the last seven Newark mayors, and the list goes on and on.

So I didn’t pay too much attention to the mass arrests last week, until I stumbled on a long Wall Street Journal article putting it in historical perspective.  Here’s the set-up:

This latest episode featured 44 people, an unprecedented number even for New Jersey, being charged in an investigation into public corruption and international money laundering. The bust included five rabbis, three assemblymen and two mayors, prompting one late-night caller on the state’s talk radio station, New Jersey 101.5, to ask, “Where’s the partridge in the pear tree?”

There’s lots of colorful detail, going back to Colonial days, but what appealed to my libertarian sensibilities was the author’s attempt to explain why there’s so much public corruption in the state.

[T]he state is enormously over-governed. In most states, the local unit of government is the county; in others, it’s the municipality. In Jersey, we have both, and lots of them. There are 566 municipalities—California, with four times the population, has only 480—and each has a mayor and/or councils. The 21 counties have their various freeholder boards and utility commissions and there are also 120 state legislators. When that many people have their hands in the cookie jar —and there are that many cookie jars—is it any wonder that you get people selling Oreos out of their trunk in the parking lot to make a little extra cash on the side?

Most of the corrupt pols in this deep-blue state have been Democrats, and the recent batch is no exception.  It’s annoying to me (yes, I take it personally) that the arrests came just days after I announced my tepid support for the re-election of Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat.  A headline on PolitickerNJ.com sums up the situation pretty well: “Corzine is Not Corrupt — But the Corruption Scandal Dooms His Campaign.”

I can’t bring myself to vote for likely future Gov. Chris Christie because of his fervent opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples — including a veto promise and support for a constitutional amendment.   But he’s already so far ahead that he doesn’t need my vote.  As the Journal article notes, he’s a former U.S. Attorney with a 130-0 record in prosecuting corruption cases.  Sounds like a silver lining to me.

(Photo: Associated Press)

How “Blue” is New Jersey — and for How Long?

I market my blog as the musings of “a red-state voter in a deep blue state.”  It’s a catchy line, and it lends itself to a jazzy 125×125 logo — created by the Web Goddess, naturally. But sometimes I’ve wondered if New Jersey really is as “deep blue” as, say, Massachusetts or Vermont.  (I’m sure as heck in a deep blue town.)

KP-EntreCard 129Then today I saw this from fellow New Jersey blogger TigerHawk:  “Forty-nine states have elected a Republican to state-wide office since New Jersey last did.”  So by that metric, at least, it’s the bluest state in the nation.

The irony of my self-identification is that in the current governor’s race, I’m almost certainly going to vote for the Democrat — who probably is going to lose.  Which would make me a red-state voter turning blue in a blue state turning red.

I went looking for more info on New Jersey’s red/blue divide and found this from PolitickerNJ:

The last time a Republican statewide candidate won New Jersey was in 1997 [Christie Whitman’s re-election].  Since then, 49 other states have elected a Republican to a statewide office. But also consider this: the last time New Jersey re-elected a Democratic governor was 32 years ago [Brendan Byrne’s re-election].

One of those two streaks will end this year. As of this week, Republican Chris Christie leads Democrat Jon Corzine by a wide margin, 53-41 percent.

My slogan and party affiliation incline me toward Christie, and I’m impressed by his law enforcement record as the state’s U.S. Attorney.  Earlier this year, a friend who follows my blog suggested I get involved in the Christie campaign, and I looked into that. The deal-breaker was his strong stands against abortion rights and against marriage equality for same-sex couples.  (I was on the other side of those issues from McCain as well, but in a presidential election, national security trumps all else in my mind.)

On marriage equality especially, the choice in New Jersey is stark.  Corzine supports “full marriage equality and is committed to signing marriage equality legislation in 2009.”  Christie says on his website:

If a bill legalizing same sex marriage came to my desk as Governor, I would veto it. If the law were changed by judicial fiat, I would be in favor of a constitutional amendment on the ballot so that voters, not judges, would decide this important social question.

Sorry, no sale.  Maplewood, my home for 10 years, has a high concentration of gay residents.  My gay friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners deserve the same marriage rights that the Web Goddess and I enjoy.

Christie hammers Corzine for raising taxes, and says he’ll cut them.  Fair enough… but I don’t see Corzine as a spendthrift.  From Corzine’s website:

Governor Corzine reshaped and resized state government. He eliminated and consolidated departments, sold state cars, tore up gas cards and closed office buildings. He reduced the state workforce by 7,000 employees and achieved additional savings by increasing the retirement age from 55 to 62, capping pensions, and asking state workers to contribute for the first time toward the cost of their health care. This year, he even negotiated a 7.5 percent wage cut for public employees.

Because Jon Corzine made the right choices, he is the only New Jersey governor in over six decades to reduce the size of state government. The budget that he signed into law on June 29th is $1.8 billion smaller than the first budget he signed in 2006.

Sounds good to me.  Besides, I kinda like the guy.  Maybe it’s the beard.