PRINCETON – Branded an outsider early inhis race with GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie, andthe prodigal son of either Wall Street or Illinois, or both,Gov. Jon Corzine seized on the presence of 350 Greek Americans in Drumthwacket this evening to make his case as a New Jerseyan by choice.
“Thirty-percent of people in New Jersey today are first or second generation immigrants,”added Corzine,moments beforesigning an executive order creating the Hellenic-American Heritage Commission to be headed by Zenon Christodoulou, son of the late Dr. Chris Christodolou, a national leader in the Greek-American community for 30 years.
“This state has always welcomed people who have thought of this place as one of oppportunity, who recognize the wonder of our diversity,” said Corzine at an event where guests enjoyed Greek cuisine, folkloric dancing and a dramatic reading of Plato’s Apology.
Joiningthe governoronstage was former U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Maryland), a Greek-American who went to Princeton University and who has familyties toSouthern New Jersey.
Corzine and Sarbanes collaborated on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002in an effort to create greatercorporate accountability.
“One of my dearest and closest friends during my time in the U.S. Senate was Jon Corzine,” Sarbanes told the crowd packed intoa tent behind the governor’s mansion.”We lamented his leaving the U.S. Senate, but he faced the great challenge of fixing New Jersey.”
“I don’t know whether our generation has created a Plato, but it has created a Sarbanes,” Corzine said.
Presiding over a flock of 24 Greek Orthodox church communities in a state that is home to between 80,000 and 100,000 Greek Americans, His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jerseycalled Corzine “an esteemed friend and beloved co-worker.”
“I’m confident we will be able to build on our friendship in the future,” said Metropolitan Evangelos, who presented the governor with an icon of the Virgin Mary.
A popular figure in the Greek community, recognized in a from-the-stage shout-outby Corzine as a potential future Congressional candidate in the 6th District, Middlesex County Freeholder H. James Polossaid he’s not worried about the governor’s underwhelming 67% primary showing in his home county.
“Those numbers are going to go up in the general,” said Polos. “I will be stumping for him. I can coordinate meetings with local officials, help with the governor’s visibility in Middlesex, perhaps convene an open government day in one of the towns.”
Christodoulou, who serves as vice-chair of the Somerset Democratic Committee, said of Corzine, “This is a governor who loves the diverse richness ofour state, who connects with it and who celebrates it.”