It’s not paranoia if they really are coming after you

People who know Richard Codey say that even if he is interested in going to the United States Senate, he would never take the job if he believed Jon Corzine’s ulterior motive would be to get him out of Trenton. People who know Bob Menendez say that he would be “one angry man if Corzine were to pass him over.” Some Democratic insiders say they have made the Codey for Senate case to Corzine directly, arguing that appointing Codey, who comes with high statewide name ID and huge favorables, gives him a way out of choosing between the Democratic Congressmen who want the job — and helps him avoid having to deal with Senate President Codey (not exactly his strong ally or close friend) as the second most powerful man in New Jersey politics. Add a third component to the mix: a recent Zogby poll conducted for the Wall Street Journal has Republican State Senator Tom Kean, Jr. leading head-to-head matchups with Menendez and Rob Andrews. Even Republicans admit that voters don’t realize the candidate is not the former Governor, but the strength of the Kean family name is still slightly intimidating to Beltway Democrats (i.e, Chuck Schumer), who are anxious to lock up the blue-state Senate seat without having to spend resources to defend it. The presumed front runner for the Senate, if Corzine wins the general election, has been Menendez, who strongly believes he’s received enough winks and nods from his Hoboken neighbor to think he has a commitment. The conventional wisdom among some Democrats is that Corzine isn’t willing to launch a new administration by feuding with the Hudson County Democratic machine. And Corzine doesn’t want his national political ambitions to be hampered by Menendez complaining about his treatment to Latino activists across the country. The case against Menendez is being made by one of his fiercest rivals, former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli. Torricelli, still active behind the scenes (there is some evidence that he helped Loretta Weinberg in the State Senate special election convention), has weighed in against Menendez with some of his ex-colleagues, including Schumer, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman. Corzine, who must at some point make peace with Bergen County Democratic Chairman (and likely Menendez backer) Joseph Ferriero — and vice versa — could avoid battling the HCDO by working around Menendez by backing Bernard Kenny, the HCDO Chairman, for Senate President and by sharing some of his toys with three Democratic legislators who are not Menendez kool-aid drinkers (Nicholas Sacco, the Mayor of North Bergen, Joseph Doria, the Mayor of Bayonne, and Brian Stack, the Mayor of Union City), and with Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy. Right now, the virtual chairman of the Codey for Senate campaign is State Senator Paul Sarlo, a Bergen County Democrat tied closely to Ferriero. Sarlo has made no secret of his desire to see Codey in the U.S. Senate so that he can become the next Senate President. But for Democrats who believe that Codey would pass on Washington if he believes he’s being “gotten rid of,” Sarlo may be hurting his cause more than boosting it. Looming large for Corzine may be the story of his predecessor, James E. McGreevey, who promised to appoint Cuban-American Zulima Farber to the New Jersey Supreme Court, only to renege and pick John Wallace instead. That caused a very public split between McGreevey and Menendez that cost the sitting Governor considerable political capital. Corzine does have two opportunities in his early days as Governor that could help him avoid a defection of the Hispanic base vote: one is the election of Wilfredo Caraballo as Assembly Majority Leader (which also helps his constant courtship with Newark Democratic leader Steven Adubato, Sr.); the other would be his appointment of a new Chief Justice to replace Deborah Poritz, who reaches the mandatory retirement age of seventy next year. Several key Democrats say that Farber, now very much a member of Corzine’s inner circle, could emerge as a strong contender for Chief Justice. Some Republicans are surprised that their side hasn’t pushed Corzine to declare his intentions regarding a U.S. Senate appointment. Corzine, of course, has little to gain by telling Menendez, Andrews, Frank Pallone and others that they lost before they help turn out voters in November. Codey’s own views on the United States Senate remain incredibly mysterious, especially among his closest friends. Some say he truly has no interest in a life that involves three or four nights a week in Washington, that he really is a Jersey-guy “raised atop a funeral home.” But others say he has enjoyed the prominence of holding statewide office and wouldn’t mind pursuing his hearfelt mental health agenda in a national arena. Different friends say different things about how his wife, Mary Jo Codey, would feel about the Senate seat. And if Codey were to agree to go to Washington — and if Corzine were to sign on as a Codey for Senate backer — the Acting Governor could opt to become a caretaker U.S. Senator, agreeing to go to Washington for just one year. That could allow Corzine to avoid choosing between Menendez and Andrews (and others) and allow Democratic primary voters to make the call. Schumer might not be pleased with such a scenario, but as one Democrat notes, Corzine doesn’t really care whether Schumer is happy or not. New Jersey has still not elected a Republican to the United States Senate since 1972 and there is no reason to believe that a contested ’06 primary would necessarily end the Democratic winning streak against an untested Tom Kean, Jr. For those who say Corzine’s answer to consolidating power in Trenton is sending Codey to Washington, consider the story of Theodore Roosevelt, who became William McKinley’s Vice President largely because Republican party leaders in New York wanted to get him out of the Governor’s mansion — only to be in worse shape six months later when Leon Czolgosz made Roosevelt President.

It’s not paranoia if they really are coming after you