A prominent labor leader has a tip for New Jersey Republicans if they want to beat Jon Corzine in the 2009 gubernatorial election: nominate Steve Sweeney, a Democratic State Senator from South Jersey. Sweeney, who probably fits the mold of the so-called Reagan Democrat, became a cult hero to many GOP activists during the recent state budget battle through his willingness to take on public employees and advocate a reduction in their salaries. No other legislator, including Republicans, has been tougher and more direct in his criticism of Corzine than Sweeney. Today, Sweeney will introduce a package of fifteen bills aimed at cutting benefits for state employees. The union guy, who asked that his name be withheld, suggests that a coalition of Republicans, large sections of organized labor (the building trades unions stood with Sweeney in his fight with public unions, like the CWA and AFSCME), and South Jersey independents, specifically in Gloucester, Camden, Cumberland and Salem counties, who have been voting Democratic in recent statewide elections. He suggested that Sweeney, as a Republican, would fare better against Corzine in a general election than many of the other GOP candidates short listed for ’09. Sweeney, a 47-year-old ironworker, labor leader, and the Gloucester County Freeholder Director, unseated a 28-year incumbent Senator in 2001. Since then, he has emerged as a major force in Southwestern New Jersey politics.