Political reformers don’t make many friends among their fellow elected officials in this state. The moment someone tries to stand above the fracas is when that person becomes a target of both parties – and the bosses behind both parties.
State Sen. Ellen Karcher ousted Republican Co-Senate President John O. Bennett II, after beating George E. Norcross’ candidate in the Democratic primary, Oceanport Mayor Gordon Gemma. Norcross tried to bring Karcher into his fold and she wouldn’t budge. Instead she forged an alliance with Senate President Richard Codey.
This week, Karcher is in trouble in her re-election bid, with some polls showing her six to nine points behind Republican Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck. Despite the Karcher campaign’s efforts to drag Beck’s numbers down with New York market attack ads the campaign has run since October 15th, Beck’s campaign isn’t crumbling, or showing any signs of fissure.
“We’re bracing for the attack,” Beck campaign spokesman Tom Fitzsimmons said at the beginning of the week.
On Monday night, it came in the form of a cable and network television adsayingBeck was flat wrong when she tried to spin Karcher’s annual farmland assessed property tax down to a miniscule amount. Karcher does, in point of fact, pay almost $25,000 annually.
That ad clearly won’t be the end of it.
Karcher’s TV ad buys are big, and as Beck said all along, “They’re going to outspend us 10-1,” but so far the GOP hasn’t received anything they could interpret as a scimitar from hell.
Republicans off the record fear next week’s run of ads out of the Karcher camp. Whatever happens, Norcross’ under-the-radar operators from the state’s southern reaches have no sympathy for Karcher, who hit Bennett hard on his failure to disclose financial information four years ago, only to fail to disclose income earned from her farmland assessed property in Marlboro.
As his lieutenant tries to hold her position in the 12th and mount some kind of counter-offensive, Codey meanwhile has turned his attention to Assemblyman Jim Whalen, who’s in his own battle in district 2. In tending to Whelan, Codey is putting what his people say is more money than he’s ever given before into a southern campaign.
That presumably frees up Norcross and the Southern Democratic Organization to pump more money into the 8th district and/or into the 1st district.
Right now, it’s not about reformers, but whether money translated into television and radio ad buys, staff, mail and GOTV is enough to change the dynamics of a race, and consolidate power for the men who run the show.