The winner of the Christmas Tree Debate of 2007 seems to be Republican Jennifer Beck, who criticized Democratic State Senator Ellen Karcher for taking a farmland tax credit on her 8-acre Marlboro home, where she grows Christmas trees. Despite a serious campaign misstep – Beck’s opposition researcher thought Karcher only grew six trees when it was really six acres of trees – the Asbury Park Press effectively sided with Beck in an editorial that suggested that farmland tax credits should be used for real farmers, not well-off politicians and physicians who dabble as farmers as a way of reducing their property taxes.
Karcher’s problem – perhaps only in New Jersey is this a liability – is that she has set the bar too high when it comes to ethics. As the Marlboro Councilwoman who wore a wiretap and then beat ethically-challenged Co-Senate President John Bennett four years ago, Karcher’s political career is based on ethics reform. So when she cuts her own taxes by selling growing trees, she makes her success story a little less credible.