After getting one question cleared up in the affirmative with Sen. Barack Obama, Senate President and former Governor Richard Codey today officially endorsed Obama for president at a press conference in his hometown of West Orange.
"What’s the skinny on the fact that you’re part Irish?" Codey said he asked Obama in a 10 minute conversation with the presidential candidate this morning, six days before the Feb. 5 primary.
"I am," Obama told him.
"Is that on your father’s side?" Codey cracked.
"It’s O’bama," Senator Loretta Weinberg informed the Senate President.
On a stage in the Wilshire Grand Hotel with a large Obama campaign poster as the backdrop, Codey stood with former Sen. Bill Bradley, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Edison Mayor Jun Choi, Senate Pro Tempore Shirley Turner, Weinberg, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Assemblywoman Mila Jasey and other elected officials.
"As Governor and as Senate President, I have built coalitions of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives alike to do what is right for New Jersey," said Codey. "This is the only way to govern effectively, and I have long been appalled by the slash and burn, winner-take-all kind of partisan politics practiced too often by both parties in Washington.
"Barack Obama has the unique ability to rise above the politics of fear and division to bring the change we desperately need," he added. "Like myself, building coalitions to get results has been the cause of Barack Obama's life, not just the rhetoric of a campaign."
Codey admitted he’d spoken to Gov. Jon Corzine a year ago about presidential endorsements and when the governor had inquired about his potential interest in endorsing Corzine’s candidate, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Codey said he couldn’t go there.
Instead, he picked former Sen. John Edwards, and served as state chairman of the Edwards campaign until yesterday, when the populist candidate announced the end of his presidential run following disappointing losses in the pre-Super Tuesday primaries.
"We’ve been working on Gov. Codey," said Rothman, who serves as a Northeast Regional co-chair of the Obama campaign. "It’s not that we had to sell Barack Obama to him. There’s a natural affinity between Codey and Obama in that they are both inspiring and they both have a tough, pragmatic approach to governing."
Bradley described Obama as the one candidate in the race for the presidency who had been able to successfully tap into the essential meaning of what it is to be an American. Acknowledging Obama’s 46 years and first-term Senate status, Bradley invoked Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson, pointing out that those two presidents did not have years’-long government experience prior to becoming commander-in-chief.
"What they had was judgment," said Bradley, who said Obama’s opposition to the War in Iraq made him better positioned to lead the country than Sen. Hillary Clinton.
"He’s the only candidate in the race who opposed the war," Bradley said.
Each of the elected officials said they would be laboring in their respective districts over the coming days to get out the vote.
Codey’s chief of staff, A.J. Sabath, said the former governor would be working the suburban towns of Essex County. "We will be doing whatever the Obama campaign asks of us," Sabath said.
Turner said she cancelled her appearance on the Chamber of Commerce caravan to Washington, D.C. so she could focus on organizing for the Obama campaign.
"I’m going to be going into the high rises and talking to senior citizens and generally waking people up to the election on Tuesday," said Turner. "They want people in the urban areas to be caught sleeping, and those are the very people who need hope more than anyone else."
Codey’s endorsement came two hours before Bradley was scheduled to headline an Obama rally at Rutgers University/Douglass College in New Brunswick.
Up by double digits in the polls, the Clinton Team took the news of Codey's endorsement in stride.
"The good thing about being a Democrat is we’ve got different candidates with different points of view, but we’re all going to come together in the end," said Clinton spokesman Assemblyman Joseph Cryan.
A reporter asked Codey in the Wilshire if Obama wins in New Jersey on Tuesday, will he be able to attribute the victory to Codey's endorsement.
Codey said, no, "It will be luck of the Irish."