Gubernatorial primaries underway

The race for the 2009 Democratic gubernatorial nomination has begun, with Congressman Bill Pascrell and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo saying that they would consider running if the incumbent, Jon Corzine, decides not to seek re-election to a second term.

If Corzine were to leave office early, Senate President Richard Codey would succeed to the governorship. Codey served as Governor when James E. McGreevey resigned, and then backed down from a bid for a full-term when Corzine, willing to self-fund his campaign, secured the endorsement of key county Democratic organizations. Codey, his friends say, is unlikely to back down again.

Some Democrats say Codey hasn’t completely ruled out a challenge to Corzine in the Democratic primary if the Governor’s approval ratings continue to decline.

Codey, the state’s most popular politician according to a Zogby International poll released today by Garden State Equality, would have trouble gaining the support of certain Democratic powerbrokers. Pascrell and DiVincenzo are well liked by party leaders in South Jersey; in 2000, Pascrell bucked much of the North Jersey establishment by backing former Gov. Jim Florio against Corzine in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary.

The Republican primary for Governor is already underway. U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie is viewed as the front runner, and former Bogota Mayor Steven Lonegan is also planning to run. Last week, bio tech millionaire John Crowley said he would not rule out a gubernatorial bid; Crowley is hosting a party for GOP delegates at the national convention in Minnesota next month.

Gubernatorial primaries underway