From our first year, the Best & Worst Campaigns of 2000:
When PoliticsNJ.com launched this website on February 1, 2000, our first feature was a list of the Best and Worst Campaigns of the 1990’s. We are pleased to offer our list of the Ten Best and Ten Worst campaigns of the 2000 Election Cycle. For the most part, we looked at races that were highly competitive. Some campaigns perform extremely well, like the re-election campaigns of Bob Menendez and Frank LoBiondo. But of course, they are expected to win. And there are hundreds of so-called sacrificial lambs running for various offices across the state that are not expected to raise money, go on television, or even send out press releases. For the most part, we looked at the key races throughout New Jersey to determine our list of the Best and Worst campaign. The list reflects our own views and is highly subjective. As always, we welcome the feedback of our readers.
The Ten Best Campaigns of 2000
1. Rush Holt for Congress, Democrat, 12th District (General) The rocket scientist from Princeton followed up a masterful 1998 campaign with what looks like a come from behind victory against the strongest possible Republican candidate, Dick Zimmer.He used his incumbency well to win one of the most competitive House races in the nation.
2. Bob Franks for U.S. Senate, Republican (General) This was one of those races where a candidate won the campaign and lost the election. Franks nearly pulled off an upset after being summarily dismissedby members of his own party. Massively outspent, he became the darling of the media in a David vs. Goliath race, won 17 newspaper endorsements, and controlled the agenda for most of the campaign.
3. Maryanne Connelly for Congress, Democrat, 7th District (Primary) Left for dead by party leaders who dumped her, Connelly fought back and won off the line in a rare win against powerful Democratic leaders. She made the most of her opponents mistakes and ran a flawless ground operation.
4. Bob Franks for U.S. Senate, Republican (Primary) The campaign settled the question of what’s more important in a primary: organization or money. Franks grass roots support, carefully cultivated after 20 years in politics, helped him prevail.
5. Mike Ferguson for Congress, Republican, 7th District (Primary) Sensing an attractive political opportunity, the former 6th district candidate moved north and won a hotly contested GOP primary by keeping his eye on Republican primary voters while others concentrated on winning the support of Republican activists.
6. Jon Corzine for U.S. Senate, Democrat (Primary) While setting spending records, Corzine’s primary honed an effective message and secured powerful organizational support and endorsements for the first time candidate, defeating a former Governor in the Democratic primary by a wide margin.
7. John Russo, Jr. and John Furey for Township Committee, Democrat, Dover Township/Toms River (General) Republicans took the threat to breaking their all-Republican local government seriously, pumping a ton of money to protect their incumbents. But Democrats were aggressive and they worked virtually non-stop.
8. Jeff Van Drew for Freeholder, Democrat, Cape May County (General) It was a Republican year in Cape May, but Van Drew proved to be a popular vote getter with a 62%-8% victory over an incumbent Freeholder.
9. Cathy DiCostanzo for County Clerk, Republican, Mercer County (General) It’s not easy running as a Republican in Mercer County, but this veteran officeholder leveraged her incumbency and a strong campaign helped her win Hamilton Township by some 8,000 votes.
10. Mike Doherty for Freeholder, Republican, Warren County (General) The conservative patent attorney won a hotly contested primary and then defeated a popular three-term incumbent to take back control of county government for the Republicans.
The Ten Worst Campaigns of 2000
1. George W. Bush for President, Republican.. Despite the obviously high stakes, Bush’s New Jersey campaign was one of the worst races ever run in this state. From offending County Chairmen in the primary to a 16-point loss in the general, Bush New Jersey was a fiasco from top to bottom, except fundraising, of course.
2. Bob Torricelli for Governor, Democrat (Primary) It was the worst twelve days of the Torch’s political life. He went from being the 800-pound gorilla who could seemingly have the nomination for the asking to being forced to withdraw from the race due to lack of party support.
3. Michael Lapolla for Congress, Democrat, 7th District (Primary) A competent campaign staff couldn’t help a flawed candidate who never should have been there in the first place.
4. Jon Corzine for U.S. Senate, Democrat (General) The billionaire Senate candidate failed to use the summer effectively, took heat on debates, income taxes and foundation contributions during the fall, and almost lost the General Election despite outspending his opponent 10-1.
5. Tom Kean, Jr. for Congress, Republican, 7th District (Primary) Junior was getting the seat handed to him. He had endorsements, money and a name, but just couldn’t put it together.
6. Ken Gardner for Congress, Republican, 7th District (Primary) He may be the most unpopular person to ever run for Congress.
7. Hal Turner for Congress, Republican, 13th District (Primary) A third place finish in the Republican primary was a result of offensive rhetoric and tactics that raised eyebrows even among those who regularly push the envelope.
8. Dick Mola and Bill Van Dyke for Freeholder, Republican, Bergen County (General) It was almost as if Republican leaders wanted them to lose. The campaign to re-elect the two longtime Freeholders often appeared lethargic and lacked the focus of past Bergen County GOP races.
9. Susan Bass Levin, Democrat, 3rd District (General) A huge warchest, a presidential visit, and help from the top of the ticket couldn’t move the Cherry Hill Mayor past 42%. She never overcame problems with her own party and her own campaign staff. This was a huge loss for the onetime rising star, who thought about running for statewide office.
10. Marge Morreale, Richard Hodson and Robert Shapiro for Freeholder, Democrat, Sussex County (General) After winning the 1999 election, Democrats saw a shot at taking control of the Freeholder Board. Two incumbent Republican Freeholders lost the primary and the local GOP was in disarray. But an amateur campaign that failed to develop a cohesive message and played fast and loose with the facts wound up giving the Republicans a healthy victory.