Two Independent gubernatorial candidates worth watching: former Commissioner of Environmental Protection Christopher Daggett, who will formally announce his candidacy on Monday, and Pastor Shannon Wright, who will enter the race tomorrow. Daggett is a Republican who served in the cabinet of Gov. Thomas Kean and as Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Reagan administration, could pull votes from the GOP nominee for Governor. Wright, who until yesterday was managing Republican Brian Levine’s campaign for Governor, potentially draws African-American votes away from Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine.
Daggett and Wright will need to raise $340,000 in contributions of $3,400 or less in order to qualify for public financing and participate in the debate.
In New Jersey, independent statewide candidates traditionally do not fare well. The only independent candidate to qualify for matching funds was Murray Sabrin, a Ramapo College Professor who ran as the Libertarian candidate for Governor in 1997. Sabrin won 5% of the vote in his race against incumbent Christine Todd Whitman and her Democratic challenger, then-State Sen. James E. McGreevey. A conservative, Richard Pezzullo, won 1% in the same race
In 2001, Bill Schluter, an incumbent Republican State Senator from Mercer County, mounted an independent bid for Governor. He used the same campaign team that had elected Jesse Ventura in Minnesota three years earlier, but won just 1% of the vote against McGreevey and Republican Bret Schundler, the former Mayor of Jersey City.
In 1981, eleven independent candidates combined to win 27,038 votes (1%); the Right to Life candidate, Bill Gahres, was the top vote getter with 4,525 votes. Republican Thomas Kean beat Democrat Jim Florio in that race by just 1,797 votes statewide.
Henry Krajewski, a pig farmer from Secaucus, received a tiny bit of national prominence when he ran for President in 1952. He followed up with bid for Governor in 1953, President in 1956, and Governor in 1957 and 1960. He never received more than 12,000 votes statewide.