Gov. Jon Corzine was winning just 65% of the Democratic primary vote in last week's Quinnipiac University poll even though his only opposition is a trio of minor candidates who have no money and no apparent support from party organizations or issue advocacy groups. If he wins less than 75% of the vote against former Glen Ridge Mayor Carl Bergmanson, coffee mug maker Roger Bacon, and Jeff Boss, who claims to have witnessed the federal government planning the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it will likely be viewed as a sign of weakness for an incumbent Governor among voters of his own party.
The last time a sitting Governor had merely token primary opposition was in 1965, when Democrat Richard Hughes won 91% of the vote against William Clark, an African American from Newark who ran far to the left. In 1949, the first time New Jersey Governors were permitted to seek re-election to a second consecutive term, Alfred Driscoll defeated Somerset County Freeholder Director Robert Adams with 71% of the vote in the Republican primary. Adams carried Somerset and Sussex counties.
Democrats renominated Brendan Byrne in 1977 with 30% of the vote against a field of eleven challengers that included two Congressmen, two State Senators and a former member of his own cabinet. Incumbent William Cahill lost his bid for a second term in 1973 when Republican primary voters picked U.S. Rep. Charles Sandman by a 58%-41% margin.
Governors Robert Meyner (1967), Thomas Kean (1985), James Florio (1993), and Christine Todd Whitman (1997) had no primary opposition when they sought re-election.