With the Primary Election now past us and the General Election still seemingly far in the future for most folks, the hot topic in New Jersey politics centers around who will be chosen to represent the major parties in the newly-created Lieutenant Governor post.
The gubernatorial candidates have 30 days from the Primary Election to name their choice for running mate. This letter is an open argument as to why a leader from Mercer County ought to be at the top of the list for consideration, at least on the Democratic side of the aisle.
As with most state-wide offices, the selection of a lieutenant governor nominee will play out not only based on the accomplishments of the persons being considered, but also on the geo-political balance of the state.
New Jersey has been traditionally divided politically between the north and the south. Recently, Mercer has become the key stone between the two, bridging the arc of oft-competing interests to play an important role, especially in Democratic politics. In the hotly contested US Senate Primary last year, it was Mercer that delivered the third highest percentage of support in the stat e for Senator Frank Lautenberg, the ultimate winner of that contest.
It is in the role as a bridge county that Mercer brings an advantage to the table. While a Lieutenant Governor nominee from either the northern or southern political wings of our party would be inherently viewed with some suspicion by the region not represented, Mercer holds a sort old-time Casablanca status, with a reputation as a hardscrabble fighter for Democratic ideals where all candidates are invited to compete on a level playing field. Independent of the massive organizations to the north and the south of us, a candidate from Mercer would pose no threat to either.
Here in Mercer, there have been four proven Democrats who have been a part of serious discussions at the highest levels regarding the Lieutenant Governor nomination. That represents more individuals under consideration than any other county in New Jerse y and speaks not only to the accomplishments of those being considered, but also to the ever-growing credibility of the Mercer Democratic Organization and the pivotal role we have played in recent state-wide elections.
Presented in alphabetical order, County Executive Brian Hughes, Trenton Mayor Douglas Palmer, Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman and Senate Pro Tem Shirley Turner have each been publicly mentioned as being in contention for the new spot. Each brings a different background, skill set and even philosophy of government to the table, but they share a common record of being eloquent communicators who appeal to a broad geographic, political and ethic base of voters. Each has been reelected numerous times by the Mercer electorate by margins that would have been unheard of in Mercer a few years ago.
The choice of any of these individuals would be an asset to the State of New Jersey, Mercer County and the Democratic ticket.
They are seasoned campaigners who can hit the ground running, but most importantly they each have a vision of government that includes common sense, compassion and the courage to take political risks for the issues that are most important to their constituents. For Mercer, a leadership role in the executive would complement the leadership roles our representatives already have in the legislature.
Mercer voters have been good to Governor Corzine. We provided the first County Convention endorsement of his US Senate bid in 2000 and were the first county to have our Democratic leadership line up behind him en-masse when he declared for Governor. Even with a Mercer-native-son Republican opponent in 2005, he has won the County each time he has run.
Most recently, Mercer was responsible for fully nine percent of the signatures on his reelection nominating petitions even though we account for only five percent of the registered Democrats state-wide. The statewide headquarters of his campaign is based here in Mercer.
Mercer should be proud of our burgeoning role in state-wide government. And , this year's selection of a Lieutenant Governor is a golden opportunity for us to be recognized for that role and our future potential.