Whelan says he would consider publicly financed elections

State Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic City), the only former mayor of Atlantic City in recent history not to have been led away in handcuffs or to leave under a cloud, said he doesn't believe thefederal dragnet that ensnared multiple politicians in a corruption scheme this weekwill significantly impact Gov. Jon Corzine, but admitted theevent presents a challenge in terms of getting a positive message out there in a gubernatorial election year.

"I'm angry," said Whelan. "There's a lot of us – most ofus in public service – who do it the right way. And thenthere's this behavior: greedy and stupid and arrogant.

"There is nothing that leads me to believe that Jon Corzine or his office will be touched directly by this stuff," Whelan added. "I'm not sure him stepping down would make sense at this point."

Whelan said he continues to hear the names of state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) and state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) as the two short list front-runners for the lieutenant governor's position.

"I think either one of them would be fine," said Whelan. "Both of them are solid, good candidates."

Whelan noted thatthe feds baggeda Republican Assemblyman in the mix of what was otherwise a Democratic Party motley, mostly from Hudson County.

"Unfortunately in this case, the balance are Democrats," he said. "It's obviously part of the challenge of the (gubernatorial) campaign now. Where the driving issues were the economy and the budget, now youalso have corruption very much in there.But I believe we have a party made up of enough people withsolid ethical records, and corruption is not limited to one party or the other."

Long opposed topublic financing of elections, partly becauseof aself-describedlibertarian streak, partly because he fears the intrusion of outside groups thatoperateunrestricted by the laws binding candidates, such as was the case inthe 14th Legislative District contest two years ago, Whelan now says he would considerpublicly financed elections.

"I'm willing to look at it at this point," said the senator,whoadded, however,that he doubts it would stop corrupt politicians from taking money in envelopes. Whelan says he would consider publicly financed elections