Corzine and the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club will pick a horse in the race for Governor this afternoon, and if it’s not the incumbent Democrat, few will be terribly surprised. The relationship between one of the state’s largest environmental organizations (and its director, Jeff Tittel) has been a bit acrimonious since Jon Corzine launched his career in New Jersey politics nearly a decade ago. The Sierra Club was an early backer of Jim Florio in his 2000 Democratic U.S. Senate primary against Corzine.

Sierra backed Corzine in the general election, but the endorsement press conference backfired when Corzine said he had voted for a 1998 open space bond issue when he had not voted in that election at all. In 2005, Sierra endorsed Corzine for Governor early, but after the primary publicly flirted with the Republican candidate, Douglas Forrester. Tittel was piqued by Corzine’s support of development on Petty’s Island near Pennsauken, and by Corzine’s appointment of Susan Bass Levin, a former Cherry Hill mayor and state Community Affairs Commissioner, to a top campaign post. Tittel considered Levin pro-development.

During the summer of 2005, Tittel attended a Forrester campaign event bashing the Petty’s Island proposal, and spent part of the fall leading observers to believe that a Forrester endorsement could be in the offing. But a week before the election, with Corzine leading in polls, Sierra reaffirmed their endorsement of the Democratic nominee.

Corzine and the Sierra Club