NEWARK – Notwithstanding goodspirits on the occasion of a new school opening in the Central Ward, an ongoing investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office into possible North Ward voter fraud has Newark political operatives rocking on their heels with worry 83 days in front of Gov. Jon Corzine’s Nov. 3rd showdown with Republican Chris Christie.
Corzineneeds big numbers in Essex County, Democratic Partybase country where Presidential candidate Barack Obama last year drove higher voter turnout than anywhere else in the state. Theusually performing North Ward Democratic Organization plays a key role – especially in a low voter turnout election, but a cowed infrastructure could play havoc with Corzine’s localresults here.
Even as his campaign continues to target former U.S. Attorney Christie’s phone conversations with former George W. Bush political mastermind Karl Rove and raises questions about Christie’s political motivations while serving as U.S. Attorney, Corzine today said Attorney General Anne Milgram and her investigators will carry out their duties regardless of whether it hurts him politically.
“The state Attorney General pursues an even-handed administration of justice,” Corzine told reporters. “The political commitments that people make, I think are independent of that.
“The U.S. Attorney should be free of politics,” the governor said in response to another question. “Political actions taken to fire or retain U.S. Attorneys raise a lot of discussion, and it is important to ask those questions.”
Corzine was referring to reports that Christie, while serving as U.S. Attorney, appeared on a federal Attorney General’s list in which he was slated to be fired. His name subsequently came off the list – and Democrats like U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson)offer as a reason Christie’s2006 subpoena drop on U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-Hoboken), a probe thatto date never led anywhere.
Union County Democratic operatives have also privately complained about Milgram’s get-tough tacticsin investigating county party Chairwoman Charlotte DeFilippo, which they say has depleted ground level political juice.
Corzine stood by Milgram, who he said has secured over 200 convictions.
Hespoke after emerging from the formal opening of the Robert Treat Academy-Central, an institution affiliated with the same North Ward political operatives and Steve Adubato acolytes uneasy about the AG Office’s probe, which has already resulted in complaints filed against four campaign workers from state Sen. Teresa Ruiz’s (D-Newark) 2007 campaign.
The Christie camp simultaneously issued a release objecting to what they say is Corzine’s newfound suggestion that Christieimproperly or politically carried out his duties as U.S. Attorney.
“Jon Corzine’s campaign is doing what they do best – making false accusations,” said Maria Comella, spokeswoman for the Christie-Guadagno Campaign. “Perhaps they should take a cue from their own candidate considering Governor Corzine himself said in 2005, ‘There have been as many Republican as there are Democrats that have been brought to justice by Chris Christie.’ Governor Corzine not only voted for Chris’s appointment, but he repeatedly praised his work over the course of his service and now that it is no longer politically convenient for Chris to have a strong record battling corruption, Jon Corzine is willing to say and do whatever it takes to get reelected.”
But even as that debate goes on between Corzine and Christie, local Democratic pols fear a terrain rocked by Milgram’s aggressive efforts in the Democratically vital North Ward.