For those who believed Jon Corzine to be timid, there were signs of a low level of testosterone right up until the final hours of his governorship: former Newark City Councilwoman Dana Rone’s lifetime ban on public office holding, but not right away. Rone has to wait until January 1, 2014. The extra four years keeps her out of the 2010 campaign – a move that helps Cory “Robin Hood” Booker. And thirteen minutes before his term was over, Corzine changed his mind and signed the “Referendum Kill Bill” that potentially stops reformers in New Brunswick from seeking another referendum to change the form of government – two previous votes have lost, but by razor-thin margins.
Eight years ago, Rone and Booker were tight: she was his candidate for his Central Ward Council seat when he ran against Sharpe James in 2002 (she lost just narrowly), and won the seat as a member of Team Booker four years later. Soon after they took office, Booker and Rone became politically estranged over the mayor’s Central Ward development proposals – and over Rone’s alliance with North Ward Democratic leader Stephen Adubato, Sr., who at that time was a Booker rival. Less than six months after taking office, Rone got in trouble: when a Rutgers University police officer stopped her nephew for a traffic violation, Rone drove to the scene and did the “do you know who I am” thing. The incident was caught on videotape and after the councilwoman was convicted of obstruction of justice, a judge banned her from holding public office again – for life.
On the last night of his term, Corzine’s office announced that he vetoed the “Referendum Kill Bill,” which passed both houses of the legislature with the bare minimum number of votes. But the next day, thirteen minutes before the expiration of his term, Corzine’s signed the bill. The legislation was aimed directly at Empower our Neighborhoods, a Rutgers student-based reform group that in November narrowly lost a ballot question to change the way city councilmen are elected from all at-large to a mixed at-large and ward-based system. That would, in theory, pave the way for some councilmen not aligned with the local machine. Middlesex County Democrats, working through Union County Democrats, leaned heavily on the governor. Corzine folded.