NJ Gubernatorial Race: Daggett May Carry More Weight Than Expected

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corzine-christie-daggettElections are typically a referendum on the incumbent. NJ Gov. Jon S. Corzine, through the force of a $20 million-plus advertising campaign, managed to transform this year’s race into one more about Republican rival Chris Christie.Yet, now, as the time until polling places open can be counted in hours as easily as days, the campaign has become, surprisingly, a referendum on the independent running third in public-opinion polls: In a close race, is Chris Daggett worth voting for?

“Among other things, it’s a referendum on whether people believe an independent can do it,” Daggett said Friday. “I believe that in the end, people are just angry enough and they’re ready enough for change that in the quiet of the booth – New Jerseyans are known for making last-minute decisions on these elections, and I think that’s true in this election.”

Daggett said he entered the race believing voters were disappointed by the major parties but has been surprised by the depth of that sentiment.

“If I can convince them to, just for once, suspend the idea that we have to be Republican and Democrat in this country or in this state and to cast a vote that represents their disappointment and their disillusionment, we will win,” he said.

Daggett’s support in the polls, however, seems to have stalled in the low- to mid-teens. Republicans have pounded at Daggett, both in campaign ads from Christie’s campaign and the Republican Governors Association. And they’ve pressed their case in interviews and conference calls that Daggett is like Corzine, the Democratic incumbent.

“Almost every expert will tell you that there’s no way that Chris Daggett can win this race. He won’t win this race,” said Sen. Joseph Kyrillos Jr., Christie’s campaign chairman. “… There’s no true independence to this candidacy in terms of ideas, in terms of any category that they can think of.”


Mostly, Republicans focus on Daggett’s plan to expand sales taxes to cover professional and personal services to generate an estimated $4 billion in additional income. They ignore the tax cuts Daggett promises – 25 percent off residential property tax bills, a 25 percent cut in business taxes and a reduced marginal income tax rate.

“We cannot afford four years of Chris Daggett. This state of New Jersey will never recover under the taxes he’s proposing,” said Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth. “I don’t know who will be here to shut out the lights if Jon Corzine or Chris Daggett actually make it across the finish line.”

Corzine hasn’t attacked Daggett’s proposal forcefully – a “so-called plan,” he termed it after one debate – but does say the math doesn’t add up.

“You have to have $56 billion worth of services to back into $4 billion worth of funding for that property tax credit that he is offering, and for the life of me I can’t find $56 billion worth of services,” Corzine said. “As a matter of fact, I can’t find them, but if you did find them, they would be a very heavy burden on the middle-income taxpayers of the state of New Jersey.”

Daggett said he doesn’t believe the tax plan would burden the middle class if you consider the plan in its entirety – cutting residential property taxes 25 percent and cutting corporate and marginal income tax rates.

“Those are the sorts of things that are going to help the middle class because it’s going to bring jobs to New Jersey by making it more competitive,” Daggett said.

“Most people in the middle class in New Jersey, more than anything else, want jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs,” Daggett said. “If they need a haircut and now have to pay on a $20 haircut, pay 7 percent for sales tax, I think they’ll live with that if they can get a property tax cut of 25 percent and get more jobs brought into the state.”

Republicans also fan the theory that Daggett – “a liberal Republican,” in the eyes of independent candidate David Meiswinkle – is in the race to help Corzine by siphoning protest votes that would typically have gone to the Republican. Polls have disagreed on whether Daggett’s supporters would have otherwise backed Corzine or Christie.

“I don’t have any evidence that’s what’s going on,” Christie said. “I think Chris Daggett really thinks he could be elected governor. He’s not going to be, but I think he does. And the fact of the matter is this: Chris Daggett and Jon Corzine, there’s not a wit’s worth of difference between them.”

Daggett denies he’s running at state Democrats’ urging and calls it a “shameless” conspiracy theory. He has criticized both Corzine’s record and Christie’s platform, but his criticisms of Christie have been far more pointed. He says Christie has run “the most intellectually dishonest campaign” by misrepresenting his tax plan.

Libertarian candidate Murray Sabrin drew 4.7 percent of the vote in 1997, the high-water mark for a third-party candidate in New Jersey in recent times. Progressive independent Everett Colby drew 11 percent in 1913.


Daggett is one of 10 independent and third-party candidates in the field, but he’s gained traction largely because he raised the funds needed – $340,000, this year – to get $2-for-$1 public matching funds and a podium in state-sanctioned debates.

“God bless him. Any independent that can get attention, I give credit to,” said Socialist Party USA candidate Gregory Pason. “Any time an independent gets into the debate, I think it’s great. It shows that there’s a large percentage of people who would vote none of the above, and they have another option they think is realistic.”

Plus, Pason said, it’s possible that voters searching for Daggett on their ballots might find other options along the way.

The other independents in the field are generally more frustrated by the public financing system, which they call exclusionary because of the high threshold needed to qualify, than by Daggett himself. But he does get some criticism from those quarters.

“It aggravates me because he’s running as an independent. I don’t think he’s building something for the future,” said Libertarian Party nominee Kenneth Kaplan. “I’m running as a candidate of a political party, and we are trying to build from election to election and do have a thought-out, coherent philosophy. We stand for principles that were the same when I joined the party in 1973 as they are now.”

And a few of the independent candidates believe the talk about Daggett running to assist Corzine’s re-election. Among them is Joshua Leinsdorf of Atlantic Highlands, a former Princeton Regional school board member who questioned how Daggett, without a track record in elective politics, raised the $340,000 needed by Labor Day to qualify.

“I worked for (former state Sen.) Bill Schluter eight years ago when he ran for governor as an independent. He couldn’t raise the money to get into the debates, a guy who had been in the Legislature for a long time,” Leinsdorf said. “Now here’s a guy you never heard of who was able to raise $340,000.”

“He’s also a former Republican. How much respect can you have for a guy who’s a pawn for the Democrats?” said independent Kostas Petris. “… I think he’s a good guy, but I don’t think he’s doing what he’s doing for the right reasons.”

{MyCentralJersey.com/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. RE: Lakewood voters;
    There was a RAINBOW Shabbos morning in lakewood.
    It’s ???? to vote this year in Lakewood for local or state candidates.
    Anyone concerned about the ????? or their high taxes in Lakewood should stay away from the voting booth and DON”T VOTE.
    Besides the tremendous ????? ????


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