Corzine & Lautenberg’s Toll hike opposition: “This has electoral consequences”

…said Brigid Harrison, a political scientist at Montclair State University. “The strength of the relationship between Corzine and Lautenberg was important. Now there’s this kind of one-upmanship. It’s surely going to be escalating.”

Article in today’s Ledger:

Lautenberg facing fury of a governor scorned


U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s opposition to Gov. Jon Corzine’s highway toll plan has opened a rift between the two men that could affect the senator’s re-election bid.

The senator announced last week that he would not support Corzine’s call for higher tolls as part of a plan to restructure the state’s finances. The statement came after all three Republican candidates for Lautenberg’s seat came out against the toll plan.

Lautenberg’s announcement was a surprise and led one senior Corzine aide to tell top Democrats that the governor would retaliate by ceasing his fundraising efforts, and canceling a Manhattan fundraiser to be held next month at the home of a Corzine friend.

In an interview yesterday, Corzine declined to comment on the aide’s threat. Asked about Lautenberg’s opposition to the toll plan, the governor said: “I don’t agree with his judgment on this particular situation. We see it differently.”

The governor’s top political adviser, Tom Shea, said the governor “will continue to assist in (Lautenberg’s) fundraising efforts,” and added that the March fundraising gathering would still be held.

“But it is safe to say,” Shea said, “that it will be more difficult to raise money from the governor’s strongest supporters in light of (Lautenberg’s) statement on the governor’s plan.”

Lautenberg campaign manager Brendan Gill said the senator had no comment.

State Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney said Lautenberg’s announcement last week was not “helpful” to the governor, especially because the senator needs Corzine’s assistance in his campaign.

“It causes a problem if the governor doesn’t push people to help and donate,” Sweeney (D-Gloucester) said. “If his heart’s not in it, of course, it’s going to be a problem. Fundraising stinks to start with.”

Lautenberg, a four-term incumbent, is facing a potentially tough and expensive race this fall. Though no one in the GOP field is as well-known as Lautenberg, one of the Republicans, Anne Evans Estabrook, is a businesswoman whose personal wealth alone could make her a formidable challenger.



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