Thursday, November 26, 2015

Christie's up for re-election today? Huh?

It might be hard to find someone in New Jersey who knows about this, but the gov is up for re-election today.

Christie's up for re-election today? Huh?

<br />People flocked to meet Gov. Christie and have their photo taken with him (he even used this womans phone to take the photo himself) on the boardwalk near 26th St. in Wildwood on May 25, 2013. ( ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer )<br />
People flocked to meet Gov. Christie and have their photo taken with him (he even used this womans phone to take the photo himself) on the boardwalk near 26th St. in Wildwood on May 25, 2013. ( ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer )

It might be hard to find someone in New Jersey who knows about this, but the gov is up for re-election today.

Yes, it's only a primary in advance of the November general election. But Christie DOES have competition. I wrote about Seth Grossman, the conservative running to Christie's right, in Sunday's paper (below). I've since been told that even though Grossman is looking to bring back the crew that supported Christie's conservative opponent in 2009, Steve Lonegan, that's not exactly happening: Lonegan has distanced himself from Grossman.

You can also read about Grossman on his web site or by following him on Twitter, where he rails against Democratic-controlled newspapers and Christie being a fake Republican.

By the way, Democrat State Sen. Barbara Buono has an opponent in her election for governor, too -- but that's not a real challenge. More on that in my Sunday story:

TRENTON - Seth Grossman is already talking about his candidacy in the past tense, and the election isn't until Tuesday.

Such is the quixotic quest of a Republican seeking to topple GOP hero Gov. Christie.

Perhaps you had no idea that there is a gubernatorial primary in New Jersey on Tuesday. And you likely had no idea that Grossman, a 64-year-old Atlantic County lawyer and former freeholder with tea party views to the right of Christie, is on the ballot.

Even if he knows he's not going to win.

"It's been a real ordeal - but it's been a real education," Grossman said last week.

On the Democrats' side, State Sen. Barbara Buono of Middlesex County is the presumptive nominee - but she, too, has competition Tuesday. Sort of. Her rival, East Orange mayoral aide Troy Webster, has even less of a campaign operation than Grossman has.

Insiders say Webster is running only because a quirk in the state's electoral system lets his boss, the mayor, get better ballot position in his reelection run as long as there's a gubernatorial candidate on his ticket. Webster's bare-bones website and $0 in declared campaign funds lend credence to that theory, as does the fact that he didn't return three calls or an e-mail seeking an interview.

So that leaves Grossman, whose campaign operation is legitimate but similarly low-budget ($11,480 compared with Christie's $6.5 million).

Grossman is a DIY candidate, cobbling together veterans of the state's tea party movement and Steve Lonegan's conservative run for governor in 2009. Grossman's war wound: He and Lonegan were arrested together in 2008 protesting then-Gov. Jon Corzine's proposed toll hike.

"In many ways, my running for governor was trying to bring the band back together - the Steve Lonegan band," said Grossman, who doesn't have Lonegan's endorsement. "I've had some success, some failure."

Grossman has failed to get much press - a fact he blames on political forces who, in his view, control New Jersey's media the way Hugo Chavez controlled Venezuela's.

"We haven't been able to break out of the ghetto, so to speak, have not been able to attract any serious media attention," Grossman said.

But he has had precious few events or news releases. He did draw 25 people to a May protest of a Christie fund-raiser in Moorestown (which, by the way, this newspaper covered).

Grossman also doesn't have the cash, he says, to send out mailers. So he has mostly campaigned on Facebook, and through social media he says he is in contact with 2,000 to 3,000 conservative activists.

His Grossman for Governor Facebook page has some 300 "likes." His Twitter account features tweets that ramble beyond the 140-character limit.

"That's all stuff that I am learning and the people in my campaign are learning," he said. "We're just looking for a way to overcome that catch-22 situation where you can't get elected unless you get the big donations - and if you get the big donations, you can't do what you have to do after the election."

Grossman has campaigned while working full time. He likens this to George Washington's part-time soldiers who fought, sowed their fields, and then returned to fight.

"It's an amateur effort," Grossman acknowledges.

There is a constituency for his ideas. He hates complicated laws, big unions, and omnipotent Wall Street banks. He thinks government is too big, taxes too high, and politicians too beholden to special interests.

He has repeatedly blasted Christie for providing a package of tax breaks to restart construction on the Revel casino in Atlantic City, which has since floundered. He echoes the complaints of national conservatives when he decries the "pork" in the congressional bill for Sandy relief for which Christie lobbied so strenuously.

Asked for specifics, he alleged that Sandy victims were housed in luxury hotels at summer rates, courtesy of the taxpayers. He cited the $25 million federally funded marketing drive to draw tourists back to the Shore - with TV ads featuring the Christie family.

"If we had low taxes, a decent economy," Grossman said, "then we could rebuild after a storm without a bailout from the federal government."

He thinks the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be phased out, but he would have accepted help for Sandy - as long as the same amount of money was cut from elsewhere in the federal budget.

Grossman's Linwood home is near the ocean, which brings us to another of his Sandy complaints: After the storm, he says, there were "Gestapo-like checkpoints that kept free citizens away from their homes and businesses."

Grossman last ran for office more than two decades ago. He says this pursuit is not a passion but a duty. His team "hates politics," he said.

"Our job was to see if we could beat these professional candidates with their consultants who have mastered all of these techniques," he said - "just with ordinary citizens doing their best in their spare time."

On Tuesday, he will find out how they did. And he will find out if the Chavezian media finally notice.

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