Virginia, New Jersey Elect Governors This Fall
By Jennifer Mock, Staff Assistant
On June 2, Virginia Republicans are scheduled to meet in Richmond to choose an opponent for Alexandria businessman Mark Warner, the unchallenged Democratic candidate for governor. Attorney General Mark Earley and Lt. Gov. John Hager are competing for delegates at this point, but there are indications Hager may give up his gubernatorial bid and run for reelection to his present job.
The winner of the November election will succeed incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore, who is barred by law from serving more than one term.
Two Republicans are vying to take on an unchallenged Democrat in the New Jersey governor's race as well. Former Representative Bob Franks will face Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler in a June 26 primary for the right to oppose Democrat James McGreevey in the November election.
McGreevey, the mayor of Woodbridge, narrowly missed unseating former Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. New Jersey Senate President Donald Difrancesco became the acting governor on Feb. 1 when Whitman resigned to join the Bush administration as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Most Republicans were expecting Difrancesco to run for election as governor in his own right, but mounting controversy over his conduct of financial and legal affairs led him to drop out of the race earlier this month.
Frank is heavily favored to get the GOP nod to take on McGreevey, but Schundler, an all-state football lineman in high school, says he has come to play, regardless of his opponent.
"To win you have to keep moving forward, even when you are getting your head beat in," he said.
Virginia and New Jersey are out of step with the rest of the nation on the timing of their state elections because of their constitutions, which date back to the 19th century. "The political organization in Virginia preferred to keep the gubernatorial and the state house of delegates elections and the state senate elections away from federal elections," Larry Sabato, a professor of American Politics at the University of Virginia, explained.
One of the issues in Virginia is elimination of the unpopular car tax, which Gilmore promised to end in his gubernatorial campaign. He wants to have it phased out completely by 2002 despite a downturn in state revenues, but has met opposition in the state senate. Both Republican candidates back Gilmore's insistence on the phase out.
Democrat Warner supports the elimination of the car tax in principle, but says better budgeting is the key to following through.
"He wants a more accountable approach to budgeting," Amanda Crumley, Warner's spokeswoman, said. "The people want it, they voted on it and as governor he will phase out the car tax."