The labor movement and its allies are celebrating the crushing defeat of Republican Bret Schundler and the victory of Democrat James E. McGreevey in New Jersey’s Nov. 6 gubernatorial election. The Republicans also lost majority control of the State Assembly for the first time in ten years. The Senate is now evenly split 20 to 20.
McGreevey’s 56 to 42 percent margin over Schundler is being considered a landslide and is viewed as a sharp repudiation of the ultra-right and its anti-union backers. New Jersey was being watched as a bellwether in this off-year election, since Schundler was a darling of the ultra-right. George W. Bush was expected to campaign for Schundler but it never happened.
In a victory speech to hundreds of cheering supporters, McGreevey said, “I’m as middle-class as you can be. The main aim of my administration will be to make life better for the working class.”
Thomas Dooley, president of the Middlesex County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and a personal friend of McGreevey told the World, “We’re very happy about this election. Labor worked very hard for Jimmy and we proved that the labor movement is not a paper tiger. There were some surprises. Ocean County is a bastion of the Republican Party and McGreevey carried it by nearly 7,000 votes.”
McGreevey swamped Schundler in the working-class bastions of northern New Jersey. Essex County, where Newark is located, delivered 71 percent for McGreevey. More surprising, Hudson County, home of Jersey City – where Schundler has been mayor for nine years – voted 69 percent for McGreevey.
Schundler ran television ads implying that firefighters, police and others involved in the Sept. 11 rescue efforts were behind him. Dooley said that “there was a lot of anger” against Schundler for attempting to exploit the World Trade Center tragedy. “Schundler was just too rightwing in a state where even Republicans are moderate,” said Dooley.
Schundler denounced abortions as “murder” and came out against gun control in a state that backs abortion rights and favors gun control. McGreevey warned that Schundler’s plan to squander $1 billion on private/parochial school vouchers would cost the state’s hard-pressed public schools at least $600 million.