- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New Jersey’s governor’s race, once considered a Democratic lock, is now in a dead heat with four weeks to go before the Nov. 8 off-year election, a new independent poll shows.

Republican business executive Doug Forrester has gained significant ground on Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine, whose once double-digit lead has dwindled to a 44 percent to 43 percent statistical dead heat, according to a WNBC/Marist poll of 600 registered voters.

“What was supposed to be a coronation is actually turning into a bloody duel. Two weeks ago, I had Corzine ahead of Forrester by seven or eight points, so there isn’t a doubt in my mind that this latest poll is accurate,” said independent pollster John Zogby.

In a state where nearly two-thirds of all voters are either Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, the poll showed Mr. Forrester taking 20 percent of the Democratic vote and one-third of the independent vote.

The Forrester campaign yesterday said the poll shows that Democratic corruption and scandal was a major factor in the race, as well as property taxes, issues that Mr. Forrester has been hitting hard in his campaign ads.

“These polls are tracking our internal polls. It’s corruption, it’s property taxes, it’s Jon Corzine’s connection to our former disgraced Governor Jim McGreevey and former disgraced Senator Bob Torricelli,” said Sherry Sylvester, the Forrester campaign’s communications director.

“Even in this bluest state, it’s a perfect storm for Republicans,” she said.

Mr. McGreevey resigned the governorship last year after he admitted having a homosexual affair with a top aide. Mr. Torricelli dropped out of the 2002 Senate race fewer than five weeks before the election amid an ethics scandal. His replacement, Frank R. Lautenberg, defeated Mr. Forrester.

The poll found that 41 percent said Mr. Forrester would do the better job “cleaning up government corruption,” compared with 36 percent for Mr. Corzine.

“This is not good news for the Democrats that voters don’t trust them as much. This could be the political shocker of the year,” Mr. Zogby said.

The only other gubernatorial race is in Virginia, where Republican Jerry W. Kilgore is in a tight race with Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

A statement by Corzine campaign spokesman M. Allyn Brooks-LaSure yesterday dismissed the decline in the polls.

“There’s strong evidence that Jon Corzine’s popularity is improving as the campaign continues.”

The campaign attacked Mr. Forrester for displaying a “negative and pessimistic attitude” about New Jersey.

The latest evidence that the race was dead even followed a recent Quinnipiac poll showing Mr. Corzine’s once seemingly insurmountable lead had evaporated, putting him just four points ahead of his Republican rival.

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