TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A millionaire businessman won New Jersey’s Republican gubernatorial primary yesterday and earned the right to face Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine in November — the state’s first race for governor since James McGreevey resigned in a homosexual scandal.
Doug Forrester edged former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler after spending millions of his own fortune to finance a campaign that took aim at the state’s highest-in-the-nation property taxes.
Mr. Corzine, with 88 percent of the vote, easily won the Democratic primary after facing only token opposition.
With 94 percent of precincts counted, Mr. Forrester had 102,417 votes, or 36 percent, to 88,841 votes, or 31 percent, for Mr. Schundler in the seven-way primary.
In other races around the country, a 70-year-old retired judge led a 30-year-old Hispanic city council member in a runoff for mayor of San Antonio, the nation’s eighth-largest city.
Mr. Forrester has said he will reduce property taxes by 10 percent in each of the next three years through spending cuts and layoffs.
“We’re going to make sure that we turn New Jersey around beginning tonight,” Mr. Forrester told cheering supporters at a rally.
Making a reference to New Jersey’s image as a state rife with political corruption, Mr. Corzine vowed he would be an honest governor.
“Tonight I make a pledge to the people of New Jersey, I won’t be anybody’s governor but yours,” he said after his primary victory.
Both New Jersey Republicans have been recent candidates for statewide office.
Mr. Schundler was beaten by Mr. McGreevey by 14 percentage points in the 2001 governor’s race.
Mr. Forrester spent $7 million of his own money in 2002 trying to win a Senate seat, and was leading Sen. Robert G. Torricelli. But Mr. Torricelli quit the race in September, and the state courts let the Democrats replace their trailing candidate with ex-Sen. Frank Lautenberg long after the deadline for ballot changes had passed. Mr. Lautenberg beat Mr. Forrester by 10 points.
The New Jersey contest is one of only two governor’s races being decided this year. The other is in Virginia.
The winner in November will succeed Democrat Richard J. Codey, who as president of the state Senate became acting governor when Mr. McGreevey stepped down. Mr. Codey decided not to run for a full term.
In other races yesterday:
Former judge Phil Hardberger, 70, led Julian Castro, a youthful city council member, in the race to become mayor of San Antonio after a campaign that got closer — and nastier — in recent weeks.
Mr. Hardberger led 52 percent to 48 percent with 40 percent of precincts reporting. He is looking to pull off a comeback after losing by double digits in last month’s open nonpartisan primary, which yielded the two finalists.
If he comes back, Mr. Castro would become the second Hispanic elected mayor of a big city in three weeks, following Antonio Villaraigosa’s landslide victory in Los Angeles last month.
In Atlantic City, a veteran lifeguard ousted the incumbent in the race to lead the New Jersey gambling town. The victory by Bob Levy followed a bitter campaign.