Bret Schundler vs. Bob Franks ‘s sober study of 2001 NJ Republican primary.

Aquarian Weekly 7/4/01 REALITY CHECK

BROKEN HEROES ON HIGHWAY 9True Tales of New Jersey Gubernatorial Races

The Garden State is without leadership. For all purposes of government, the state’s executive branch is a rudderless ship upon a rocky sea of rumor and speculation. There hasn’t been this much false panic since 1938, when Orson Welles suckered the Trenton Fire Department into shooting hobos mistaken for Martians on Route 1 in New Brunswick.

Governor, Christie Todd Whitman is in Washington performing as an illusionist for the Bush administration’s ecology sinkhole. Acting governor, Donald T. DiFrancesco dropped out of the running in April after denying “implausible land deals” and “mob connections”. Democratic contender, Jim McGreevey, fresh from a near-stunning upset of Whitman in 1997, has ostensibly been campaigning ever since with his tired lower auto insurance and property tax mantra for a carbon copy run.

So the weary and confused look to the GOP for candidates worthy of the state’s more than interesting political history. Last Tuesday Bret Schundler soundly defeated favorite, Bob Franks for the Republican primary and will set the course for an epic ideological battle with McGreevey.

Schundler, a staunch social and fiscal conservative, won despite the party’s history of centrist candidates and wild stories in the Bergen Record of spinning a 1969 apple red Mustang convertible in tire-screeching doughnuts and holding up traffic for nearly twenty minutes on Route 59 in Spring Valley, New York a Sunday ago.

It seems that Franks had been allegedly nerve-chewing laxatives all morning and needed to end the thing quickly. For nearly an hour he just laughed like a braying tetanus-ravaged goat. Schundler hardly had to talk and the debate was his.

“Public testing of centrifugal forces is legal in Rockland County,” my top source, G-Padre reminded me.

“Even if your days from an election?” I asked.

“Especially then.”

But Schundler was the winner. And winners can magically spin doctor criminally dangerous acts into valid, almost heroic scientific experiments. Losers become pariahs for simply jaywalking on Main Street in Lodi. This is not the case in most states, but New Jersey is different. Politics here is akin to a social dizziness, a kind of all-encompassing paranoia, like Steven King’s Jack Torrence wielding mallets at his family for a shot of beer.

Not that Schundler had been guilty of anything that heinous, just simple extremist right-wing concepts. And that is not yet a crime in most of the contiguous Untied States. Not yet, although Liberalism is punishable by public shackling in fourteen counties in Utah. Several sources at the Kaysville Sentinel reported two summers ago that Bill Bradley barely made it out of Salt Lake City alive.

Ironically, Franks spent the weekend with the family in relative privacy. His people swear he would never be caught causing scenes on public byways, but nasty rumors of he, Rob Monte from Dogvoices and myself going shot-for-shot in the backroom at the Sea Shell on Long Beach Island during an horrific gale on Saturday night were rampant on the Monday before the election. They were soon quelled when a reporter from the Trentonian, who was savagely beaten with several pool toys for inadvertently touching my wife’s hair the same night, identified Franks as a “large Latino fellow with long sideburns”. Managing editors for the Trentonian could not be reached for comment.

But sadly it was Franks, backed by the highest-ranking party officers in the state, shocking many of the gambling rings in press row Tuesday by hardly carrying 40% of the vote halfway through the count. Best money had Schundler out of it by 10:00 pm before the northern precincts reported, but that became doom-talk long before the victory dinners got cold over at Franks’ headquarters. The band packed up well before midnight and women and children were sent away weeping.

Schundler outspent Franks, but not as much as Jon Corzine, who poured $60 million of investment banker money toward the defeat of Franks in a 2000 senate run. Schundler believes in financial responsibility, but he could taste victory a week before the election when the two men appeared on Gabe Pressman’s Sunday morning television show out of New York. It seems that Franks had been allegedly nerve-chewing laxatives all morning and needed to end the thing quickly. For nearly an hour he just laughed like a braying tetanus-ravaged goat. Schundler hardly had to talk and the debate was his.

Sussex County Republican Assemblyman, E. Scott Garrett called Franks “loud and nasty” the next day and immediately the momentum pendulum began to swing.

But dissecting old news is not the style of this space, so to look ahead at a McGreevey vs. Schundler race there are several factors involved. The first of which is the inevitable Left vs. Right wars and the second is the ever-popular “integrity” question. Both men are fine candidates, both have plans to lower taxes and car insurance with the obligatory abortion and gun ownership issues at the core, but where most states demand water-walking minister types, New Jersey is in need of a notorious rabble rouser in the tradition of William Franklin or a schizophrenic fun-lover like the colorful Lord Cornbury.

Many New Jersey voters don’t remember the name of William Franklin, the last colonial governor of New Jersey driven from the State at gunpoint by the infamous “Pine Robbers.” as a wart-bellied trader to mother England. He was not popular among colony historians, but many townships took his name anyway. But New Jersey’s first Royal Governor, Lord Cornbury, best known for his private cross-dressing habits, is nowhere to be found on a Jersey map. There are no Cornbury townships, nor will there ever be. And now it’s doubtful there will be any McGreevey boulevards or Schundler Counties when all is said and done here.

But that will be the rub, for this reporter is contemplating a complete move to the scenic mountains of Vernon, New Jersey, where bear run free and the beer flows nightly. No one up there cares a rats-ass about ideology, when a transvestite defector with a laxative jones can drum up some quality headlines. And that is the place for me.

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