Corzine wins big after spending big in New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. - Propelled from obscurity by his record-shattering $33 million campaign, retired investment banker Jon Corzine captured New Jersey's Democratic Senate nomination Tuesday and ruined the comeback hopes of former Gov. Jim Florio.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Corzine led with 239,291 votes, or 58 percent. Florio drew 172,564 votes, or 42 percent. Corzine outpolled Florio by more than 3-1 in the vote-rich Newark area, while Florio did well in his base in southern New Jersey near Camden - but couldn't overcome Corzine's strength.

''Make no mistake. I want to invest in America,'' Corzine told supporters. ''That is what this campaign will be about.''

On the GOP side, Rep. Bob Franks edged out a win in a close four-way race. And in a repeat of a nail-biter two years ago, moderate GOP Rep. Marge Roukema, the longest-serving woman in Congress, narrowly defeated a conservative challenger.

But the Democratic Senate race was the highlight of primary voting in six states Tuesday. Corzine has never held elected office but quickly gained endorsements from top state political leaders, including the man he hopes to replace, retiring three-term Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Florio, seeking a return to politics after voters dumped him in 1993 at the end of just one term because he raised taxes by $2.8 billion, accused Corzine of trying to buy the seat.

Corzine's primary spending, roughly $140 per vote, shattered the previous U.S. record for a Senate campaign - $30 million spent by Republican Michael Huffington in his losing 1994 bid for office in California.

The former Goldman Sachs chief executive, with a personal fortune estimated at $400 million, raised $2.5 million for the campaign. The rest came from his own pocket.

He unleashed a $2-million-per-week blitz of TV commercials and poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into state and county Democratic organizations. Florio denounced the tactic as a ''hostile corporate takeover'' of the Democratic Party.

After his defeat, Florio said the primary campaign was a ''monument to the need for campaign finance reform.'' But he said he would support Corzine in the fall.

Some voters shrugged off the criticism of Corzine's spending. Norm Reiff, 69, of Northfield, said he picked Corzine, ''in spite of all the money he put into it.''

''We've got a new face,'' Reiff said. ''Let's give him a chance.''

The attention paid to Corzine's spending and his campaign platforms, such as federal funding of college for students with B averages or better and investing Social Security funds in the stock market, dwarfed interest in the GOP primary for Lautenberg's seat.

After GOP Gov. Christie Whitman said she would not run, four lesser-known candidates stepped in.

With 98 percent of precincts counted, Franks won with 36 percent of the vote, pulling ahead of state Sen. William Gormley, who led in early returns but only drew 34 percent by the end. Trailing were Essex County Executive Jim Treffinger and Ramapo College professor Murray Sabrin. The GOP has not won a Senate seat in New Jersey since 1972.

In a bitter primary fight in New Jersey, Roukema, seeking her 11th term, once again beat back a tough challenge from conservative state Assemblyman Scott Garrett. Garrett, who came within 1,700 votes of beating Roukema two years ago, lost this time by about 1,500 votes. He received $100,000 worth of support in ads from a conservative group.

Tuesday also marked the end of the presidential primary season, with contests in five of the six states, though they held little import since George W. Bush and Al Gore locked up their nominations back in March. The sixth state, Iowa, held its caucuses in January.

In the other states:

-Alabama Circuit Judge Roy Moore, who fought the American Civil Liberties Union in 1995 to post the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, won the GOP nomination for chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Moore, who bucked Republican leaders to run for the seat, took 56 percent of the vote in a four-way race and avoided a run-off.

-In Montana, Democratic farmer Brian Schweitzer made the high price of prescription medicine the theme of his Senate campaign, taking buses of seniors to Canada to highlight the price differences. He easily won the nomination to face two-term GOP Sen. Conrad Burns in the fall.

Also in Montana, state Auditor Mark O'Keefe won the Democratic nomination to replace Republican Gov. Mark Racicot, forced by term limits to retire. Lt. Gov. Judy Martz was leading in the GOP race.

And in New Jersey, former GOP Rep. Dick Zimmer, a lawyer who teaches at Princeton, defeated another former GOP congressman, Mike Pappas, to challenge first-term Democratic Rep. Rush Holt. Pappas lost to Holt two years ago in part because of a ditty he sang about impeachment on the House floor (''Twinkle, Twinkle, Kenneth Starr'').


- In New Mexico, former Rep. Bill Redmond won a three-way GOP race to challenge three-term Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

- In Iowa, lawyer Jay Marcus won the GOP nomination to challenge two-term Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell.

- In the race for South Dakota's lone House seat, Curt Hohn, manager of a water pipeline, won the Democratic primary to challenge two-term GOP Rep. John Thune.


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