The Asbury Park Press issues a stern warning to New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and the state legislature to restore funding for the state's Clean Elections pilot program and expand eligibility to include primary races, where newcomers have the best chance to mount competitive bids.
Corzine supports Clean Elections but cites budget constraints as his reason for not including funding for the program in his most recent budget. It's particularly unfortunate that he should withdraw funding just after the Clean Elections program enjoyed a very successful second outing in three districts. From the Park Press:
Money for Clean Elections must be included in the budget due July 1 so the program can be expanded to cover the June 2009 primaries — one of the steps needed to improve the program, which last year covered three legislative districts. Funding primaries would encourage newcomers, women and members of minority groups to seek their party's nomination. That would help break the stranglehold political party bosses have on primaries, which leads to too many uncontested elections with too many familiar faces.
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The governor's inaction should not discourage legislators from doing the right thing. Cost is an issue, but not an insurmountable one. Last year, $4.1 million was spent to finance the legislative campaigns of 16 publicly funded candidates. The $256,250 for each candidate is far too high for a $49,000 part-time job. A much lower figure would enable the state to fund the Assembly campaigns in all 40 districts, rather than selected districts as in 2005 and 2007. Fairness dictates that third-party candidates should get the same piece of the funding pie.