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New Jersey Senate candidate sets spending record -- but loses ground

MORRISTOWN, New Jersey (CNN) -- Jon Corzine, the Democratic candidate for Senate in New Jersey, has deep pockets and the backing of party face cards like former Sen. Bill Bradley. He has spent more on this race than any Senate or gubernatorial candidate in history -- $45 million and counting.

Jon Corzine  

Despite those advantages, the political newcomer has found himself struggling in his run against Republican Rep. Bob Franks.

Corzine, a longtime Wall Street player making his first run for public office, once held a double-digit lead over Franks. But a Quinnipiac University poll out Wednesday indicated Franks has closed to within five points in a survey with a 3 percent margin of error.

Franks got a boost Wednesday from The New York Times, which endorsed the Republican and blasted Corzine's "blatant use of money to secure political endorsements." Though the Times backs most of Corzine's positions on the issues, it condemned him for financing his campaign "in a way that recalled the abuses of old-time machine politics."

Bradley, the former Democratic presidential candidate, campaigned with Corzine on Wednesday, praising his support for gun control in an appearance before a small gathering of mothers advocating restrictions on firearms.

"There's no question in my mind Jon Corzine will be a strong voice for gun control in the United States Senate," Bradley said.

Franks, a four-term congressman and former state GOP chairman, has made Corzine's campaign spending the primary issue in the race.

"I've spent the last eight years in Congress working to earn your support," Franks said in a debate on New York television station WABC. "Mr. Corzine this fall is trying to buy it."

Rep. Bob Franks  

Most of the money Corzine is spending -- about $1 million a week -- is his own. Corzine earned it as co-chairman of the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs and Company. The money is funding commercials that air constantly in New Jersey.

Corzine's spending put him on the political map, introducing him to voters who had never heard of the former investment banker. But that spending now appears to be bothering at least some voters: More than 50 percent of those polled by Quinnipiac University said they are concerned about the level of spending.

Corzine says it will not be an issue upon which voters will make their decision.

"The issue is not money. The issue is what we are talking to voters about," he said.

With only $3.5 million backing his campaign, Franks has relied heavily on retail politics, making small, personal appearances around the state. Strategists say they have enough to adequately fund the last two weeks of the campaign, including television spots of their own.

Still, Franks' money is a mere pittance compared to the sum Corzine is expected to spend by November 7 -- more than $50 million, a national record.



Wednesday, October 25, 2000


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