POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Former Senate President Assesses Governor’s Race, Takes Pride in Establishing Community Colleges

This past year saw moments of bipartisanship and bickering at the State House. Each party has its own list of accomplishments and items to address in the new year. Former New Jersey Senate President Raymond Bateman (R) sat down with NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor to discuss the current legislature and the upcoming governor’s race.

Talk of a tax cut has subsided since Hurricane Sandy and Bateman predicts a tough tax year for 2013, with no quick relief in sight. “Sandy has changed the face for the state for quite a while. so I think all previous promises on both sides are going to be out the window,” said Bateman.

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The gubernatorial race is 10 months away and anything can happen from now until November, but Bateman says if the election was held today, Gov. Christie would blow away the competition.

“He’s kind of become a rock star. The people like him. He’s out there all the time. He’s gonna be tough to beat, there’s no question about that.”

So far, the only Democratic candidate to enter the governor’s race is Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18). Former Gov. Richard Codey, who has yet to announce his intentions, is a viable candidate, according to Bateman.

“He’s a good friend and I suspect he’s not going to run,” said Bateman, who adds that there are a lot more Democrats than Republicans in this blue state.

Bateman compare’s Christie’s re-election chances to those of former Gov. Tom Kean when he was seeking a second term. “[Kean] won by 1900 votes in his first election and he won by 750,000 in the second election and this has that feel to it.”

Hurricane recovery efforts figure to be one of the major issues on the campaign. Some have said that Christie will be vulnerable if recovery efforts don’t progress fast enough. But Bateman doesn’t think Christie will be affected negatively, considering the way he’s handled himself thus far from public relations standpoint.

“It makes a heck of a difference when you’re an opponent putting out press releases and you got the governor out there, day after day, with different groups. Sandy could hurt him but I think it’ll help him more than hurt him.”

Whether the two parties can work in a bipartisan fashion in the new year is up for debate.

“I lived through legislatures that were Republican, were Democrat, were mixed and it was always the same. If you didn’t get the responsible leaders in the two political parties working together at the final analysis, it didn’t happen.”

In 1962, Bateman sponsored legislation that established New Jersey’s county-based community college system. It’s a legacy that Bateman takes great pride, saying “400,000 Jersey kids are getting a good head start at a very low price and they end up in wonderful places. Its been a great experiment.”