Corzine - Driven By Ambition
Last fall was not the first time Corzine rebounded from defeat with a dramatic change of direction. [Ed: This refers to the loss of Senate seats to the Republicans in last year’s elections. Corzine had sought out and won the high profile job of heading up the Democrat’s campaign to regain control of the Senate. A job he apparently coveted for the chance to build networks for his future ambitions and to gain national exposure.] Shortly after his 24-year career as a bond trader and executive ended abruptly with his 1999 ouster from Goldman Sachs, he launched his Senate campaign.
In this episode and others, Corzine's short political career reveals an unstinting ambition belied by his understated exterior. As he did on Wall Street, the former Goldman Sachs chairman has repeatedly thrown himself headlong into advancing his agenda and himself, often successfully. Where he has met defeat, he has quickly looked for the next opening.
Corzine is widely described as a demanding boss who solicits many opinions but is rarely swayed from his chosen course. As one former associate familiar with his days on the trading floor put it, "His behavior was that of a typical bond trader. He was loved by many people. But he would definitely dress you down if you didn't do something his way."
Everyone who has worked with Corzine agrees on his devotion to his second career. His family life has suffered, though. Early in his second year in Washington, Corzine announced his separation from his wife of 33 years, who had been ambivalent about his Senate run.
After the divorce became final in November 2003, Joanne Corzine said in a statement that her husband's entry into politics had a "noxious" effect on their relationship, which they began as teenagers in Taylorville, Ill. She emphasized that his conduct led to the divorce, adding, "I still believe in family values, loyalty and fair play."
"I had no desire to seek a separation from my husband or jeopardize the vows of my marriage, either before he was elected to the Senate or afterward," her statement said. "We had grown up together and, I felt, shared the same value system."
Corzine declined to comment on his ex-wife's account. At the time of the separation, he said in a brief statement: "While I remain deeply committed to my family, I accept my responsibility for this decision."
The senator maintains that he always intended to seek a second Senate term in 2006, but was compelled to change plans, given the unforeseen events in Trenton. Yet it was hardly the inevitable choice. Democrats had at least one potential candidate in the acting governor, who has enjoyed high approval ratings. Corzine's decision meant pushing Codey out of contention and, if he is elected, quitting his Senate term a year early.
Some who know him believe Corzine's run for governor is meant to position him for a presidential bid. Current political wisdom holds that governors are more likely than senators to reach the White House.
"I think he wants to run for president - no ifs, ands or buts about it - and I think that's why he's running for governor," said the Washington Democrat who knows Corzine. The senator's desire to lead the Senate campaign last year was another indication of national ambitions, this person said.
"I don't know where this comes from," he said last month. "It's just somebody's hyper imagination and a few Republicans trying to use it as a political issue. I would like to be the governor of the state of New Jersey, doing a really good job at being a creative idea projector, making those ideas come to pass."