There was U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez making a speech, and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy listening attentively, seated next to West New York mayor and State Assembly Speaker Albio Sires.
They were only but a few of the numerous city, county, state and federal officials who filled a campus hall at New Jersey City University Wednesday afternoon.
When the event is for popular U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, anyone who is anyone in New Jersey politics wants to heard.
The occasion was the official kick-off for Corzine's campaign to be the next governor of New Jersey. With over 500 attendees present, Corzine took center stage and was joined by individuals representing a cross section of New Jersey life.
Corzine is expected to win the Democratic nomination in June. Several Republican candidates, including former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, want to oppose him.
Corzine, 59, is a native of Taylorville, Illinois who earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois and a graduate degree from the University of Chicago. He also worked for the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs for 24 years, finally becoming chairman and chief executive officer.
In 2000, Corzine ran for the NJ United States Senate seat and defeated Republican Bob Franks on Election Night, spending a record $60 million on his campaign. Corzine currently serves on several U.S. Senate committees, including the Banking and Housing and Urban Affairs committees.
Corzine is divorced and currently resides in Hoboken.
Corzine announced his run in December, after much speculation about his political future. At first, there was talk that he would face tough competition from acting Gov. Richard Codey, but Codey stepped aside.
Corzine makes a connection
The kick-off was held in the Multi Purpose Room in the NJCU Student Center. And indeed, it seemed to have multiple purposes because it allowed Corzine to not only to greet North Jersey politicians who will be vital to his work if elected, but also to greet his supporters in the largely Democratic base of Hudson County.
Corzine also introduced his Corzine Connection webpage, which will allow visitors to interact with his campaign via the Internet, a reminder of the grassroots Internet campaign that Howard Dean ran during his presidential run in 2004.
After being introduced by Maria Diaz, the first female firefighter in Hoboken's history, Corzine took the stage for a half-hour presentation.
"Almost five years ago, I left private life to fight full-time for the causes and the people," he said. "I believe in the hardworking people of New Jersey. That is why I entered public life, and that is why I am running to be your next governor. I embrace the timeless imperative: To those to whom much is given, much is expected."
Corzine spoke of his accomplishments as a U.S. senator, such as pushing for corporate reform and fighting to recoup the homeland security money cut from New Jersey in the past year.
Corzine also sighted some recent proposals, such as the Edison Innovation Fund to support research and development in the technology sector, and the Urban Investment Bank to support small businesses and entrepreneurs in the state.
"The people of New Jersey know it is time to bring the best business practices to state government: outcome-based budgeting, 21st century management, long-term planning, and new investment initiatives for our people and infrastructure," said Corzine.
Corzine also said New Jersey is "home to one of the most diverse, best educated, highly skilled and most ambitious populations in the world."
Connecting with Corzine
Corzine's speech resonated with a number of local attendees, particularly those from Jersey City. Flor Medel, a Filipina resident of Jersey City for a number of years, sat on stage during Corzine's speech. "I believe that he will help minorities a great deal and he appeals a great deal to the Asian community," said Medel.
Monte Brown, an African-American alumnus of NJCU and a Jersey City resident, concurred with Medel about his appeal to minorities, as Brown believes that Corzine's progressive stances as a senator will benefit minorities in New Jersey.
Local officials such as Assemblyman Louis Manzo, Ward A City Councilman Mariano Vega, and Hudson County Freeholder Jeffrey Dublin all were in agreement that Corzine will benefit Hudson County on issues such as open space, minority hiring for construction jobs and political reform.
New Jersey residents in general also have connected with Corzine as he leads in a number of political polls against Republican opponents by over 20 points.