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Rich Ex-Banker Enters NJ Race

A former Wall Street investment banker with a multimillion dollar bank account has launched his first political campaign, aiming to take the seat of retiring Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Jon Corzine announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the New Jersey Senate seat on Thursday, noting that the Democrat incumbent also was a successful businessman before running for Senate.

Corzine said while his potential opponents are already known by the public because of their long time in political office, he will need air time "to introduce myself the New Jersey public, telling them who I am, why I'm running, what I'm about."

For many Democrats, Corzine's appeal rests in his personal wealth - estimated at $300 million - and his outsider status.

Republican Gov. Christie Whitman surprised many when she dropped out of contention for the GOP nomination this month. Some GOP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Whitman was disturbed by the prospect of having to raise large amounts of money to compete against Corzine. Whitman has denied that.

One Democrat, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, pulled the plug on his own campaign because the prospect of Corzine's big-bucks candidacy chilled fund-raising opportunities.

Two Democrats exploring a run, former Gov. Jim Florio and former state Democratic chairman Thomas Byrne, are calling for limits in campaign spending.

Corzine rejected on Thursday the notion that he was trying to buy the election.

"It's a concept that makes no sense," Corzine said. "People are interested in ideas and issues."

In addition to universal health care and gun control, Corzine also favors tax-free savings for college tuition and free state college tuition for good students.

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