RIP Gov. Florio: His legacy of fighting for New Jersey (Opinion)
We lost a New Jersey giant over the weekend.
He was one of the strongest voices advocating for New Jersey in what seems like a lost time in our history.
Jim Florio was elected governor in 1989 after two unsuccessful attempts in 1977 and in 1981. His margin of loss against Tom Kean in 1981 was the slimmest in the state's history with the two men separated by only 1,797 votes.
He played it smart and waited until 1989 to run again and this time achieved the victory.
I supported his motivation if not his policies
Now I'm not going to pretend that I supported his policies of raising taxes and taking education funding away from suburban districts to increase funding for urban districts.
This plan did not fix urban schools which have continued to slide for decades and put an undue burden on the middle class. That said, his tax hike — which cost him re-election — did come with critical spending cuts and reductions in state worker staff.
Look at who came after Florio
He was a tough, smart aggressive fighter and his motivation, in my opinion, was to actually fix the state after he inherited a multi-billion-dollar deficit from his Republican predecessor.
The $2.8 billion dollar tax hike was the rallying cry for the GOP to take back the governor's office in 1993 — "Florio Free in '93".
The challenge is that, as I've pointed out for years, when you elect a new person and fire the incumbent it's easy to celebrate the victory instead of taking a very close look at the new guy.
In this case, it was Republican Christine Todd Whitman, who made things in the Garden State much worse. Her victory over Florio was less than 27,000 votes - another close margin.
So, when I hear the lackluster, perennial candidate Jack Ciattarelli taking a victory lap after losing the 2021 contest by more than 84,000 votes to Phil Murphy, it makes you almost feel bad for the guy.
Fighting for New Jersey
The challenge in New Jersey in our current time in history more people have given up and made the decision to leave instead of fight.
Part of the reason is that both sides have put up candidates and so-called leaders more interested in their own resumes and bank accounts instead of actually fighting to make New Jersey a great state again.
We have a crime problem, a regulation problem, an over-spending problem, an out-migration problem, a cost-of-living problem and a cultural problem that is wrecking our law enforcement community and corrupting our school kids. For two-plus years of lockdowns and mandates the GOP was essentially silent.
Democratic agenda, Republican weakness
The Democratic majority, led by Murphy, went largely unchecked as they manipulated people through fear and enacted deadly and destructive policies targeting children, family businesses and the elderly.
That has to change going forward as more New Jerseyans awaken to the chilling agenda of the Democrats and the weakness of too many GOPers. Common sense policies are being clamored for across the state. Ideas like protecting small businesses and empowering parents are taking off.
We will rise up together to protect kids, cops, families and small businesses. We will start on the great progress at the local level in 2021 by taking back school boards, town councils and legislative seats. All paving the way for a strong leader unafraid of the attacks from social media and mainstream outlets.
It's time for leadership that is ready, willing and able to "Speak for New Jersey."
The next governor who will care about NJ
Quick side note story. My friend Tom Kean Jr. (who I am tough on based on his politics, not his personal life) shared a thought a few years ago. He said there have only been two governors in recent history who cared enough to fight for New Jersey. They didn't view the governor's office as a launching pad for the White House or to line their pockets from special interests. Instead, they saw the job as a calling to help make the lives of average people and families better.
The two? Tom's dad and Jim Florio. I think he may be right. It's time we go for three in 2025.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Spadea. Any opinions expressed are Bill's own. Bill Spadea is on the air weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m., talkin’ Jersey, taking your calls at 1-800-283-1015.