Sean Ramsden

Rider’s Lawrenceville campus is a mere five miles from the New Jersey State House, but when the Garden State’s next governor takes the oath of office in January, he might recall that his path took him straight through the Bart Luedeke Center Theater. The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics of Rider University hosted all three major candidates in the state’s gubernatorial race over the course of one week this month through its inaugural Governing New Jersey series. View photos of the Governing New Jersey series here.

The appearances by Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine, Republican candidate Chris Christie and independent candidate Christopher Daggett separated Rider and the Rebovich Institute from the pack this year, according to Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics. “No other university in New Jersey ran a similar program this year,” Dworkin said. “This was a big step for the Rebovich Institute to bring all three major gubernatorial candidates here in the span of a week, so this was a significant accomplishment.

“In many ways, the road to Trenton leads through Rider,” Dworkin added.

The Governing New Jersey series kicked off on September 15 with an appearance by independent candidate Chris Daggett, who was joined on the campaign trail by his entire family for the first time.

“It’s so great to be here at Rider today, because I always enjoy meeting and speaking to students,” Daggett said. “They are the group that was so largely involved with the rise of President Obama”

Daggett, 57, said he is energized by the way the younger generation sees political candidates more for their ability to affect positive change than their affiliations. “When I was their age, we saw a candidate’s race, ethnicity, religion and party politics put forth as relevant,” he said. “I had a dream that one day, it wouldn’t matter, and today, it really doesn’t. Young voters today don’t see those distinctions. They simply want to know, ‘How are you going to help me?’”

Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the Republican challenger, followed Daggett the following evening. He acknowledged the often negative tenor of this year’s campaign, one of just two gubernatorial races in the United States in 2009, but asked voters not to let that discourage them from participating in the political process.

“Cynicism is an emotion we can only afford in good times,” said Christie, 47, who pinned the blame for the state’s fiscal and employment woes on his Democratic opponent, Gov. Jon S. Corzine. “This election is too important not to vote.”

In fact, Christie offered, dissatisfied voters will be presented the ideal opportunity to register their displeasure on Election Day once they step into the booth. “Any candidate running for office is, essentially, a referendum on the incumbent,” he said.

The Governing New Jersey series concluded on Tuesday, September 22, with the appearance of Corzine, who is seeking election to the governor’s office for the second time. The 62-year-old Corzine, a former co-chair of global investment banking and securities giant Goldman Sachs, was elected governor of New Jersey in 2005 after serving five years of a six-year term in the U.S. Senate. The governor paid tribute to the founder and namesake of the Rebovich Institute, the late Dr. David Rebovich, a former chair of Rider’s Department of Political Science, who died suddenly in October 2007.

“It is a testimonial to Rider that we’re all here,” said Corzine, not only of his audience, but if his rivals who preceded him in the Governing New Jersey series. “Anyone who would turn down a town hall or lecture series bearing the name of David Rebovich would be turning his back on New Jersey. He was a remarkable individual and you’re carrying his name well.” 

In his remarks, Corzine aligned himself with President Barack Obama, referencing Obama’s “Yes We can” motto to answer concerns about the grave condition of the state’s economy. “I am a firm believer that yes, we can turn this economy around,” he said.

At the conclusion, Dworkin said he is looking forward to the Rebovich Institute’s continued service to the Garden State through events such as the Governing New Jersey series. “All three candidates recognize the high level of interest present among voters in our region, and that’s why the Rebovich Institute is committed to giving the candidates a chance to speak to them,” he said.

The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University is dedicated to public service and scholarly analysis of government, public policy, campaigns and elections in New Jersey. To learn more, visit