HOBOKEN, N.J. – The winner of Tuesday's New Jersey Republican gubernatorial primary is most likely to face Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine in the fall general election.
In a state that leans Democratic, that may not sound like much of a prize, but plenty of people are fighting for the job.
Voters are heading toward choosing a new governor after the last one resigned amid scandal. Last August, married Democratic Gov. James McGreevey (search) resigned after admitting he had been having a gay affair. His resignation also came amid corruption investigations into some of his staff and fundraisers.
His replacement, acting Gov. Richard Codey (search) chose not to run for a full term, leaving the path clear for Corzine, who faces only token opposition for the Democratic nomination.
"Wow, is this what it's like to run for governor?" Corzine asked an excited audience that recently greeted him.
To win the Senate seat in 2000, Corzine dropped more than $63 million of his own money. Oddsmakers already give Corzine the edge.
"New Jersey is Democratic and it's very hard to overcome that, especially with a strong candidate like Sen. Corzine, who's a senator, is clean and has a lot of money to spend," Clay Richards, assistant director at the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said.
The latest Quinnipiac poll shows the GOP race is a neck-and-neck contest between former state pension director and millionaire businessman Doug Forrester and former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler. The other contenders trail in single digits.
Forrester lost to Sen. Frank Lautenberg in the 2002 Senate race after Lautenberg was permitted by the state Supreme Court to replace former Sen. Robert Torricelli, who quit after a Senate ethics panel found he inappropriately accepted gifts from donors. Forrester says Corzine's armor is chinked.
"Jon Corzine has been the leader of the Democratic Party of New Jersey for five years now or more. He is very much a part of the people and the policies that have led us to this terrible situation where we have the worst reputation for corruption in the country," Forrester said.
Schundler, who lost resoundingly to McGreevey in 2001, argues he can overcome Corzine's financial advantage by focusing on a key issue.
"If we make this campaign about property tax reform now and lay out how their taxes will fall and stay down permanently, people want that, and no matter how much Corzine spends, he can't make people not want that," Schundler said.
The governorship in New Jersey is one of the strongest in the country. New Jersey has no lieutenant governor and the legislature is not as powerful as elsewhere. Whoever holds the top job can become the dominant political force in the state.
Click in the box near the top of the story towatch a report by FOX News' Todd Connor.