MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Gubernatorial candidate Doug Forrester aired a TV commercial featuring a quote from his opponent's ex-wife that Sen. Jon S. Corzine "let his family down, and he'll probably let New Jersey down, too."
Hours later, the Corzine campaign fired back, accusing Forrester of bringing "Bush-Rove smear tactics to our state." Karl Rove is President Bush's top adviser.
The 15-second spot — which aired Thursday, five days before the election — displayed a quote by Joanne Corzine from Wednesday's New York Times, describing her reaction to seeing Forrester's wife in an advertisement.
"All I could think was that Jon did let his family down, and he'll probably let New Jersey down, too," she told the Times.
Joanne Corzine has said her former husband's political ambitions destroyed their 33-year marriage. The couple divorced in 2003, three years after he was elected to the Senate.
Forrester had said Wednesday that he considered her comment a "private matter" and would not make it a campaign issue, the Times said.
Forrester "has been clear through the campaign that private life is private life," his campaign spokeswoman Sherry Sylvester told The Associated Press.
The next day, after the ad appeared, she defended it.
"Ms. Corzine's statements go beyond private life. She is talking about a man who would be governor abandoning his principles for the sake of ambition," Sylvester said.
The senator avoided directly criticizing his ex-wife or Forrester when asked about the ad, saying the breakup of a marriage is painful, and "I believe that you can imagine that that pain sometimes colors how people might speak to issues." He said his former wife "has a right to speak out."
But acting Gov. Richard J. Codey, who appeared with Corzine at a campaign event, called Forrester a liar and hypocrite.
"Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse or any lower, it did, on Mr. Forrester's behalf," he said.
Joanne Corzine did not return telephone messages left by The Associated Press.
Corruption and property taxes have been key issues in the governor's contest. Both candidates are self-made millionaires — Democrat Corzine, 58, is the former CEO of the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs and Republican Forrester, 52, is president of a prescription drug benefits company.
A Quinnipiac University poll this week showed Corzine leading Forrester, 50 percent to 38 percent. The poll had a sampling error margin of 4 percentage points.
Codey, who took office last year after James E. McGreevey resigned over a gay affair, decided not to seek a full term. Virginia is the only other state choosing a governor this year.