Will New Jersey Elect a Pro-Life Catholic Governor?

Deal W. Hudson
April 27, 2009

As of a few days ago, a pro-life Catholic held the lead in the New Jersey governor’s race. Chris Christie has been steadily polling ahead of the current Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, and the other Republican candidate for the nomination.

Christie’s eleven point lead over Corzine, and 25 point lead over his closest GOP challenger, is remarkable in the post-Obama political climate when pro-life candidates, like Christie, are supposed to be a pass�.

The 47-year old Christie, viewed as a moderate candidate, has been married for 23 years to his wife, Mary Pat; they have four children, two boys, and two girls, ages 5 to 15. In New Jersey 42 percent of voters are Catholic, but the Republicans haven’t nominated a Catholic for governor since 1973.

Whether New Jersey Catholics will rally around a candidate like Christie remains to be seen. The last Catholic governor of New Jersey was James E. McGreevey who received a majority of the Catholic vote in spite of policy positions that were mostly antithetical to the Church. McGreevey beat a candidate, Brent Schundler, who was pro-life and socially conservative, but Protestant in a largely Catholic state. When a New Jersey columnist asked McGreevey to comment on the fact that his politics were out of line with most Irish Catholic voters, “McGreevey laughed the question off.”

You might assume from the reputation and recent history of New Jersey politics that there must be something questionable about Christie’s pro-life position that explains his present popularity. His GOP opponent, Steve Lonergan, in fact, has tried to label him “pro-choice,” but Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) has given Christie his “seal of approval,” which for movement pro-lifers will be the end of the argument.

Christie was nominated in 2001 by George W. Bush as the U.S. attorney general for the District of New Jersey and took office in January 2002. During his six years in office, he gained the reputation as something of a corruption-buster, having won convictions or guilty pleas from 130 public officials, both Republican and Democrat. Christie did not lose a single case.

One example of his successful prosecution was that of Sharpe James, the former mayor of Newark. James was found guilty of conspiring to sell nine city properties to his mistress, Tamika Riley, who resold them for hundreds of thousands in profit.

After the verdict, Gov. Corzine, a political ally of James, commented, “It’s unfortunate for the citizens of Newark;” adding, “I find it sad that any of the good work produced by Mayor James will get lost or overshadowed by his conviction.”

Corzine is vulnerable, in part, because he is viewed as someone who has been associated with various scandals – others and his own – during the entirety of his tenure as governor. Another vulnerability stems from his position on life issues. Corzine made headlines a few months ago when New Jersey filed a lawsuit to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions. New Jersey Catholics voted it should be noted, for McCain over Obama, 55 percent to 45 percent.

As one of his leading supporters told me, “Christie is not a fire-breather, but a center-right guy who has the vision and guts to beat Corzine and the Democrats this November.” The election of Chris Christie would put a sudden end to all the talk about the need for Republicans to distance themselves from their pro-life constituencies.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s