State Sen. Philip Haines turned down his dream job yesterday - a nomination to the Superior Court - to make a point.
In deciding to stay in the Legislature, the Burlington County Republican joined his party's chorus of criticism over Democratic Gov. Corzine's flurry of appointments in the waning days of his administration.
"The incoming governor should not be handcuffed with lame-duck political appointments that are not his own," Haines wrote in a letter sent to Corzine late yesterday afternoon.
Other Republicans weren't quite so delicate. They argued Corzine was attempting to reach from his political grave to affect future state policies and spending.
Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie said Corzine "lost his right, in my view, to make policy that extends beyond Jan. 19," when Christie will be sworn in. "On Nov. 3, they elected me and [Lt. Gov.-elect] Kim Guadagno to lead the state for the next four years."
He said the Corzine nominations created "an extension of the Corzine administration beyond Jan. 19."
In recent days, Corzine has nominated scores of people, mostly Democrats, to seats on advisory and licensing boards, as well as agencies and authorities that have influence on public policy and spending, including the Schools Development Authority, New Jersey Turnpike Authority, Pinelands Commission, Rutgers University, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Corzine is making at least 100 nominations to the various bodies, with little time for the state Senate Judiciary Committee to consider them. The committee next meets Jan. 4, and the Legislature's last session is scheduled for Jan. 12. Corzine's office argued that nominations were bottled up, in part, by the Legislature's summer and election recesses.
This round of nominations happened even after Christie asked Corzine to hold back the appointments so Christie could put his stamp on the government.
Republicans have been out of power since Gov. Donald DiFrancesco left office in 2001. They have lost majorities in both houses of the Legislature as the state has trended increasingly Democratic.
Gubernatorial nominations are a way for a party to exert influence over policy as well as reward the faithful.
Corzine's press secretary, Robert Corrales, explained Corzine's refusal to hold back the appointments for Christie by saying Corzine was "elected for four years. Not three years and 10 months. The governor is still the governor."
Echoing Christie, Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean Jr. (R., Union) said "a number of these nominations now will have direct impact on policy formation over the upcoming three to four years."
"My hope is there can be cooperation between Gov. Corzine and Gov.-elect Christie," Kean said.
In turning down the judicial nomination, Haines is not closing the door on a judgeship forever, considering the new governor is a fellow Republican and the Senate seats in his county are controlled by his party.
State senators can block judicial and some other appointments of people from their districts by exercising senatorial courtesy.
Haines' act also saves his party a special election in which Democrats would likely spend a fortune to strengthen their grip on the state Senate, where they have 23 seats to the Republicans' 17.
His Burlington County Republican Party already is gearing up for an expensive race to unseat U.S. Rep. John Adler, a Democrat.
Corzine has long worked on putting Haines in a judgeship, seeking an at-large spot for him because Burlington County has enough judges.
In a statement, Corrales called Haines "a class act" and said Republicans were to blame for many of the flurry of nominations because they blocked "the nominations of dozens of candidates."