Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Democrat Jon Corzine won the governorship of New Jersey four years ago pledging to bring needed change to a state defined by corruption and the highest property taxes in the country.

And four years later, things did change. The state's Democratic political establishment became more corrupt than ever and its tax burdens heavier than before, in part owing to a pay-to-play culture of corruption the governor did little to combat and a bunch of new fees and taxes that Corzine enacted in the midst of the recession.

Then along came U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie for the district of New Jersey, a beefy, crime-fighting paladin who promptly began filling up the state's prisons with scores of crooked politicians, including mayors, lawmakers and other elected and public officials.

Christie soon became the most famous crime fighter in the state and a breath of fresh air to its dispirited voters, and polls were showing the New Jersey Republican leading Corzine by double digits. He resigned his post in December and began a campaign to clean up Trenton, rebuild the state's battered economy through lower taxes, and enact a new code of stringent ethical reforms throughout the government.

But before Christie stepped down, he had won convictions or guilty pleas from 130 public officials and had put in place a massive, statewide investigative net that last month snared another 44 public officials -- with more arrests likely to come.

The latest arrests couldn't have come at a worse time for Corzine. They showed that statewide corruption ran deeper than even the most cynical observers had feared and that the only political solution was to install a reform government determined to clean house.

Christie doesn't mince words when he talks about who bears the lion's share of the blame, placing it squarely on the governor's doorstep.

According to New York Times story, Christie considers Corzine an "obvious bystander," an "enabler" of corruption and "the No. 1 financier of corrupt politicians and county bosses in New Jersey."

Heading into August, Christie had been leading by 10 to 14 points as Corzine's job-approval numbers tumbled. In the past month, however, the race has tightened slightly, as Democrats mounted a fierce counteroffensive, charging that Christie has skeletons in his closet that raise questions about his own credibility on ethical issues.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.