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Bret Schundler For President?

Originally appeared in The Dartmouth Review, December, 1993

The debacle of the Clinton presidency thus far has most Republicans optimistic about the GOP's chances in the 1996 presidential election. Jack Kemp. Bill Bennett, Bob Dole and Phil Gramm, to name a few, already are beginning trips to New Hampshire in preparation for the primary season three years hence. Yet, while all the possible candidates have their respective strengths and weaknesses, there has yet to emerge a true leader, a Ronald Reagan type character, ready to lead the Republican Party and the American people into the twenty-first century.

As is to be expected, the potential candidates have had a field day in terms of opportunities to criticize Bill Clinton and his Washington cronies. However, there has been little in the way of Republican ideas, of positive suggestions as opposed to reactionary criticisms.

Tucked away in one of the country's more dilapidated cities, one lone Republican is making a difference. Bret Schundler is a 34 year old Harvard graduate who had to wash dishes, clean bathrooms and work as a security guard in order to pay his tuition. Instead of becoming a Presbyterian minister after graduation, Schundler, then a Democrat, went to Washington, D.C. where he worked as an aide to Rep. Roy Dyson. In 1984, he worked on the Gary Hart for President campaign.

After the campaign he got a job as an investment banker on Wall Street. By 1991, he was a millionaire. He lived in Jersey City, New Jersey, primarily because of its proximity to New York City. Schundler was involved in local government and soon grew disenchanted with the Democratic Party's ties to special interest groups. On a local level, he was upset at the city's high tax rates, exploding budgets and overwhelming corruption.

Schundler gave up his Wall Street job, registered as a Republican and ran for State Senate. He lost, gaining 45 percent of the vote. In 1992, after Jersey City had gone through its fourth mayor in twelve months, a special run-off election with nineteen candidates was held. Schundler won with less than 18 percent of the vote.

He had seven months before a new election against a unified Democratic Party and their candidate, Lou Manzo. Last May, even though Jesse Jackson came to Jersey City a week before the election and attacked Schundler, saying "The values Lou Manzo represents are the values of the USA, the United States of America, not the Union of South Africa." Schundler won 68 percent of the vote, the largest margin of victory in Jersey City's history. As well, running as a conservative Republican, he won 60 percent of the Hispanic vote and 40 percent of the black vote. It is worth pointing out that registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans in Jersey City by more than ten to one.

So how did he do it? Schundler ran on three platforms: lower taxes and fiscal responsibility, safer streets and an end to machine politics. He cut his salary in half took on the city's entrenched bureaucracy, put more police on the street (crime has dropped fourteen percent), cut property taxes and put the city on the road to a budget surplus after being handed a $40 million deficit upon entering office.

Finally. we have a politician who keeps his promises -- a conservative politician at that. Schundler is winning as Jersey City's first Republican mayor in 75 years. And he is doing it through basic conservative ideas: safe streets with more police, lower taxes, workfare instead of welfare and school choice. Indeed, he has much to do with pushing Governor elect Christine Whitman to pursue more aggressively the tax issue in the recent gubernatorial election.

What we have in Bret Schundler is a young, dynamic and responsible politician. But more importantly, he is a conservative politician who is winning elections.

To be an inspirational leader does not necessarily require innovative ideas. Like a good conservative, Bret Schundler has returned -- and returned successfully -- to conservative values and policies. While we at The Review cannot endorse political candidates, we cannot hold back our exuberance at the prospect of a Republican party and even a country led by Bret Schundler.

The successful future of Republican politics is staring us in the face in Jersey City. The City's mayor says "I love Jersey City. I feel it's my mission not only to benefit our people, but truly to make this city a light to the nation." It should be our mission to elect leaders like Bret Schundler.


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