Richard James Codey (born November 27, 1946) is an American Democratic Party politician who served as the 53rd Governor of New Jersey from November 2004 to January 2006. He has served in the New Jersey Senate since 1981 and served as the President of the Senate from 2002 to January 2010. He represents the 27th Legislative District, which covers the western portions of Essex County. Codey is currently the second most senior senator in the New Jersey Senate, after Gerald Cardinale.
Codey left the funeral trade to try his hand in politics in 1973 when he was first elected to the State Assembly, with Eldridge Hawkins as his running mate. He served in the Assembly from 1974 to 1981. In 1981 he earned a bachelor's degree in education from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Codey was elected to the State Senate that same year and has since risen through the ranks to become Senate President. He first ascended to that post in 2002 to 2010. He serves in the Senate on the Legislative Services Commission. He also has a hockey arena named in his honor, also known as South Mountain Arena in West Orange, New Jersey.
Following Governor Christine Todd Whitman's resignation the previous year to become head of the EPA, Codey was one of three different Senate Presidents (along with Donald DiFrancesco and John O. Bennett, along with Attorney General John Farmer) to serve as Acting Governor for the one-year period between Whitman's resignation and Jim McGreevey's inauguration. DiFrancesco served as acting governor for all but the last week of this period, until his term as senate president ended. Farmer, Bennett and Codey then divided the last week of the term among them, with Codey serving for three days, from January 12, 2002, to January 15, 2002.
Codey became Acting Governor again with the resignation of Jim McGreevey on November 15, 2004. According to the New Jersey State Constitution at the time, in the event of a vacancy in the Governor's office, the President of the State Senate takes on the additional position of Acting Governor until the next gubernatorial election. After taking over in 2004 Codey became popular with many New Jersey residents and reportedly considered a run for a full four-year term. However, U.S. Senator Jon Corzine's large number of endorsements as well as his large campaign war chest, funded primarily by his great personal wealth, convinced Codey to announce officially on January 31, 2005 that he would step aside. Codey served as Governor until Corzine was sworn in on January 17, 2006 following Corzine's victory in the November 8, 2005 elections. Some had speculated that Codey could be a possible candidate for Corzine's vacant seat in the United States Senate, with Corzine appointing his own successor once he was sworn in as Governor. However, Codey announced on November 23, 2005 that he was not interested in the Senate seat.
With the passage on November 8, 2005, of a constitutional amendment creating the position of Lieutenant Governor, Codey became the last person to serve simultaneously as Governor and Senate President.
On January 9, 2006, Codey became Governor (no longer Acting Governor) as a result of his signing legislation that provided that a person who serves as Acting Governor for a continuous period of at least 180 days will be "Governor of the State of New Jersey" for official and historical purposes. This law was made retroactive to 2001, covering both Codey's service after McGreevey's resignation and the service of Donald DiFrancesco following the resignation of Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 2001. This made DiFrancesco New Jersey's 51st governor and Codey the 53rd.
Codey has been an outspoken advocate of mental health awareness and strongly favors including mental health funding in employee medical benefit packages and Medicare. Both Codey and his wife, Mary Jo, have spoken candidly about her past struggles with postpartum depression. In early 2005, Codey responded in person to New Jersey 101.5 talk radio host Craig Carton, who jokingly criticized Mary Jo and her mental health on the air. Some argue that Codey's comments were a physical threat against the radio personality. The Governor himself admits to telling Carton during the altercation that he wished he could "take [Carton] outside", while in the presence of the six New Jersey State Policemen who were serving as his personal bodyguards. There was some speculation that this incident helped Codey decide not to run for a full term as governor. In July 2005, Codey also defended actress Brooke Shields after she faced criticism for discussing her postpartum depression. In December 2005, Codey appeared on Carton's radio program to help put the incident behind both of them.
Codey appointed Mary Jane Cooper to be New Jersey's first-ever Inspector General, a position created to root out waste and mismanagement in government. Codey added $7 million in new funding to agencies devoted to public accountability, per the recommendations that resulted from an audit of state ethics codes that he commissioned. In March 2005, Codey cracked down on pay to play when he signed a law banning campaign contributions by businesses holding state contracts in several circumstances.
As governor, Codey championed a bill to ban smoking from indoor spaces in the state, more money for stem cell research, increased funding for mental health, and sports. Codey created a task force to recommend ways to end steroid abuse in high school and college sports in the state. The task force established drug testing for high school athletes on teams that play in the championship. The state will pay for the drug testing program. He also successfully negotiated for a new stadium to be constructed jointly by the New York Giants and New York Jets.
In December 2005, Codey announced he was not accepting a new state slogan recommended by the State Commerce Department, following a study by a marketing consultant, which was paid for by the state. He said he felt the slogan "We'll win you over" made the state seem desperate. Governor Codey openly solicited slogan suggestions from citizens and then choose five finalists, which he opened to a vote from the public. Days prior to leaving the governor's office, Codey announced the winner: New Jersey: Come See for Yourself.
Shortly before leaving office, Codey signed the first legislative moratorium on capital punishment enacted by any state in the nation. The moratorium ended with the permanent ban of capital punishment by Codey's successor, Corzine.
As Corzine attended the swearing in of Bob Menendez as a U.S. Senator on January 18, 2006, in Washington, D.C., Codey spent part of his first day as former governor as the acting governor of the state.