Richard James "Dick" Codey (born November 27, 1946) is an American Democratic Party politician in the U.S. State of New Jersey. He has served in the New Jersey Senate (the upper house of the New Jersey Legislature) since 1981, and has been the President of the Senate since 2002. He represents the 27th Legislative District, which covers the western portions of Essex County.
Codey served as the 53rd Governor of New Jersey (by virtue of his status as President of the New Jersey Senate) from the resignation of Governor James McGreevey on November 15, 2004 until the inauguration of Jon Corzine on January 17, 2006. As there was no Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey at the time (the office will come into being beginning in 2009), he again assumed the role of Acting Governor from April 12, 2007 to May 7, 2007, when Governor Corzine was involved in a serious automobile accident and was in critical condition at Cooper University Hospital. He has previously served as Acting Governor one time, and Governor one time as a result of two vacancies following gubernatorial resignations.
Codey left the funeral trade to try his hand in politics in 1973 when he was first elected to the State Assembly and served from 1974 to 1981. He was elected to the State Senate in 1981 and has risen through the ranks to become State Senate President in 2002. 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, NJ.
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. In the event of a permanent gubernatorial vacancy before the first Lieutenant Governor takes office on January 12 2010, the Senate President (or Assembly Speaker) will become Governor and will be required to relinquish his (or her) seat in the legislature.
On January 9, 2006, Codey became Governor (no longer Acting Governor) as a result of his signing legislation that provides a person who serves as Acting Governor for continuous period of at least 180 days will be "Governor of the State of New Jersey" for official and historical purposes.
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.
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.
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.
In September, 2006, during Mr. Menendez's re-election campaign for his U.S. Senate seat, it was revealed that Menendez was the subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation. The situation closely resembles the situation faced by Robert Torricelli in his 2002 re-election campaign, where ethical problems and declining poll numbers led to Torricelli exiting the race, to be replaced as the Democratic candidate by former senator Frank Lautenberg. Political observers speculated that Codey could be tapped to fill the candidate's slot should Menendez decide to withdraw from the race. However, on November 7, 2006, Menendez was elected to a full term.