SUMMIT, N.J. (AP) July 27--Jon Corzine and Bob Franks spar with each other day inand day out on the campaign trail. But at the end of the week, they saytheir prayers together. In a quirk of fate that could keep their costly campaign for a New JerseySenate seat an unusually genteel one, Corzine and Franks have found commonground in the same church. Corzine, who lives in Summit, has been at Christ Church, aninterdenominational mix of Baptist and United Church of Christ, for morethan 20 years. Franks, who lives the next town over in Berkeley Heights, hasbeen coming to the church for more than two years. Corzine's youngest son was baptized at Christ Church, and his two older sonswere confirmed there. This spring, Franks held a memorial service at thechurch for his father. And a few months ago, the Rev. Charles Rush found both candidates facingeach other across the aisle to receive Communion. "This is really kind of what the church ought to be about, bringing peoplewho are competitors together," Rush said. The pastor has tried to beevenhanded, saying the prayer to open each candidate's campaign and sportingbumper stickers from both parishioners on the back of his car. Corzine, the multimillionaire businessman who spent $36.7 million just towin the Democratic primary in June--the most expensive Senate campaign ever--played down the candidates' common church as "just very coincidental." Franks, a Republican congressman, believes his religion is a private matterand won't discuss it, said spokeswoman Janet Thompson.
Despite their different politics, both feel at home in a congregation of 250families that prides itself on being independent, diverse and open-minded. "Everybody's opinion is encouraged. Sometimes we agree to disagree," saidHelena Ring, a church member for 14 years. While Summit is predominantly Republican, the Christ Church congregation ismore liberal and inclusive, members say. After a debate of nearly two years,the congregation recently voted to publicly state its acceptance of gay andlesbian parishioners. Guest musical performances and dramatic readings ofbiblical text are a big part of Sunday services. The parishioners are, like Summit residents, affluent and highly educated,and include a number of investment bankers, Bell Laboratories scientists,doctors and artists. At first, Corzine and Franks didn't know that the other attended the samechurch until friends told them, Rush said. Later, as the primary campaignsgot under way, they would jokingly ask each other what the sermon had beenabout the previous Sunday, Rush said. The candidates have not attended a Sunday service together since theprimary, Rush said. So what will Corzine say to Franks the next time theysee each other on the way to receive Communion? "Good morning. How you doing," Corzine said. "Having as much fun as Iam?"