SUMMIT, N.J. (AP) July 27--Jon Corzine and Bob Franks spar with each other day in and day out on the campaign trail. But at the end of the week, they say their prayers together. In a quirk of fate that could keep their costly campaign for a New Jersey Senate seat an unusually genteel one, Corzine and Franks have found common ground in the same church. Corzine, who lives in Summit, has been at Christ Church, an interdenominational mix of Baptist and United Church of Christ, for more than 20 years. Franks, who lives the next town over in Berkeley Heights, has been coming to the church for more than two years. Corzine's youngest son was baptized at Christ Church, and his two older sons were confirmed there. This spring, Franks held a memorial service at the church for his father. And a few months ago, the Rev. Charles Rush found both candidates facing each other across the aisle to receive Communion. "This is really kind of what the church ought to be about, bringing people who are competitors together," Rush said. The pastor has tried to be evenhanded, saying the prayer to open each candidate's campaign and sporting bumper stickers from both parishioners on the back of his car. Corzine, the multimillionaire businessman who spent $36.7 million just to win 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 matter
and won't discuss it, said spokeswoman Janet Thompson. Despite their different politics, both feel at home in a congregation of 250 families that prides itself on being independent, diverse and open-minded. "Everybody's opinion is encouraged. Sometimes we agree to disagree," said Helena Ring, a church member for 14 years. While Summit is predominantly Republican, the Christ Church congregation is more liberal and inclusive, members say. After a debate of nearly two years, the congregation recently voted to publicly state its acceptance of gay and lesbian parishioners. Guest musical performances and dramatic readings of biblical 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 same church until friends told them, Rush said. Later, as the primary campaigns got under way, they would jokingly ask each other what the sermon had been about the previous Sunday, Rush said. The candidates have not attended a Sunday service together since the primary, Rush said. So what will Corzine say to Franks the next time they see each other on the way to receive Communion? "Good morning. How you doing," Corzine said. "Having as much fun as I am?"
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