Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

Andrews: What’s he, scared?
VINELAND Rep. Rob Andrews once again challenged incumbent U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg to debate him on the Iraq war during a campaign stop here Monday afternoon.

Having been characterized by Lautenberg as pro war in recent television advertisements and press releases, Andrews vowed to work to bring America’s troops home before a crowd of Democrats gathered at Bain’s Deli on East Landis Avenue.

“I think it’s long overdue that we should not be spilling the blood of our sons and daughters in somebody else’s civil war,” he said.

Andrews called for at least seven debates with Senate veteran Lautenberg before New Jersey’s Democratic primary on June 3. (Sean C. McCullen, Gloucester County Times)

The great divide
Democrats in southern New Jersey support their homegrown candidate for U.S. Senate, a poll showed Monday.

While U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews‘ support fades as one moves away from his district, the poll found either he or incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg would mop the floor with any of the announced Republican candidates.

Andrews, D-1st, gets the nod by a 37.1 percent to 28 percent margin over Lautenberg, D-N.J.

Four percent backed the third candidate, Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello, while 4.5 percent preferred someone else and 26.4 percent made no selection. Voters will make their selection in the June 3 primary election, five weeks from now.

The Lautenberg campaign latched onto poll numbers that show Andrews’ strong support in Gloucester and Camden counties – where he has represented the 1st District in Congress since 1990 – falls abruptly in other counties. (Derek Harper, Press of Atlantic City)

Peas in a pod
NEWARK — Two unorthodox Republicans — presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul and New Jersey U.S. Senate hopeful Murray Sabrin — gathered with supporters here Monday to raise cash for Sabrin and show that Paul’s campaign for the White House is still alive.

“I have known Ron for 25 years. We have been on a parallel course, focusing on the monetary issues,” said Sabrin. “Government is trying to do too much. Government has expanded beyond what the founders envisioned.”

Sabrin, of Fort Lee, is executive director of the Center for Business and Public Policy at Ramapo College, where he teaches finance. He was one of the chief advocates for Paul’s campaign in New Jersey, which tallied 5 percent in the February primary.

Paul and Sabrin are similar philosophically, from economic policy to opposition to the Iraq war, and each has run for office as a Libertarian — Sabrin for governor in 1997, and Paul for president in 1988. Paul’s endorsement of his candidacy is the featured video on Sabrin’s YouTube page. (Tom Baldwin, Gannett)

No more Mr. Softy?
Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello demanded the resignation of U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie Monday, the day after Christie stated that undocumented immigration is an administrative matter and not a crime.

“He should resign from office today,” Cresitello said of Christie, whose remarks at the United Methodist Church on Sunday were drawing controversy.

Christie, who sparred with Cresitello over immigration last year, clarified his remarks Monday but did not respond to Cresitello, a candidate in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

“He did not say, nor did he mean, that entering this country through any means other than the appropriate immigration channels is a lawful act. It is not,” Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said in a statement.

Cresitello, in an interview, also charged that Christie had misinterpreted federal law and violated professional ethics by indirectly criticizing him at the church forum.

Christie drew loud applause upon saying, “I don’t think it’s helpful when a mayor of a town in New Jersey stands up at a rally and calls people he believes to be undocumented ‘pinkos’ and communists” — an apparent reference to Cresitello’s comments at an anti-illegal immigration rally last year. (Rob Jennings, Daily Record)

Plenty to read
NEWARK – Jurors completed a fourth day of deliberations without a verdict yesterday in the federal corruption trial of Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna and his wife, Anna.

On Thursday and Friday, jurors asked for and received about 1,000 pages of transcripts of the testimony of several key witnesses and were likely plowing through that material yesterday. They were given only one copy of the transcript – a stack of papers about five inches thick. (Michelangelo Cone, Jersey Journal)

Keep your nose clean in Hamilton
HAMILTON — Touting the need to extend a code of ethics to all facets of township government, township councilman Tom Goodwin will propose an ordinance today that would create Hamilton’s first municipal ethics board.

The board, to be composed of about six volunteers who do not currently hold elected office, will first work to establish a code that would hold all involved with township government “to the highest standards of ethical behavior in the performance of their duties,” according to a statement issued by Goodwin yesterday.

“I just think that trust in government needs to be rebuilt in the state of New Jersey and in Hamilton Township,” Goodwin said. “I hope the whole state is watching.” (Ryan Tracy, Trenton Times)

Where in the world is Chris Smith?
When Rep. Chris Smith was first elected to the House, he was brand new to the Washington scene. But after 27 years of representing New Jersey in Congress, Smith has spent almost half of his life living in Virginia.

Smith went to Washington to take on Washington politics as usual. It took two tries for Smith, then a staunchly pro-life 27-year-old who worked at his family’s sporting goods store, to beat liberal Democratic incumbent Frank Thompson. But, Smith won in 1980 after Thompson was indicted on corruption charges over his role in the Abscam sting that ultimately convicted him and four of his colleagues. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Barse plays defense in Vineland
VINELAND — Mayor Perry Barse stood on a vacant Park Avenue lot in a steady rain Monday afternoon and defended the city’s decision to allow a nonprofit with ties to his administration to make $120,000 off the sale of the property.

The 2006 sale of the former Park Avenue School by the nonprofit Urban Network Organization has been a contentious issue in the weeks leading up to the May 13 municipal election.

In the election, Barse faces Robert Romano, a Vineland police lieutenant, and Nick Girone, a former city school board president.

Both candidates have accused Barse’s administration of political favoritism in allowing the sale of the property.

In an ad published in Monday’s Daily Journal, Romano accused Barse of providing UNO with a “sweetheart deal,” which Barse denied during his press conference. (Tim Zatzariny Jr., Daily Journal)

Old hands in Cape May
CAPE MAY -There are no newcomers in the May 13 mayoral election.

It is a race that features two former mayors, Jerry Gaffney and Ed Mahaney, and current Mayor Jerry Inderwies. Inderwies has been mayor of this seaside resort pretty much since 1990, with a few interruptions from Robert Elwell and Tom Phelan. (Richard Degener, Press of Atlantic City)

Keeping it civil in Teaneck
TEANECK — The eight candidates for Township Council engaged in a relatively staid forum Monday evening in front of nearly 100 people at the high school.

Despite some behind-the-scenes mudslinging in recent weeks from supporters of various candidates, the tone of Monday’s event – hosted by the League of Women Voters of Teaneck – was more cordial than a forum earlier this month sponsored by the Northeast Teaneck Block Presidents Association.

The format drew questions from members of the audience and allowed each candidate 60 seconds to respond. Many of the early comments focused on the town’s diversity.

“I think our best asset is definitely something that has been turned against us in the past two years: Our best asset is our diversity,” said Councilwoman Monica Honis, in reference to the tensions between various religious and racial groups during the past two elections. “We need to embrace our diversity.”

The candidates insisted they would be able to work with anyone if elected and took pains to say they would not encourage divisiveness. (Joseph Ax, The Record)

Rivera hearing date set
PASSAIC — A plea hearing for Mayor Samuel Rivera is scheduled for next week, but neither Rivera nor federal prosecutors would comment on it.

On Monday, a law clerk in U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson‘s chambers confirmed a plea hearing in the Rivera case has been scheduled for May 9 at the U.S. Courthouse in Trenton.

The mayor is facing a two-count federal indictment, charging him with peddling his influence in anticipation of a $50,000 payment, and actually accepting $5,000 last summer.

Last month, Rivera’s attorney, Henry Klingeman, asked for a trial postponement until September, to give him time to review the government’s evidence. (Meredith Mandell, Herald News)

That old problem rears its head
IT’S AN OLD and all-too-familiar New Jersey story: Large political contributions and political connections smooth the path for a company that can’t deliver, and the taxpayer is left with the bill.

In this case, the company is EnCap. Its billion-dollar plan to clean up former Meadowlands landfills and build golf courses and luxury hotels in their place has run aground. Whether it will ever be finished is very much an open question.

Unfortunately, the scrutiny that this project is now receiving was absent when it sailed through the Legislature in 1999, as well as when property tax deals favorable to the company were cut with municipalities in southern Bergen County. More than $100,000 in well-timed political contributions greased the wheels.

New Jersey has made significant progress in addressing the pay-to-play problem highlighted by EnCap. A strong state-level pay-to-play law that bans political contributions by state contractors was signed into law by then-acting Gov. Richard J. Codey in 2005. This law has been appropriately applied to state redevelopment projects. (Harry Pozycki, The Record)

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com