Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

Taking leave
An arduous 12-year legislative battle ended yesterday when the Senate approved a bill that grants six weeks of leave at reduced pay to workers who stay home to care for a new child or sick relative.

Once Gov. Jon Corzine signs the bill — which he has promised to do — New Jersey would become the third state in the country to pass a paid family leave law. (Susan K. Livio, Star-Ledger)

Peaceful coexistence for the House
As Democrats gear up for a bruising senate primary season, unofficial congressional filing results with the state Division of Elections show no same-party challengers to incumbent Democratic congressmen.

Only in the 1st District, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews is vacating his seat to challenge U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg in the primary, are there several hopefuls battling for what Andrews leaves behind. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

The great divide
While I-195 seems to the equivalent of the Mason-Dixon Line in the Democratic primary battle between southern rebel Rob Andrews and northern incumbent Frank Lautenberg, there are a couple exceptions.

One is Salem County, which as of this afternoon seems to be with both camps (Lautenberg and Andrews have both filed with the Salem County Democrats’ slogan). The party had endorsed Lautenberg shortly before Rob Andrews got into the race last week. But it probably won’t last. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

80 percent is just showing up
Hounded by questions over the weekend about whether their candidate would indeed materialize as a public figure running for the GOP nomination to the U.S. Senate, the fledgling campaign of Andy Unanue today said he’s definitely in the race.

“I just filed the petitions,” Unanue spokesman Mark Duffy said this morning as he returned to State Republican Committee headquarters from the Division of Elections office.

While Unanue was unavailable to talk to the press or pose for pictures, Duffy said he had more good news.

“He’s in the state,” Duffy announced. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Codey’s had enough
Tensions flared in the Senate yesterday amid partisan bickering over financial aid for cities and allowing some legislators to continue holding more than one elected office.

In a rare instance, Democratic Senate President Richard J. Codey publicly rebuked Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck.

He did so as Beck continued to discuss her bid to bar everyone from holding more than one elected office, even though her bid to force a vote on her bill had already failed and senators were debating another matter – whether to give workers paid leave to care for a sick relative. (Tom Hester Jr., Associated Press)

Andrews keeping it in the family
The race for Congress officially got under way in New Jersey yesterday as six candidates for U.S. Senate and 45 contenders for the House of Representatives filed their nominating petitions by the 4 p.m. deadline.

With Rep. Robert Andrews (D- 1st Dist.) mounting a primary challenge against U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the congressman’s wife, Camille Spinello Andrews, filed to run for the House seat he has held since 1990. (Robert Schwaneberg and Josh Margolin, Star-Ledger)

A setback for Booker in the South Ward
The retirement this year of Johnny Jones from the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders left a vacancy, which Newark Mayor Cory Booker wanted to fill with long time South Ward ally Terrance Bankston.

On Saturday, however, the party selected Rufus Johnson – chief of staff to Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex), the man Booker defeated for mayor in 2006. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

James prosecutor says it’s obvious
After presenting a complex case built on stacks of circumstantial evidence and lacking a star witness, a federal prosecutor urged jurors yesterday to rely on their common sense to find former Newark mayor Sharpe James and Tamika Riley guilty of corruption charges.

During the government’s closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Germano said hundreds of documents and five weeks of testimony from 40 witnesses added up to a story of “fraud, favoritism and concealment.” (Jeff Whelan and Maryann Spoto, Star-Ledger)

Lines drawn in Mercer
As expected, five Democrats and four Republicans filed nominating petitions for countywide seats in the June 3 party primaries by yesterday’s filing deadline.

On the Democratic side, incumbent county Freeholders Lucy Walter of Ewing and Tony Mack of Trenton are part of a three-way race with former Hamilton Councilman John Cimino over a pair of full, three-year terms on the freeholder board. (Trenton Times)

Family fight in Ocean
Rival Republican slates will battle in June for the party’s nomination for Ocean County freeholder, clerk and surrogate.

There will be no primary election battle among Democrats who filed nominating petitions for the offices Monday, according to Deputy County Clerk Scott M. Colabella.

Three Republican incumbents — Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, County Clerk Carl W. Block and Surrogate Jeffrey W. Moran — are challenged by a slate backed by the Traditional Republicans for Reform and Accountability Organization. (Don Bennett, Asbury Park Press)

Bergen readies for primary battle
A slate of Democrats aligned with state Sen. Loretta Weinberg will battle for three freeholder seats and the county clerk’s office in the June primary against candidates united with party power broker Joseph Ferriero.

“Real Bergen Democrats” also has slates going up against Ferriero’s Bergen County Democratic Organization in several towns, including Bergenfield and Edgewater. Monday was the deadline for candidates to file for the June 3 primary. (Scott Fallon and Giovanna Fabiano, The Record)

Defiance in Passaic
Two Republicans bucked their party’s leadership Monday by filing candidate petitions against the organization’s endorsed ticket.

William Connolly of Paterson was one of the party leaders in the room last month when the Passaic County Regular Republican Organization gave its political blessings to Jerry Holt of Ringwood and Michael Marotta of Wayne to run for county freeholder.

But on Monday, the last day candidates could get on the June 3 primary ballot, Connolly, 68, filed petitions with Luciano “Lou” Signorino, 32, of Wayne, to challenge the endorsed candidates for the GOP nomination. They said they are aligned with professor Murray Sabrin‘s bid for U.S. Senate. (Paul Brubaker, The Herald News)

Challenges afoot in Somerset
Incumbents are feeling heat from primary challengers in five Somerset County municipalities, including a full alternate Democratic slate running against three council members in North Plainfield.

Republican incumbents will face challengers in Branchburg, Far Hills, Green Brook, and Peapack-Gladstone. Montgomery Mayor Cecilia Xie Birge and North Plainfield Councilman Douglas Singleterry have declared a Democratic challenge against veteran Republican Freeholders Robert Zaborowski and Peter Palmer.

In Branchburg, school board member Melissa Looby is taking on Republican Councilman Robert Bouwman for the township’s lone committee term. (Nyier Abdou, Star-Ledger)

Fights in both parties in Hunterdon
Hunterdon County voters will have choices of freeholder candidates in both major parties in the June 3 primary.

At yesterday’s deadline for candidate filings, Christopher Foley of Lebanon had challenged Freeholder Erik Peterson for the Republican nomination to another three-year term. (Joe Tyrrell, Star-Ledger)

Burlington GOP in three-for-all
Three slates of Republican candidates are competing for their party’s nominations in the June 3 primary for two Burlington County freeholder seats and the county clerk’s job. (Courier-Post)

No Dems on the ballot in Cape May
No Democrats filed petitions by Monday’s deadline for the June primary for Cape May County freeholder, leaving two Republican incumbents without challengers, so far.

But independents still have two months to decide whether to throw their hats in the ring for the November general election.

Incumbent Republican freeholders Daniel Beyel and Ralph Sheets filed to run for re-election to their seats, which carry three-year terms. (Brian Ianieri, Press of Atlantic City)

Buono says she was duped on Special Education cash
When passage of Gov. Jon Corzine‘s school funding plan hung in the balance last December, a key bargaining chip thrown to wavering lawmakers was extra state aid to help local districts pay for high special education costs.

Now, questions about how the money is being distributed have left the bill’s sponsor wondering whether legislators were duped.

Yesterday, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) said she was uncertain whether the landmark funding bill would have passed had key legislators known that the extra special education money wasn’t going to be included in the 2008-09 budget, but rather the year after that. (John Mooney, Star-Ledger)

Sniping in Vineland
Mayor Perry Barse seized on a personal anecdote by challenger Robert Romano on Monday as a way to paint himself as the upholder of the city’s master plan and Romano as its opponent.

“I am glad my opponent has gone on the record about something,” he said, pointing to Romano’s comments in an interview in which he discussed how his family’s property has been devalued by the restricted zoning brought in under the 2006 master plan. (Juliet Fletcher, Press of Atlantic City)

Easy transition in Howell
Two former Republican Planning Board members were the only ones who filed to run for mayor and a seat on the Township Council Monday; although an independent councilman indicated that he may still enter the race for mayor in June.

Republican Russell F. Bohlin of Belmar Boulevard filed to run as mayor to replace current Republican Mayor Joseph DiBella, who chose not to seek re-election. Republican Paul Schneider, a former Planning Board chairman, filed to run for the Township Council for the seat currently held by GOP Councilwoman Cynthia Schomaker, who also is not running for re-election. (Michelle Gladden, Asbury Park Press)

Elizabeth mayor faces rough seas
Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, seeking a fifth term at the helm of Union County’s largest city, won’t sail through the June primary without a challenge. (Alexi Friedman, Star-Ledger)

Crowded Dem field in Washington Township
The race for mayor and two open seats for council has attracted several candidates and fractured the local Democratic party.

Democratic Councilman Bob Timmons, whose term in office has not expired, announced Monday he will run for mayor in the June 3 primary. The seat is being vacated by Paul Moriarty, an assemblyman who has chosen not to run.

Democratic Councilwoman Anita LaPierre, who was not backed for re-election by her party, announced Monday she is running for her seat in the primary. (Meg Huelsman, Courier-Post)

Morris full of surprises
A Republican primary contest in the 11th Congressional District, a candidate switching his party affiliation to Democrat in Washington Township and challenges to long-time incumbents in Dover were among the surprises to emerge Monday as candidates filed to run for municipal and congressional office.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-Harding, faces a challenge from Kate Erber of Morristown for the seat he has held since 1994. The winner of that contest will face the winner of the Democratic primary, where there also is a contest, with Tom Wyka of Parsippany, Gary C. “Harry” Hagar of Chester Township, and Ellen Greenberg of Mendham Township, all vying for the nomination. (The Daily Record)

Bowing out in Morris Township
The mayor and a longtime committeeman did not file Tuesday to run in the Republican primary for nominations for new terms.

Also, no Democrats filed by the Tuesday afternoon primary deadline, although a Democrat has won a committee seat in the last two November elections.

Republicans Mayor Robert Nace and Committeeman Richard Watson decided not to seek reelection and will leave the committee at the end of the calendar year. (Minhaj Hassan, The Daily Record)

The old switcheroo in Montville
A former longtime police chief’s switch from Republican to Democrat means township voters will likely find pairs of Democrats and Republicans seeking two open township committee seats in November balloting.

But there won’t be a contest in the party primaries on June 3.

Carl DeBacco, township police chief for 13 years, changed his party on March 31 before filing a petition on Tuesday to appear on the Democratic primary ballot, said Morris County Clerk Joan Bramhall.

DeBacco is a longtime Pine Brook resident, who will be on the June and November ballots with fellow Democrat Mike O’Brien.

Mayor Deborah Nielson and Deputy Mayor Jim Sandham will fill the Republican slate, seeking their second consecutive terms on the township committee. (Tehani Schneider, The Daily Record)

In Ocean, the nominees are
The following candidates met the deadline Monday to file a petition to run in the June 3 primary election for the Democratic or Republican nomination for local government councils and committees in Ocean County. No local primary election is held in towns which do not have municipal elections this year or have nonpartisan forms of government. (Asbury Park Press)

Longtime Shiloh fixture stepping down
After 44 years of serving Shiloh Borough Council and almost 25 years as mayor, Howard Scull has decided not to run again.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished,” he said of his time as mayor — 24 years and 9 months, to be exact. “With the cooperation of borough council, I feel we’ve accomplished a lot and I’m proud of that. (Sandra Johnson, Bridgeton News)

Gov’s aide now facing fire
A governor’s aide who re counted delivering an envelope he believed contained an illegal cash campaign contribution to a Hudson County mayor once admitted to having a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to such questionable gifts, testimony in federal court revealed yesterday.

Javier Inclán, a deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jon Corzine, is testifying as a key prosecution witness in the corruption trial of Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna and his wife, Anna. Inclán, a former Guttenberg councilman, once served as the mayor’s campaign treasurer.

The Delle Donnas are charged with conspiring to divert campaign contributions for personal use, extorting contributions, gifts and bribes from a local bar owner, and failing to report rental income on their 2004 and 2005 tax returns.

Last week, Inclán testified he received from another city employee an envelope “he had every reason to believe” contained a $3,000 cash contribution from bar owner Luisa Medrano and handed it to the mayor seconds later. Prosecutors charge the Delle Donnas pocketed the cash.

But with Inclán under cross-examination, the couple’s attorneys are attempting to convince the jury it may have been Inclán, not the Delle Donnas, who pocketed the money. (Brian Donohue, Star-Ledger)

Who’s paying shows who’s playing
Insurers and highway contractors dominated the state’s second annual tally of public contracts, released yesterday by the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

According to the report, Horizon Healthcare of New Jersey collected $945.3 million from 264 public contracts last year, the largest total. Of that, $842.3 million came from a single Medicaid contract with the state. Prudential Insurance and three other insurers also ranked in the top 10 among public contractors last year, the tally shows.

The other five spots in the top 10 were held by highway contracting firms like Tilcon New York of Wharton and Conti Enterprises Inc. of South Plainfield.

The Election Law Enforcement Commission said 1,669 companies filed reports by this week’s deadline. They reported collecting $5.4 billion in public contract payments, while making a total of $15.2 million in political contributions to state and local political campaigns. (Dunstan McNichol, Star-Ledger)

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com