Winners and Losers: Week of ‘The Decision’

WINNERS

Chris Christie

The governor commanded the national stage as he tantalized GOP power brokers with a presidential run before finally announcing this week that he is absolutely out. In the process, Christie remained consistent with repeated past statements that he wasn’t ready for president, again raised his national profile, and kept New Jersey in the running as a hotspot for Republicans intent on turning blue states to red.

Mitt Romney

A day after Christie ruled himself out of a presidential run, the former Massachusetts governor collected establishment donor support that had previously held back waiting for Christie to decide.

Steve Fulop

The downtown Jersey City Councilman fought in the last two school board election cycles to win a majority on the school board and the muscle necessary to fire Superintendent Charles Epps. This week, the board formally canned Epps, a former assemblyman from Jersey City who at one time made $280,000.

Michael Chertoff

His friends in New Jersey describe the former National Security Adviser as a creature of Washington now more than a New Jersey regular. But he’s still from Elizabeth. Chertoff joined the Romney campaign this week as an adviser on counter-terrorism issues.

Dick Codey

How disheartening to erstwhile LD 27 Tea Party general election candidate William Eames to watch Democratic political animal Codey preside over a press conference with significant Republican Party support in LD 27. Codey was supposed to be flailing at this point in a new district that contains a significant chunk of heavily Republican Morris County. But the GOP endorsement event all but dealt a full blown scalping of the Eames campaign and demonstrated the staying (and cross-over) power of Essex County-schooled Codey’s combination of charm and shrewdness.

NJ Republicans

The GOP establishment didn’t want to lose Christie just now to a presidential campaign. They remember what it was like in New Jersey when Bush was president and the Republican brand was on life support here. With his 2009 gubernatorial victory, Christie imposed party discipline. As much as the Marine Corps model hurts at times, Republicans are delighted by the sight of their old Democratic Party tormentors routed by GOP Field General Christie. His decision not to pursue the presidency keeps them on offense.  In key competitive legislative districts, Republicans say Christie polls well. But more instructive is a recent Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll, which shows Christie’s approval rating spiking to 54 percent of New Jersey voters versus 36 percent who disapprove.

Steve Sweeney

A Richard Stockton College/Zogby Poll shows Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), West Deptford, leading his opponent in the 3rd District Senate race by 19 points. A poll of likely voters gives Sweeney a 48 percent to 29 percent edge over Republican challenger Michael Mulligan.  With a little over a month to go, 21 percent remain undecided.

Jeff Van Drew

The LD 1 State Senator from Dennis clubs GOP challenger David DeWeese, 56% to 23% in their head-to-head, according to a Stockton College/Zogby Poll. “Senator Van Drew’s high favorability rating, coupled with voters’ lack of familiarity with Mr. DeWeese, puts Senator Van Drew in a good position at this point in the race…” said Daniel J. Douglas, director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, which commissioned the poll.

Marcia Silva

East Brunswick Democratic Mayor David Stahl formally endorsed attorney Marcia Silva, a Republican Assembly candidate, in the 18th Legislative District.

Ben Dworkin

The director of Rider University’s Rebovich Institute of NJ Politics produced two well-attended, back-to-back events this week. First, he hosted South Jersey Democratic Leader George Norcross. A day later he welcomed former presidential candidate Howard Dean of Vermont. Last month, Dworkin received Gov. Chris Christie and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The NJ Statehouse Press Corps

This was a big two weeks for the Statehouse press corps as Gov. Chris Christie gave us all a break from our usual coverage and allowed us to wander for a time into the realm of national politics. The men and women who inhabit press row (as well as the Star Ledger offices) did a good job chasing down leads, wrangling sources, pontificating on national TV and yes, even passing along a bogus rumor or two – and that was all part of the fun. There has been a lot of talk of late about the decline in the ranks of reporters covering state government and it’s true, print reporters have taken some hits in the past five years. But what the “back in the day” talk has missed is that there are a host of new media outlets – Bloomberg, NJ Spotlight and State Street Wire/PolitickerNJ that have moved in to take their place and the continued quality of reporting was on full display this week.

 

LOSERS

Barack Obama

The president’s job approval rating is 44% – an 11-point plummet from May, according to the latest Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll. Moreover, fewer than one in five New Jersey voters (18%) say the country is headed in the right direction; 71% say the country is “off on the wrong track.”

Donald DiFrancesco

The state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) this week fined the former acting governor $4,650 after determining that the Republican failed to meet state ELEC requirements during his 2001 election campaign. ELEC said it fined DiFrancesco for late filing and non-filing of postelection quarterly reports, non-filing of a final election fund report, late filing and non-filing of contribution and expenditure information, and receipt of and failure to refund excessive contributions relevant to the election.

The New York Times

The New York Times employs some of the best reporters in the world and their coverage – as evidenced by the 106 Pulitzers they’ve won over the past century – is often unparalleled. But the Times fumbled the ball on a story earlier this week lamenting New Jersey’s “forgotten” cities. The story, which appeared in the paper’s City Room section, described how in all the hype surrounding Gov. Chris Christie’s will he/won’t he theater production, the state’s problems went unreported.

Much of the story was dead on until the author decided to take a walk through Trenton, where he decided, it seems, that the New Jersey media are just rubes, snowed by a tough-talking governor. The story quotes Trenton Mayor Tony Mack as an example of the forgotten man, citing his recent layoff of one third of his police department as an example of all that’s wrong with the state and Christie’s leadership of it.
But anyone who has covered the capital city for even a minute knows that Mack is hardly the poster child for the struggling inner city mayor forgotten by the man. His foibles over the past year are well documented and just two days after the New York Times scolded us for seeing through poor Tony and his problems, the mayor received a no-confidence vote from four of his council members. This mayor that we are supposed to feel sorry for has employed not one but two men who have since been indicted and he recently promoted an employee that the state DCA said wasn’t even fit to hold the job he was in, never mind one with more responsibility.  Mack made the promotion in direct violation of an agreement he signed with DCA last year in order to receive millions in extraordinary state aid and he did it at a time when the DCA was evaluating his application for millions more to be paid this year.  His explanation?  I do what I want. His newly promoted employee’s first order of business?  Rehire his own nephew who had been laid off due to budget cuts, of course.

 

Tony Mack

A perennial occupant of PolitickerNJ.com’s losers’ list, the mayor of Trenton already appeared here more times than Alec Baldwin has hosted Saturday Night Live when this week a majority of council members on the steps of City Hall called for his resignation.   

NJTV

The much-criticized NJN News transplant opened itself up to another attack this week when the public television station did not air live coverage of Christie’s outer office announcement that he would not run for president.  “I myself turned to NJTV to view their live coverage, but you know what I got – the ‘Angelina Ballerina’ cartoon,” complained Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-18). “Every news outlet in New Jersey and several across the nation were covering this event, yet New Jersey’s own television station was showing a cartoon.”

Democrats

No, the majority party didn’t drag a podium in front of the Statehouse and endorse Christie to run for president, but in private conversations many of them cackled at the prospect of getting rid of him by watching him go national. It didn’t happen, and the governor might have well swapped out his proudly parochial declaration, “New Jersey, you’re stuck with me,” for a dagger-twisting, “New Jersey Democrats, you’re stuck with me.”

Audrey Walker Bey

The former clerk for the Newark WIC Program pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to a charge of first-degree money laundering before a Superior Court judge. Bey  conspired to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federally funded Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program by means of fraudulent vouchers.

Celeste Riley

It was state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) who said once that spouses of elected officials are mostly better off staying out of firefights. They may get overly emotional in a political context and end up doing more harm than good when all they sought in the first place is protection for their public office spouses. Such was the case when LD 3 Assemblywoman Riley’s husband confronted a Republican rival and allegedly threatened to give him a knuckle sandwich for writing a critical assessment of Riley for the Gloucester County Times. Riley reportedly watched the sidewalk episode unfold from behind a hedgerow.  

Rick Perry

The tough-talking Texan might have enjoyed facing two Northeast establishment players in Romney and Christie, but Christie’s declaration this week that he’s not a candidate deprived Perry of that division. The argument can be made that Sarah Palin’s announcement that she also will not run for prez sets up the potential for Perry to absorb her loyalist support. But we have already seen concrete evidence that would-be Christie financial backers are going to back Roms. That’s the situation right now, but it could change if Perry reverses the perception he can’t handle himself in a debate, while also effectively cornering the primary market as the angry regular guy who Christie would have embodied alongside the other candidates had he run.

Sharon Caldwell

State law enforcement officials this week obtained an indictment charging the former fiscal analyst for the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development with stealing approximately $18,525 in state funds by issuing unauthorized government checks made payable to her landlord to pay her rent. Caldwell faces second-degree official misconduct and third-degree theft by deception charges. 

Peter Lomauro

Federal agents from the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, this week arrested labor officer Lomauro on a criminal complaint alleging that he took bribes.

Winners and Losers: Week of ‘The Decision’