Winners and Losers: Week of January 9

WINNERS

Steven Goldstein

He once threatened to bail on the Democratic Party, but the founder of Garden State Equality stood front and center at a press conference this week alongside Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), who presented a marriage equality bill S1 to the public as the Legislature’s first priority. Even though the bill is unlikely to get around the veto pen of Gov. Chris Christie, the fact that Sweeney acknowledged a mistake in opposing a similar bill two years ago and now assumes the command position in undertaking this initiative for Democrats signifies Goldstein’s influence, persistence and political savvy.

Bob Menendez

As the senator heads into his re-election year a new poll shows two major challengers trailing by double digits and fairing no better than a generic Republican candidate.

L. Grace Spencer

Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver named the 29th District Assemblywoman from Newark’s South Ward as the new chair of the Assembly Environmental Committee. Citing former chair John McKeon’s fine record on the environment, the Sierra Club immediately denounced Spencer’s promotion as an environmental catastrophe. A veteran courtroom lawyer who lacks McKeon’s experience in the environment, Spencer vowed to master the material in short order.

Robert Gordon

Victorious last year in the most competitive legislative contest in the state, the 38th District state senator takes over from Barbara Buono as chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee. Much in demand these days, Gordon was also button-holed in the corridors of the Statehouse this week and all but begged to run against U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett, (R-5), for the sake of the Democratic Party. There is no indication Gordon intends to do that, but his running mate, Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, (D-38), is said to be in full-blown mulling mode.

Chris Christie

The Governor’s approval rating is at 53%, according to a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind Poll released this week. FDU Pollster Peter Woolley said many politicians would want to begin the new year with poll numbers like that, but aren’t in this economic climate. The governor’s favorable rating remains unchanged from the poll’s previous measure in October.

Sam Thompson

The new 12th District Republican senator (and Middlesex County GOP chairman) assumed the oath of office this week, graduating from the Assembly to the upper chamber.

Nellie Pou

The Senate welcomed the new 35th District senator to the upper chamber for the first time this week as veteran legislator Pou assumed the oath of office as the successor to state Sen. John Girgenti, (D-35), a casualty of legislative redistricting. Pou also landed on the Budget Committee.

Donald Norcross

The 5th District senator stood with Gov. Chris Christie this week at a bill signing of his Urban Hope Act, a renaissance school pilot program enabling nonprofits to build public institutions of learning in Newark, Camden and Trenton.

Mitt Romney

Nuclearized by the end of the week in South Carolina as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tries to make a last stand, Romney easily won New Hampshire Tuesday night, giving him back-to-back victories in the first two GOP primary states.

LOSERS 

John McKeon

Chair of the Assembly Environmental Committee for a decade, the 27th District Democrat lost his chairmanship this week as retribution for backing the losing team in a battle over the speaker’s seat last year.

Joe Kyrillos

Poised to enter the race for U.S. Senate as the establishment Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the veteran 13th District state senator is tied at 31% with Tea Party brand Anna Little as an alternative to Menendez in this week’s FDU Poll.

Barbara Buono

Already gonged out of her Senate Majority Leader position by Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), the Metuchen senator took another chop between the shoulder blades this week as Sweeney dumped her from her leadership chair on the Legislative Oversight Committee.

Gabriela Mosquera

First, Superior Court Judge George Leone declared the 4th District Assemblywoman-elect’s candidacy invalid because she did not meet the one-year district residency requirement.  An Appellate Court later granted Mosquera emergency relief, declaring that she had a good chance of having the decision overturned on appeal and paving the way for her to be sworn in Tuesday. But minutes before her swearing in, the Supreme Court overturned the appeals court stay and prevented the ceremony, leaving Mosquera in legal limbo.

The Bergen GOP

They own a majority on the freeholder board, but Republicans in New Jersey’s biggest swing county suffered a major blow – and telling sign that they are discombobulated in a presidential election year – when former Freeholder Director John Driscoll told county committee members this week that he wouldn’t run for re-election this year. The announcement produced a yawning chasm that no one immediately wanted to fill.

Rob Hermansen

In 2009, John Driscoll and his running mate, Hermansen, tag-teamed with the Christie Camp to gut out an historic GOP victory in Bergen and gain the necessary toehold to topple an entrenched Democratic empire at One Bergen Plaza. Three years later, Driscoll is off the ticket by his own choosing and Hermansen faces uncertainty heading toward a GOP county convention in March.  

Kathe Donovan

Well liked by the public, the Bergen County Executive proved to have little influence over the GOP County Committee this week as she futiley tried to make a case for greater incumbency safeguards in an attempt to protect Freeholder Rob Hermansen ahead of a March convention.

Jon Huntsman

The former Utah governor put all his resources into New Hampshire and placed a disappointing third behind second place finisher U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, (R-TX). He told supporters he would fight on, but former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleisher likened the moderate Huntsman’s ability to get positive traction in conservative South Carolina to a fan attired in Red Sox paraphernalia sitting in Yankees Stadium.  

The State of New Jersey

The Garden State lost a gentleman lawmaker and leader when Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce died this week at the Statehouse. Flags flew at half staff, Gov. Chris Christie eulogized his friend and ally, and colleagues on both sides of the aisle mourned.

Winners and Losers: Week of January 9