Speaking of Nick Asselta

On the other side of the Hudson River, where Republicans have a 34-28 majority in the State Senate, Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer has appointed a GOP State Senator to head New York’s Homeland Security office. Spitzer will call a special election within 30-40 days of taking office to fill Michael Balboni’s seat in a Nassau County district where Democrats have an edge in voter registration. The Senate Majority Leader, Joseph Bruno, acknowledged in December that his private consulting business is the target of a federal probe. New Jersey Democrats picked up a Senate seat in 2003 by moving a popular Republican State Senator from a Democrat-leaning district to state job. John Matheussen, a four-term incumbent who finished third in the 2002 GOP U.S. Senate primary, resigned from the Senate in 2003 to become the Executive Director of the Delaware River Port Authority with a $175,000 annual salary. With Matheussen out of the way, South Jersey Democrats were able to spend $4 million (the most expensive legislative race in state history) to swing a 63-vote win for Democrat Frederick Madden over George Geist, who had been appointed to fill the unexpired Senate seat. Geist’s loss in the fouth disrict and the defeat of Co-Senate President John Bennett in a race that became a referendum on Bennett’s business ethics, gave Democrats majority control of the New Jersey Senate for the first time in a dozen years. Almost four years later, there is speculation among Democrats that Matheussen is not completely secure in his position. The DRPA has been in trouble for more than a year over a feud between New Jersey and Pennsylvania over a proposal to spend $300 million to deepen the channel on the Delaware River between Camden and Cape May by five feet. Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, who also serves as DRPA Chairman, has canceled every monthly meeting since November 2005 in an effort to get New Jersey’s eight Commissioners to support the channel widening plan. By tradition, Pennsylvania gets the DRPA Chairmanship and New Jersey gets the Executive Director. (In North Jersey, it is the opposite: a New Jerseyan serves as Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, while a New Yorker is the Executive Director.) Republican State Senator Nicholas Asselta has denied reports that he is under consideration for Matheussen’s job. For extreme political junkies: Rendell and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine could wind up on short lists for the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination, leading some insiders to wonder how the bi-state feud might play out in a contest for electoral college votes.

Speaking of Nick Asselta