State Sen. Ellen Karcher added another ethical issue to her platform, holding a press conference today to call for an end to the controversial practice of senatorial courtesy.
“This reform is about finally opening up the backroom door and making the business of the Senate more open, transparent and accountable,” said Karcher. “The system has devolved into an example of an anonymous set of backroom dealings, done in the dark away from public scrutiny.”
Senatorial courtesy is an unwritten rule that allows state Senators to effectively block the governor’s nomination of officials from their own districts or counties. It recently came into play when Sen. Nia Gill used it to hold up Stuart Rabner’s nomination for Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court.
Karcher proposed two ways of ending the practice: through a change of the Senate’s rules as well as a constitutional amendment requiring the legislative body to consider a nominee within 90 days of his or her nomination by the governor. If the Senate does not act, the nominee will be confirmed.
Karcher was joined by former Republican Senator Bill Schluter, who is co-chair of an advocacy group called Citizens for the Public Good, a prominent group of New Jersey businessmen and former officials.
But Karcher’s opponent for state Senate, Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, called the measure a campaign ploy.
“Senator Karcher embraced Senatorial Courtesy for the three and a half years she’s been in office, and exercised it on a couple of occasions very publicly,” said Beck, who said that Karcher had missed the deadline to add the change to the ballot this November. “I just think it’s being very transparent as a campaign ploy.”
Beck was referring to Karcher’s 2005 advocacy of Luis Valentin for Monmouth County Prosecutor after John Kaye stepped down from the job. Part of the senatorial courtesy tradition allows senators influence over nominees in their own county, especially if they’re of the same political party as the Governor.
Mike Premo, campaign manager for Karcher, said that she had never used senatorial courtesy to block a confirmation.
“The process was open and transparent. The candidates were interviewed, and she pushed for the one with the best qualifications,” said Premo. “For somebody who’s running for the senate, Beck should know more about how the senate works.”