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Giuliani struggles nationally but still has Garden State wrapped up, Baroni argues against election oversight change, three Senate campaign head honchos, Corzine’s school funding plan gets thumbs up from NJEA but not from Abbott districts.


Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani tomorrow will debut a television ad on Fox News that refocuses the campaign narrative on Sept. 11, 2001.

The former New York mayor remains New Jersey's Republican frontrunner in the race for president, with 38% support among GOP voters, or 26% more than the number two man in the Republican field here, Sen. John McCain, according to a Dec. 13th Quinnipiac University poll.

But following a month-long barrage of bad news, including information about his use of city resources to facilitate an extra-marital affair, the same poll shows that his numbers are down from 48% on Oct. 17th. Nationally, the onetime blue ribbon prospect now finds himself in second place behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, according to the latest GWU Battleground Poll.

"He’s not going to lose New Jersey," said Dr. Patrick Murray, director of Monmouth University’s Polling Institute. "But the problem is he thought this was going to be a two-person race………

In response to the mostly negative headlines and his predictably lackluster but potentially fateful polling in early primary states, the candidate’s handlers this week brightly reiterated Giulaini’s commitment to a broader electoral strategy.

"We’ve always expected polls would get tighter as we get closer to Iowa and New Hampshire," said Jarrod Agen, regional communications director. "We’re the only campaign running a national campaign, and we’re still in great position to win Florida."……….

Whatever the tough terrain between now and the New Jersey primary, Morris County Republican Chairman John Sette, a member of the campaign’s chairmans’ inner circle, said he isn’t worried about a gimpy Giuliani finish in Iowa and New Hampshire. They’re two liberal states, in his estimation, that won’t be relevant on Feb. 5th, when New Jersey and over 20 other states hold their primaries. However, Sette’s conscious of what’s happening in those states as he helps to coordinate local volunteer efforts aimed at boosting Giuliani where he’s weakest.

"In Morris County, our volunteers have been making 4,000 calls a week into Iowa and New Hampshire," said the GOP chairman. "The Giuliani campaign’s providing us with cellphones to make the calls." (Pizarro,




It's dumbfounding, says Assemblyman Bill Baroni (R., Mercer): a Democratic bill that makes him recall Kathleen Harris, a villain to most Democrats.

Harris was the Florida secretary of state in 2000 who certified George W. Bush as the Sunshine State's presidential victor, a move that gave him enough electoral votes to win the national election after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected legal challenges.

The plan that astounds Baroni? One that would transfer responsibility for the division that runs New Jersey's elections from the attorney general to the secretary of state.

"I am amazed that some of my friends on the other side of the aisle think this is a great idea," said Baroni. "For eight years we have heard my friends on the other side of the aisle – and admittedly, in many cases, rightfully so – say the management of elections should not be in the hands of a partisan elected or appointed official."

The bill has passed the Assembly and the Senate and needs only Democratic Gov. Corzine's signature to become law. Corzine hasn't indicated whether he will sign it, but Democrats hope he will.

They claim the move would actually preserve electoral integrity by separating election administration from election law enforcement.

"This is a common-sense move that's long overdue," said Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D., Essex), a bill sponsor……..

But Baroni, who practices election law, said putting election administration in the hands of a non-law enforcement official is risky.

He cited former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell as an example. Blackwell, a Republican, was criticized by some Democrats in 2004 for alleged conflicts of interest and voter disenfranchisement, though a recount showed Bush won the state by 118,000 votes.

"In Republican states and Democratic states, we've seen what happens when you put a political person in charge of elections," Baroni said. "It destabilizes the faith of the people of the state and, in the case of the states of Florida and Ohio, of the country in the management of elections." (Hester, AP)


Dan Gallic, who is more-or-less running his friend Joe Pennacchio’s not-yet-official U.S. Senate campaign, turns 40 next week. Compared to other campaign workers, that makes him a pretty old hand in this business.

“I’m officially old,” said Gallic, who also blogs for the Web site Conservatives With Attitude. “That’s the number one issue why I’m not going to necessarily step up to the plate for being a campaign manager, but in the same breath I can say I’m going to do everything I can to help Joe.”

Gallic is older than his two likely behind-the-scenes opponents in the upcoming senate race, but not by that much. Mark Duffy, who was just tapped to manage Republican Anne Evans Estabrook’s campaign, is 34, while Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s campaign manager, Brendan Gill, is 33. While all three have considerable political experience, none has taken the lead role in a statewide campaign until now……….

While the 83-year-old Lautenberg is by far the oldest candidate in the field, his campaign manager, Brendan Gill, is the youngest of the three. But true to the theme of his campaign, Gill said that age is not an issue.

“I don’t necessarily think age has anything to do with it – it’s a profession you have to have a passion for, just like anything else. The way I view my service is that I’m in government and politics because I believe in public service,” he said………….

Some Republicans have pinned their hopes on Duffy to kick start Anne Estabrook’s Senate campaign. Unlike Pennacchio, Estabrook declared her candidacy in October and formally announced earlier this month.

Observers saw Duffy taking the position with Estabrook’s campaign as an interesting move, since during his time as the Assembly Republican Campaign Director in 2005 and
2007, and as Executive Director of intergovernmental affairs for the Assembly Republicans, he was the right hand man of Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, who’s supporting Pennacchio.

Duffy had not met Estabrook until last month.

“It all happened kind of fast – we met shortly after the last election and had very good conversations, and shortly thereafter she asked me to come on board,” he said. (Friedman,



Gov. Jon Corzine won key support yesterday from the state's powerful teachers union in his bid to overhaul the system for funding public education.

Opposition from the 200,000-member New Jersey Education Association, a major political donor that commands one of Trenton's largest lobbying teams, would have been difficult to overcome.

Administration officials are working to win final legislative approval of the new school funding formula before the lame-duck session ends at noon Jan. 8.

Joyce Powell, NJEA's president, said administration officials tinkered with their plan in recent days to remove potential pitfalls.

"We had some concerns and we raised those concerns with the administration, and those concerns have been addressed," she said. (Donohue, Star-Ledger)

In a rare holiday-week public hearing, state lawmakers yesterday tried to sort out Gov. Corzine's proposed school funding law, while many education advocates urged them to take more time before overhauling how New Jersey subsidizes school districts.

The legislators spent more than four hours grilling state Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy on the new formula during a special joint hearing of the Assembly Budget and Education Committees.

Corzine wants to change how state education aid is apportioned to the 618 districts. He also wants to increase the aid by $530 million for the 2008-09 school year.

Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce, who represents communities in Passaic and Morris Counties, posed what he called "the $64,000 question":

"Can you tell me where all of this money is going to come from?"



Gov. Jon S. Corzine's plan to change the way the state funds New Jersey's 618 school districts is drawing opposition from the poorest communities and support from middle income districts.

The proposal would provide between a 2 percent and 20 percent increase in state money to districts for the 2008-09 school year.

The majority of Abbott districts, whose designation the plan seeks to abolish, would receive the smallest increases in funding. Advocates for those 31 districts, many of which would receive a 2 percent increase for the 2008-09 school year argued that the formula is unfair……..

Richard Shapiro, an attorney who represented 11 Abbott districts in Supreme Court against the state, said the formula would penalize children in those communities where districts will struggle to maintain programs while funding increases in fixed costs.

"I'm not saying throw money at them, I'm saying give them what they need to maintain what they have," Shapiro said. (Graber, Gloucester County Times)



Cumberland County Republicans have endorsed Rudy Giuliani for the Republican nomination in the 2008 presidential race.

Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, gained international recognition for his leadership in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

"We feel (Giuliani) would be the best president during these difficult times where we have to be concerned about defending our country against terrorism," Cumberland County Republican Party Chairman Larry Pepper said Wednesday.

Giuliani filed a statement of candidacy for the Republican nomination for the 2008 presidential campaign in February 2007.

The former district attorney, who received Cumberland County's endorsement last week, is one of seven candidates conducting federal campaigns for the nomination. New Jersey's presidential primary is Feb. 5.

Cumberland County Democrats endorsed New York Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this month. (Dunn, Bridgeton News)



Surrounded by friends and family, local educator and activist Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad announced his candidacy for New Jersey's 1st Congressional District here Thursday morning.

The self-proclaimed "progressive" Democrat, Ibn-Ziyad looks to shake up the status quo in the district led by 17-year congressman Rob Andrews. Instead of running against him on another ticket, Ibn-Ziyad will be on the primary ballot if he garners the 200 signatures of registered voters necessary.

"People need to have viable options within the party itself, rather than having myself run as an independent or third party candidate," Ibn-Ziyad said. "I could sit out the primary and just run in the general election, but I think I can make a challenge."

Ibn-Ziyad, a teacher at Camden High School and Rutgers-Camden, is running on a platform of progressive democracy, calling for an end to the war in Iraq, equitable and affordable health care for all Americans and the allocation of war money to improve social and economic conditions in the nation's urban centers. (Murray, Gloucester County Times)


The American Civil Liberties Union yesterday asked a state appeals court for permission to distribute voter rights cards within 100 feet of polling locations during the primary election, despite a recent ban by Attorney General Anne Milgram.

The motion charges that Milgram exceeded her authority when she instructed county election officials last July to prohibit any contact with voters as they enter polling locations and to limit any contact with voters to "exit polling."

"The attorney general's decision to restrict such democratic activities on Election Day goes against everything this country stands for and aspires to," ACLU-New Jersey Executive Director Deborah Jacobs said. "Free speech and voti
ng rights are core American values."

The ACLU is seeking an injunction to keep the state from imposing the 100-foot ban during the Feb. 5 primary election so it can continue the tradition of handing out voters rights cards as people enter the polls. The cards provide general information and contain no mention of any candidate for office or any public question to be voted upon, the ACLU said. (Hepp, Star-Ledger)


Outgoing Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino thanked his colleagues Thursday during the last meeting of 2007, and thanked voters for giving him an opportunity to serve.

"It is a humbling experience to know you represent the interests of one-half million people," Inglesino, a Republican from Rockaway Township, told fellow board members in the county administration building. Former Morris County engineer James Murray defeated Inglesino, the board's deputy director, in a surprise win during last June's Republican primary.

Former Morris County engineer James Murray defeated Inglesino, the board's deputy director, in a surprise win during last June's Republican primary.

Inglesino came to the board in 2001. Prior to joining the board, Inglesino, an attorney, served as Rockaway Township's mayor.

He said his experience in municipal governance, along with his freeholder colleagues' positions in local governments, made the board a professional, functioning body, and he was grateful to have served with them.

"I think Morris County is very fortunate to have such outstanding individuals on the board, such as yourselves," he said.(Manochio, Daily Record)


Nudrat Yoosaf says she'll never forget the moment yesterday when she heard the news.

It was her day off from her job as a hairdresser in Jersey City, but the Pakistani immigrant was awakened early yesterday by a frantic phone call from a co-worker.

"I think something happened in your country," said the co-worker, who hails from Ecuador.

Yoosaf switched on the TV to a satellite news station reporting the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. She canceled her plans to meet friends for lunch in New York City and sat watching, stunned, all day.

"I will never forget this day — never," she said, likening it to what she thought Americans might have felt when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. "I am speechless since I heard the news. I'm just watching TV and praying for my family." (Donohue, Star-Ledger)



It may not be possible to recall two freeholders, but it may be possible to force all seven freeholders to recall their obligations to the voters who put them in office.

It’s a little early to label Robert Ferdon's efforts to recall two Passaic County freeholders a movement. It's more a joyful noise.

Ferdon is an unhappy Passaic County resident. County taxes are rising and the freeholders' attempt to sell the county golf course pushed him over the edge. He has a Web site — — urging county residents to join in his petition drive to force a recall referendum. He needs nearly 62,000 signatures to force a recall.

While it is unlikely that Passaic County voters will ape Californians who believe ballot initiatives are the answer to every governmental misstep, Ferdon's efforts should be applauded. His Web site may be anchored with a confusing cartoon of a constipated donkey with an elephant head for a rear end, but that aside, Ferdon is trying to arouse county residents from their lethargy.

Yes, taxes are rising. And due to the success of a lawsuit initiated by Wayne Mayor Scott Rumana that blocked the golf course sale, freeholders have added a $10 million tax levy on to next year's budget, in addition to ordering draconian budget cuts. (Doblin, Bergen Record)



Acting Gov. Richard Codey yesterday signed legislation aimed at limiting Internet access for convicted sex offenders to prevent them from luring children into real-world meetings.

"No matter how much you trust your kids, no matter how much you think you know what they're doing, there are some sick people out there that will stop at nothing to prey on them," said Codey (D-Essex), the Senate president who is filling in for the vacationing Gov. Jon Corzine. "This legislation will give us some of the toughest tools in the nation to crack down on the growing threat of Internet predators."

The law codifies many of the online restrictions currently in place for the 4,200 convicted sex offenders who are being supervised for life by the state Parole Board, including an all-out Internet ban for anyone convicted of using a computer to help commit a sex crime.

It also gives statutory weight to the state Parole Board's ability to restrict Internet access for other convicted sex offenders. The board last month banned them from social networking Web sites, chat rooms and online dating services.

Now, sex offenders who ignore such bans face criminal charges that carry up to 18 months in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Previously, they only faced a 12-month stint in prison for a parole violation. (Hepp, Star-Ledger)



Mayor-elect John Bencivengo yesterday expanded his grim forecasts for the township's financial position, warning taxpayers of a hefty tax hike to come and laying out his initial plans to deal with what he called the "bleak financial picture."

Bencivengo outlined steps he will take during the early days of his administration to right the township's fiscal course, including issuing tax anticipation notes to generate revenue, issuing esti mated tax bills due in March in order to pay off those notes and producing a budget as quickly as possible.

Bencivengo also warned residents they will likely see a hefty tax increase in those estimated bills as a result of the Gilmore administration's failure to properly estimate the extent of the financial problem earlier this year.

By setting the township's estimated tax rate at 81 cents per $100 in assessed home value, Bencivengo s
aid the administration had vastly underestimated the looming tax impact. The result will be too little money coming in for the first half of the year, and those funds will need to be made up in the second half.

"It is pretty clear that the Gilmore administration issued the first-half tax bills to purposefully avoid disclosing that a tax increase would be necessary," said former State Treasurer James Dieleuterio, who is part of Bencivengo's transition team. (Isherwood, Trenton Times)



The Burlington County Board of Freeholders will reorganize at noon New Year's Day in the Olde Historic Courthouse here.

The public is invited to the ceremony at 120 High St.

Joseph Donnelly, a Cinnaminson Township Committee member since 2001, will be sworn in to a three-year term as the newest member of the all-Republican board.

Donnelly, 41, will become the second freeholder from Cinnaminson and replaces Freeholder Vincent Farias of Edgewater Park. Freeholder-Director James Wujcik also lives in Cinnaminson.

Donnelly did not seek re-election to his position in Cinnaminson. His former seat will be filled at Wednesday's reorganization of the Cinnaminson committee by Republican Kathy Fitzpatrick. That reorganization will be at 6:30 p.m. in the township municipal building, 1621 Riverton Road. (Courier-Post)



ATLANTIC CITY – Two city councilmen are calling for the release of all documentation and deliberations concerning the city's $34 million property-tax appeal settlement with Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. In an ordinance that will be presented at tonight's City Council meeting, Councilmen George Tibbitt and Bruce Ward say they were not provided with all the documents needed to make a well-informed decision on the settlement when it came before them in November.

A report in The Press of Atlantic City earlier this month revealed that the city may have overpaid in its settlement by at least $8.18 million based on confidential documents written by a city-hired consultant. The report was attached to Ward and Tibbitt's ordinance.

"All the councilmen clearly didn't have all the information to make the best possible decision," Tibbitt said Thursday in a phone interview. "Bare minimum, this settlement needs to be (reviewed again)."

The Press and Atlantic County officials have been denied the documents the two councilmen are now hoping to get released, with the city citing attorney-client privilege. (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)




If, as William Shakespeare wrote, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," will Washington Township be the same when it officially becomes Robbinsville Township on Jan. 1?

Even the mayor has devised a system for remembering the flip. "I've actually set up a fine system for myself," said Mayor David Fried.

"I fine myself 50 cents every time I say Washington Township instead of Robbinsville. Since I only make $7,500 a year as mayor, there's a better than average chance it may cost me my salary." (Persico, Trenton Times)



Norman Merckx Jr., of Oak Avenue, changed hats from school board member to township committeeman Thursday when he was appointed to fill a seat vacated by former committeeman Ken Gallagher.

Merckx, 52, said he was excited about the appointment and looked forward to working with fellow committee members to "do what's right for the people."

"We have a good blue print and we just want to keep the ball rolling," he said.

Gallagher, a Democrat, resigned earlier this month, citing work and family obligations as reasons for his departure. His term expires at the end of 2008.” (Brown, Gloucester County Times)



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