Corzine gets worst poll numbers ever, Kelly enters third district congressional race with Chris Smith’s endorsement, ELEC commission delays ruling on whether former State Sen. Wayne Bryant can use election funds for legal defense.
YOU SAY YOU WANT TO RAISE TOLLS, AND SUDDENLY YOU’RE UNPOPULAR
Gov. Jon S. Corzine is receiving poor marks from New Jersey residents who don’t particularly like his policies or his style of governing, according to a new Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll.
Midway through his four-year term, 40 percent of the poll respondents said they approved of Corzine’s job performance, while 44 percent disapproved, the highest negative rating found by the poll since Corzine took office in January 2006.
State residents gave Corzine an overall C-minus grade on issues ranging from cost-cutting, property taxes, government ethics, cost of living, schools and Corzine’s level of effort. (
“He’s got a big hurdle to overcome and maybe he will, maybe he won’t,” said Jim Warburton, 69, a survey participant from Lumberton. “Probably he won’t because the damned state’s a mess.”
Corzine’s highest approval rating of 51 percent came in April, shortly after he was critically injured in an auto accident on the Garden State Parkway. (Prado Roberts, Gannett)
SMITH ENDORSES KELLY WITH A GRAND SPEAKERPHONE ANNOUNCEMENT
Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly today officially entered the race for U.S. Congress, and presented himself as a pro-life, tough on terror, fiscal conservative who would serve the entire 3rd district.
A six-term freeholder running in the half of the 3rd district that has never had a congressman, Kelly said the press would continue to depict the GOP primary war he plans to wage against Medford Deputy Mayor Chris Myers as a county versus county showdown. He noted that he intends to open campaign headquarters in both Ocean and Burlington, the district’s two biggest counties.
Buthe also acknowledged that Ocean is his base, and said he’s the only candidate in the contest who’s represented an entire county for 16 years, compared to private defense contractor Myers, who only recently became Medford’s mayor.
“I have been working extremely hard, since announcing my intentions to run, on putting the mechanism in place and securing the necessary funds to see that Ocean County elects its own candidate to send to the United states House of Representatives,” said Kelly, appearing in a roomful of Ocean County officials in the Toms River law office of Party Chairman George Gilmore.
To a collective of 18 Ocean County officials, including State Senators Andy Ciesla, Chris Connors and Bob Singer, the candidate burnished the additional endorsement of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, whose 4th district contains a slightly larger portion of Ocean than Burlington. Smith’s endorsement served as a counterweight to Kelly’s rival Myers, who last week announced his own candidacy and picked up the endorsement of retiring 3rd district U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton.(Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
Kelly said this race wasn’t a battle between the counties. Instead, he defined it as a race to find the better candidate – him.
“My base is stronger than my opponent’s base simply because I have represented all of the towns in Ocean County that are in the Third Congressional District,” he said. “My opponent has represented but one town and only for a very short time, so his challenge is greater than my challenge.”
Tom Blakely, a spokesman for Myers, said the campaign was “about bringing real change. Chris Myers helped create thousands of high-paying jobs. He fights every day for a strong national defense and represents the best conservative values we need in Washington.”
Both candidates have strong GOP machines behind them.
BRYANT RULING DELAYED
State election regulators yesterday delayed for two weeks a decision on whether to let former state senator Wayne Bryant tap his leftover campaign money to pay legal bills stemming from criminal charges.
“This is a very important issue, and we want to get it right,” said Election Law Enforcement Commission Executive Director Frederick Herrmann. The commission voted 2-1 to delay the decision at its regular meeting.
Bryant is under indictment on charges of bribery, fraud and cor ruption related to allegations by federal prosecutors that he received a sham job in exchange for steering $12.8 million to the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
The Camden County Democrat, who served his last day in the Legislature Jan. 7, has asked ELEC to dip into the $642,586 still left in his senate campaign fundraising ac count to help pay his legal bills. (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A BIPARTISAN COMMISSION, AFTER ALL
Republican National Committeeman David Norcross knows quite a bit about the Election Law Enforcement Commission.
He was on staff of Gov. William T. Cahill when the commission was created, and became its first Executive Director. And he’s not happy that the commission’s board, meant to be bi-partisan, is currently made up of two Democrats and one Republican. The seat has been vacant since Gov. Jon Corzine named Theodore Davis as Camden’s chief operating officer in December 2006.
“It’s inexcusable,” said Norcross about the fact that the commission has gone over a year without filling its Republican vacancy. “I understand exigencies of politics. Sometimes you can’t find an appointee, sometimes you can’t get the agreement you need, but this is preposterous.”
ELEC’s voted today to postpone a ruling on whether indicted state Sen. Wayne Bryant can use campaign funds to pay for his legal defense is a prime example, he said. Democratic members Jerry English and Albert Burstein voted in favor of tabling the ruling, while Republican Peter Tober voted against it. Had another Republican been present to vote no, the motion to table might have failed.
“It can’t function as a partisan board, and frankly, they ought not to be taking votes where one party’s out of balance,” said Norcross, a former GOP State Chairman and U.S. Senate candidate. “I’m amazed that it has run this long on three wheels.” (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)
The Monmouth University/Gannet New Jersey poll released this morning seems to have turned the conventional wisdom of New Jersey presidential politics on its head, especially on the Republican side, where John McCain has pulled even with Rudy Giuliani. But none of the state’s most prominent presidential candidate backers expressed much surprise today.
The most shocking number in the poll put John McCain leading 29-25% — within the 4.5% margin of error. Just one month ago, according to a Quinnipiac poll, Giuliani had a 22 point lead over McCain, while three months ago that lead was 36 points. And in a Bergen Record poll published Sunday, Giuliani led McCain by 16 points.
It’s welcome news to McCain’s New Jersey backers, but it hasn’t taken state Sen. Bill Baroni aback.
“I wouldn’t call it shocking,” said Baroni, who also supported McCain in his 2000 primary bid against George W. Bush. “We’ve been working very hard sort of under the radar for two years to get ready for the next two weeks. We’ve been working day-to-day and town to town, many times under the radar screen, getting ready to see the effect that NH and Michigan will have on NJ – we’re very excited where we are.”(Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)
Giuliani discounted the findings yesterday while campaigning in Jacksonville, Fla. His unusual strategy has been to nearly ignore the early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan while concentrating on the Jan. 29 Florida primary and Super Tuesday a week later, when New Jersey and 23 other states will hold votes.
“We’re going to do fine,” Giuliani said. “We’re going to win Florida and then we’ll do really well in the Feb. 5 states. It’s all a question of timing. The polls go back and forth and we’re going to win.”
McCain appears to be drawing mainstream Republicans away from Giuliani. The poll also indicates that likely voters who say they value “experience” over “change” are inclined to go with McCain, although the discrepancy is not large.
On the Democratic side, the poll showed Clinton, the senator from New York, ahead of Obama 42 percent to 30 percent, a shrinkage of 7 points from her lead last fall, largely due to gains by the senator from Illinois among new and young voters. (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
DO IT FAST, LIKE REMOVING HAIR WITH WAX
The Senate leader urged Gov. Jon Corzine yesterday to quickly introduce legislation to implement his plan to increase tolls on some of the nation’s busiest highways to cut state debt and fund transportation.
Corzine wants lawmakers to approve the plan by mid-March, but Senate President Richard Codey said the Legislature needs to give the proposal a thorough review.
Codey (D-Essex) said he spoke with Corzine’s chief of staff, Brad ley Abelow, yesterday to convey concern and stress that a plan needs to be introduced as soon as possible.
“This plan will impact every New Jerseyan for generations to come,” Codey said. “It’s not something we can rush through or tread lightly over. This is a monumental undertaking, perhaps the largest fiscal restructuring plan the state has ever seen, and it needs to be well thought out.”
Codey said the bill will likely be hundreds of pages and has conceded that getting the plan approved by the Legislature will be difficult.
Corzine’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment yesterday. But on Monday, Corzine’s deputy chief of staff, Maggie Moran, said they hope to have a bill ready within a few days.
“We’re working very very hard on this,” Corzine said during a pub lic meeting on his plan in Hacken sack Monday. “We have to be very, very careful with this.” (AP)
THE HUDSON COUNTY CLINTON MACHINE
On Monday, most of Hudson County’s Democratic Party officials squeezed into a small eatery along the Hudson River in Hoboken to declare their support for presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.
We were all feeling a bit cramped because the site was meant to protect everyone from a nor’easter that missed the area, but it did not dampen the jovial mood in the eatery that was a stone’s throw from Gov. Jon Corzine’s Mile Square City residence.
Even the county civil war did not prevent officials from showing. State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco and state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack were in the same room. Both men are being counted upon to put out mammoth votes for Clinton.
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez joined Corzine and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires of West New York stood near the microphone. Mayors, save one, and elected officials from every Hudson municipality showed up.
Missing were Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and state Sen. Sandra Bolden Cunningham, who are both backing Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois for the presidency. (Torres, Jersey Journal)
AND THE FIRST TRIAL WILL BE HELD ON…. LAND FRAUD!
Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James will go on trial on land fraud charges next month, leaving charges that he misused city credit cards for a later date.
U.S. District Judge William Martini split the corruption case against James and co-defendant Tamika Riley into three last week, saying he believed the land case should go first.
The judge asked prosecutors for their preference and they agreed with him during a hearing yesterday in Newark. Riley also will face related tax fraud charges in the trial, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 26. She was not charged in the credit card case.
Martini also had ordered a third trial just for Riley on charges that she lied about her income to qualify for public housing assistance in Jersey City. (Whelan, Star-Ledger)
MILGRAM SAYS NO TO EMERGENCY BALLOT REQUEST
Attorney General Anne Milgram yesterday rejected a call by activists to let voters cast emergency ballots at the polls during the upcoming presidential primary if they feel uncomfortable with the state’s electronic voting machines.
The Coalition for Peace Action made the request in response to Gov. Jon Corzine signing a bill Sunday that gives the state another six months, to June 3, to install printers on its 10,000 electronic machines so voters can ensure their electronic ballots are recorded accurately, and the printouts can be used for recounts.
Speaking at a morning news conference, the Rev. Robert Moore, the coalition’s executive director, said Milgram should assuage the voters who worry their ballot won’t be correctly counted Feb. 5 by letting them cast an emergency ballot. Typically, emergency ballots are provided only when a voting machine is broken.
“This should matter to every citizen,” Moore said at the Statehouse. “We need to know that every vote is counted. Otherwise, the entire system is open to manipulation.”
By mid-afternoon, however, Milgram rejected the idea.
“The request was reviewed and the answer is that emergency ballots are to be used when the voting machines are inoperable or unavailable,” said Milgram’s spokesman, David Wald. “We remind voters that they can also vote by absentee ballots.” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
OBAMA WINS A STRAW POLL
Barack Obama won a big victory at the BlueWaveNJ straw poll tonight, receiving 170 votes (41%) against 99 for Hillary Clinton (24%) and 94 forJohn Edwards (23%). Dennis Kucinich received 30 votes (7%).
Seventeen voters were undecided. Speaking to a Unitarian Church crammed with members of the progressive Montclair Democratic organization, Newark Mayor Cory Booker represented Obama, while State Sen. Nia Gill spoke for Clinton, State Sen. Joseph Vitale for Edwards, and North Jersey activist Stuart Hutchison for Kucinich.
During the question and answer session, which was moderated by veteran Newsweek journalist Jonathan Alter, Booker and Gill traded shots as representatives of the two presidential frontrunners.
Gill sought to amplify Clinton’sbasic argument that she ismore experience than Obama.
“If you do not control the apparatus of government, your ideas are over here and government is over here,” said the Montclair-based senator and trial attorney, whospread her arms. “Obama has ideas but no experience.”(Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
Gov. Jon Corzine rejected a bill yesterday that would have let families sue for emotional damages in wrongful death cases — a move that disappointed consumer advocates and trial lawyers but pleased business and local government leaders.
Corzine also wrapped up the 2006-07 legislative session by approving pay raises for judges and prosecutors, creating a recycling program for computers and other electronics, and allowing some towns to install cameras at intersections to curb dangerous driving.
The wrongful death bill (S176/A1511) would have let immediate family members seek monetary damages for mental anguish and emotional pain in cases where someone is found liable for the death of their loved one. Under current law, awards are based on a victim’s economic worth and earning potential, which limits awards involving children and retired and disabled people.
Corzine issued a “pocket veto” by declining to sign the bill before yesterday’s constitutional deadline. He said he feared it would drive up the cost of running government and businesses.
“Unlimited damages based on emotional anguish or pain and suffering could have a significant impact on state and local budgets,” Corzine said in a statement. “Unfortunately, I do not believe that this bill in its current form strikes a fair balance.” (Livio and Howlett, Star-Ledger)
New Jersey judges are now among the highest-paid in the nation and municipalities can use cameras to nab drivers running red lights under laws signed by Gov. Corzine.
The judicial pay increases follow a 5.7 percent pay raise last year. Judges will get an 11 percent pay hike and county prosecutors a 17 percent increase.
The raises, along with the other bills signed Monday, were approved last week on the final day of the legislative session and had to be signed by noon yesterday.
Under the bill, Superior Court judges get $165,000 a year, up from $149,000; appellate judges $175,600 a year, up from $158,500; associate Supreme Court justices $185,500 a year, up from $167,500; and the chief justice $192,795 a year, up from $173,500.(Hester, AP)
PLEASANTVILLE’S LONG-TERM MAYOR DECIDES TO RETIRE
A half-century is long enough.
Ralph Peterson – who has served as the city’s mayor for 15 years – will not seek re-election this year, he announced Tuesday. Instead, he held a press conference outside City Hall to endorse City Council President Jesse Tweedle to be his successor.
The date was important. It was 50 years ago that Peterson joined the city’s Police Department. He would serve 33½ years on the force, the last 10 as the city’s first black police chief. Peterson said leaving will be difficult, but “it’s time. It’s time to go home.”
“I’m not going to be a lame-duck mayor,” he promised, citing planned construction in the city, including waterfront development. (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)
IN MERCER COUNTY
The question of which party will lead the Mercer County Board of Elections will remain unresolved for at least a few more days, but Republican Chairman Dominic Magnolo has scored a preliminary victory to keep his seat.
The state Attorney General’s office has made a “preliminary analysis” that Magnolo was legally sworn into office when he was given an oath of office by Anthony Massi, a municipal court judge.
Deputy Attorney General Julie Cavanagh informed board members of the analysis at a meeting scheduled last night. The board conducted business but delayed holding its reorganization.
Democratic board Secretary Marge Caldwell-Wilson maintains that state law required Magnolo to be sworn in by County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello.
“There is nothing that I have found (in state law) that this is appropriate,” Caldwell-Wilson said of Magnolo’s swearing-in. (Kitchenman, Trenton Times)
MERCER COUNTY RESIDENTS “GET AROUND” TO REGISTERING TO VOTE
A wave of Mercer County residents registered by yesterday’s deadline to vote in the Feb. 5 presidential primary.
Both first-time voters and residents who recently moved expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to vote in the primary, which will occur on the same day as nearly half the primaries across the country.
“It’s something I’ve been meaning to do, but never got around to it,” Lawrence resident Hammad Bashir said.
Bashir, 26, joined a steady flow of newly registered voters at the county superintendent of elections office. He said is considering voting for Barack Obama in the Democratic primary.
“Hopefully these guys can get more people out to vote like myself,” Bashir said of the candidates.
More than twice as many residents registered since November than did during the same period in 2004, when there wasn’t a separate primary for the presidential election. (Kitchenman, Trenton Times)
WILL THE MAYORAL RACE THAT NEVER ENDS END?
A Superior Court judge will rule today on Parsippany Mayor Michael Luther’s motion to dismiss Rosemarie Agostini’s challenge to his 39-vote election victory in November 2005.
The motion, if granted by Judge Theodore Bozonelis, would end Agostini’s long-running challenge, unless she appealed.
Agostini’s lawyer, John Carbone, rested his case at the trial’s fourth day Tuesday in state Superior Court in Morristown.
Bozonelis, whose order in January 2006 dismissing Agostini’s election challenge was overturned on appeal, said he would issue his ruling in the nonjury trial at 10:30 this morning.
Carbone questioned several people, including Parsippany Councilman John Fox, about up to nine votes allegedly from non-Parsippany residents.(Jennings, Daily Record)
Paterson’s embattled school superintendent, Michael Glascoe, announced suddenly yesterday he will step down rather than wait for the state to decide his fate.
Glascoe was unlikely to keep his job anyway, after state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy informed him in August she did not plan to renew his contract at the end of the school year.
But Davy left open the possibility that she might reconsider if Glascoe met certain goals for the district and himself, with a final decision in February. (Mooney, Star-Ledger)
NEXT TIME IT WON’T BE SO “RESPECTFUL”
The clock is ticking.
The city council adopted a resolution last night “respectfully” asking Mayor Douglas H. Palmer to direct Police Director Joseph Santiago to comply immediately with Trenton’s residency requirement, or be terminated from the top position.
The council has given Palmer seven days to respond to the resolution.
The resolution does not say what the council will do if Palmer does not abide by the request.
South Ward Councilman Jim Coston, who brought the resolution to the council for a vote, said if the mayor chooses not to enforce the ordinance as it is written, that is a matter the council will have to take up.
“Hopefully it won’t come to that,” said Coston. (Loayza, Trenton Times)
Republican Councilman Paul Buccellato defeated Democratic Mayor Mary Aufseeser in a special election in Matawan on Tuesday.
Running again after their initial showdown last November resulted in a tie, Buccellato won with 51.15% of the vote to Aufseeser’s 48.70%, according to unofficial results filed with the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office Tuesday night. Thirty-eight percent, or 2,039 residents, participated in Tuesday’s special election, according to the clerk’s office.
Thirty-eight percent, or 2,039 residents, participated in Tuesday’s special election, according to the clerk’s office. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
A former Blairstown deputy mayor pleaded guilty yesterday to abusing his position as chairman of a $2.6 million municipal project to build a new town hall by funneling nearly $50,000 of the funds to a dummy corporation he set up.
Raymond Davis, 58, of Blairs town, who was responsible for representing the township’s interest in the project, faces at least five years in state prison after pleading guilty to official misconduct in state Superior Court in Warren County, said state Attorney General’s Office spokesman Peter Aseltine.
At the plea hearing, Davis ad mitted he exploited his position as chairman of the project to steer lucrative subcontracts to Municipal Service Group Inc., a company Davis set up in nearby Belvidere but didn’t tell anyone he owned.
In one instance in 2005, Municipal Service Group billed the project’s general contractor for $25,000 to conduct “engineering and testing” services that were never performed, state prosecutors said. (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
IN SOUTH RIVER
South River’s longtime borough clerk plans to retire at the end of the month after more than three decades of service to the town, and a search is under way to find his replacement, officials said yesterday.
“After more than 35 years, I feel my time has come to finally take a rest,” said Albert Seaman, 64, a lifelong borough resident and well- known fixture at borough hall. (Qarooni, Star-Ledger)