Today’s news from

Corzine insists he had nothing to do with Lonegan arrest while Republican legislators call for probe, another poll puts McCain ahead of Giuliani in New Jersey, Clinton in New Jersey today.


Gov. Jon Corzine insisted yesterday his office had nothing to do with the arrest of conservative activist Steve Lonegan at a town hall meeting in Cape May County, even though the mayor of Middle Township said local police acted at the direction of the governor's staff.

"All I know is they were doing what they were told to do," Mayor F. Nathan Doughty, a Democrat, said. Asked who had told them what to do, he said, "The governor's people."

Corzine was adamant in rejecting Doughty's claim about Saturday's arrest at Middle Township High School. Lonegan was arrested moments before the start of the town meeting at which the governor was to explain his plan to increase tolls on the state's major highways.

"That's just nonsense. It's nonsense," Corzine said. "I'm not going to be embarrassed by it. I can't find anybody that was around that said anything like that happened. Most of the staff was with me." (Howlett and Margolin, Star-Ledger)


Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. wants the state Attorney General to investigate the possible violation of Steve Lonegan’s first amendment rights. Lonegan, a former Bogota Mayor and possible 2009 candidate for Governor, was arrested on Sunday outside Middle Township High School where Gov. Jon Corzine was holding a town meeting.

“The right to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances is the foundation of our democracy. This right is clearly established in both the United States and New Jersey constitutions and it has been upheld by centuries of case law,” said Kean, whose great-great-great-great-grandfather was a member of the Continental Congress. “The citizens’ ability to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms must be rigorously protected. Attorney General Milgram as the State of New Jersey’s highest law enforcement official has a responsibility to investigate this matter.”

State Sen. Gerald Cardinale has asked U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie to investigate whether Lonegan’s arrest was an “improper use of police powers to stamp out opposition.” (Editor,




With the New Jersey primary days away, Jennifer Caddle has not yet decided whether she will vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

"I'm torn because I want to support a woman and a black man," said Caddle, 29, who works as a clerk at bookstore in the Livingston Mall. But, she adds, "Mostly I want a hero, and I'm not sure yet if it's Hillary Clinton."

That's a problem for the senator from New York, whose presidential campaign has banked on support of women voters from the start. Results from the earliest voting in the primary season showed serious flaws in that strategy as young Democratic women voters instead flocked to Obama, the freshman senator from Illinois.

There is, it seems, a generation gap within the gender gap.

Obama won the Iowa caucuses with the support of 35 percent of the women who caucused, according to exit polls. Clinton won just 30 percent of women's votes, as record numbers of young people took part in the Jan. 3 caucuses, many for the first time.

The results shocked the Clinton campaign. Senior Clinton adviser Ann Lewis acknowledged the campaign had miscalculated. "We were focused on a model with an older demographic," Lewis said. (Howlett and Peet, Star-Ledger)




A new poll of 380 past Republican voters likely to vote in the Feb. 5th New Jersey primary shows Sen. John McCain leading former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani by 31-26% with 18% for former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.

Conducted for a private client on Sunday through Tuesday by Neighborhood Research of Franklin, the survey has a theoretical margin of error of +/- 5.0% in 95% of cases.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had 9% and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul had 4% of those surveyed. One percent of voters said they would vote for former Sen. Fred Thompson even though he dropped out Tuesday, and 12% were undecided. Respondents from Sunday and Monday who said they supported Thompson were reinterviewed Tuesday about their new preferences, and prior to dropping out, Thompson was receiving 8 percent of the vote.

"These voters are shifting heavily to Romney and this could be a sign that the former Massachusetts Governor is about to expand his support with conservatives with Thompson out of the race," said Rick Shaftan of Neighborhood Research. "83 percent of Thompson supporters considered themselves conservative — higher than any other candidate." (Pizarro,



Today, Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton will make a Hudson County stop in her bid to win the party's nomination for president. Where will she greet the hundreds of backers and most of the county's Democratic politicians? Will the Hudson County Democratic Organization gather in the county seat, Jersey City, for their rally?


The Clinton-a-go-go will be held at Schuetzen Park in North Bergen. Why? First, between Mayors Nick Sacco and Brian Stack of Union City, getting 2,000 people to attend a political event on a cold winter evening is not a worry. More importantly, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who is also chairman of the HCDO, is supporting Clinton's chief rival, Barack Obama, and no one wants to embarrass him – Healy that is.

"We want to be respectful considering Jersey City's position," said one mayor. "Schuetzen Park has one of the bigger venues, outside of a college, but let's face it – this is about not stepping on any toes.

"After the nasty candidates debate (Monday) night, we don't need any encouragement for that kind of activity here." (Torres, Jersey Journal)



As Democratic presidential hopefuls jockey for support from the state's Latino population, it's unclear just how prominent a role that vote will play in New Jersey's upcoming primary.

Polls after the Nevada caucuses showed strong support among Latinos for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton; one MSNBC poll showed Clinton enjoyed a nearly three-to-one edge among that population over her main challenger, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Hoping to ride that wave into the Garden State, Clinton, D-N.Y., has scheduled one of her two North Jersey stops this evening in North Bergen, for an event sponsored by the Latino Political Action Committee Alliance, which is made up of several Latino political committees from across the state.

Some 1,400 people are expected to attend, said Clinton spokesman Brendan Gilfillan.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a vocal backer of Clinton, cited Clinton's support on immigrant family reunification and providing health care for uninsured children as reasons for her being "our advocate and our supporter."

"For all those reasons, she's going to get a very strong vote from our community," said Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants. (Rispoli, Gannett)



The increased U.S. military presence has reduced violence in greater Baghdad, but President Bush's surge strategy hasn't spurred Iraqi leaders to assume greater control of their country, Sen. Robert Menendez said Tuesday.

The New Jersey Democrat returned Monday from a four-day trip to Iraq, his first. "There's no question that there has been a reduction in violence," Menendez said. "That's not to say that you can take a leisurely stroll down the street anytime you want."

Menendez said he wore a helmet and flak jacket, had to be escorted by U.S. military, and was unable to visit Mosul in northern Iraq due to security concerns.

He said increasing the U.S. military presence by 30,000 soldiers has caused insurgents to scatter to regions outside the Iraqi capital of Baghdad but questioned whether the violence would be reined in over the long haul.(Chebium, Gannett)



After M. Teresa Ruiz won her general election senate race, Steve Adubato finally let Cory Booker know what he thought about the mayor’s primary election efforts on behalf of Bilal Beasley in the 28th district.

Adubato, lifelong political warrior and Newark native, frankly wasn’t impressed. Beasley, with Booker’s so called muscle behind him, had failed to beat the always independent and hard-to-gauge Sen. Ronald Rice, perennial west ward cowboy and activist, and a mutual bane to Adubato and Booker. Adubato’s telephone tongue-lashing awakened another old frustration for the mayor.

Adubato’s telephone tongue-lashing awakened another old frustration for the mayor.

Booker had wanted North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos to run for Senate in the 29th district, not Ruiz. Although Ramos was employed by County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and had been affiliated with the North Ward Center for years, he wasn’t on the face of it beholden to Adubato and DiVincenzo the way Ruiz was with her two jobs right in DiVincenzo’s administrative office and her marriage to Adubato partisan Sammy Gonzalez.

While an Adubato product, Ramos had run with the Booker team and forged a solid alliance with Booker’s chief ally and fellow Mets fan Councilman Ron Rice, Jr., son of the survivor senator. The pair were young and smart and developed an early reputation on the Council as hard-working lawmakers who could be seen keying in and out of City Hall on weekends. They also shared a political skill that enabled them to navigate the often excruciating political distances between Booker’s City Hall and their respective family loyalties in the North and West wards. But while Rice’s connection was to a father who cultivated shoot-from-the-hip independence as a virtue, Ramos was tied to a political organization as disciplined and cohesive as Wellington’s army. (Pizarro,


Today U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg plans to meet with mayors from across the country, discuss Middle East peace issues with Egyptian ambassador Nabil Fahmy, meet with constituents, then more mayors and then address a business group.

And when his long day finally ends, senior adviser Scott Mulhauser said Lautenberg plans an 8:30 p.m. dinner with wife Bonnie S. Englebardt to celebrate his 84th birthday.

Lautenberg is currently the third-oldest member of the U.S. Senate. And if the Democrat wins re-election this fall, he could conceivably be one of the few who have held office at the age of 90.

Lautenberg has served in the Senate with the exception of two years since 1982, when the then-58-year-old businessman won the election against 72-year-old Millicent Fenwick.

The senator's age has not yet emerged as an issue, in part because no Democrats have challenged him for the nomination. But that could change once Republicans pick a candidate in June. Business professor Murray Sabrin, businesswoman Anne Estabrook Evans and state Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, Passaic, are currently running for the Republican nomination.

"I think that the burden of proof will be on him (Lautenberg) to demonstrate that he has six years of serving in the U.S. Senate left in him," state Republican Party Chairman Tom Wilson said.

Wilson said he does not know how a Republican candidate would handle the issue in the fall. But he said potential questions could involve energy and mental acuity. And the issue could arise if Lautenberg misspeaks on the campaign trail. (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)


State Sen. Loretta Weinberg is expected to propose legislation today to both cap how much money public officials can accept for their legal defense funds and require disclosure of such contributions.

Several prominent former legislators — including Bergen Democrat Joseph Coniglio — have used money from campaign funds or other defense accounts to pay their legal costs related to ongoing corruption investigations.

"If it's a sitting officeholder for a defense fund, that should be subject to the same rules and regulations as campaign funds are," said Weinberg, D-Teaneck. She emphasized that she didn't want to prohibit citizens from contributing to an official's legal defense fund, but that she felt such contributions should be made transparent.

Weinberg's bill would set a cap of $2,600 per year on contributions to a public official's legal defense fund by an individual, group or organization. The public official's own contributions, along with those made by immediate family members, would be exempt. (Lu, Bergen Record)



After he was officially sworn into a job he's held for months, state Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria yesterday said he intends to consolidate two divisions within the DCA to save money for the state budget.

Doria said he will consolidate the Division of Community Resources, which helps municipalities and nonprofit community agencies in redevelopment, neighborhood and economic improvement projects, with the Division of Housing. Together, the divisions have budgets of more than $51 million and employ more than 340 people.

Doria said it is too early to detail specific savings that the consolidation would provide, but noted the state Council on Affordable Housing would not be affected by the action. Chris Donnelly, a DCA spokesman, said details are still being worked out.

Doria said that since he took over as acting DCA commissioner in October, the number of jobs in the department has been reduced by 140. He said the DCA now has about 1,100 employees. Gov. Jon Corzine wants state agencies to freeze or reduce spending. (Hester, AP)



Saying that he doesn't want to spend too much time away from his family, Assemblyman Peter Biondi today opted not to run for Congress to succeed Rep. Mike Ferguson in the seventh district.

Biondi would have likely been the local Republican Party’s candidate of choice in Somerset — one of four counties that make up the congressional district.

“This was a tough decision. What’s best for me and my family is that I be here,” said Biondi, who is the Republican conference leader in the Assembly. “I think I can better serve my constituents in my leadership position in Trenton.”

Biondi said that he encountered a lot of support in Somerset County. So far, he said, he hasn’t chosen which candidate he’s going to endorse.

Former gubernatorial daughter Kate Whitman, 30, is from Somerset County. She already announced her candidacy and said that she raised approximately $200,000 in 2007.

Biondi’s decision not to run opens the door for two other Somerset County candidates: Warren Township Mayor Victor Sordillo, and former Hillsborough Deputy Mayor Chris Venis. Both said that they would not run if Biondi did.(Friedman,



HAMILTON — State investigators have been combing through records at the township municipal building and questioning employees about the township's finances, sources familiar with the investigation told The Times yesterday.

Three investigators have been in the building "for weeks," sources said, and have questioned employees about public contracts and other spending practices of the administration of former Mayor Glen D. Gilmore, who lost his bid for re-election in November.

Reached late yesterday, Mayor John Bencivengo was mum on the investigators' activities.

"I can't comment on this because it is under investigation." he said.

Gilmore did not return a phone call or an e-mail for comment.

The investigators are thought to be from the state Division of Criminal Justice — the investigative arm of the state Attorney General's Office — and the New Jersey State Police. (Isherwood, Trenton Times)



Another poll shows Gov. Corzine faces an uphill battle to persuade increasingly pessimistic New Jerseyans to support boosting highway tolls to pay state debt and fund transportation.


The Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released yesterday found voters opposing Corzine's plan to raise tolls.


"The governor has a tough sales job ahead of him," said Peter Woolley, a Fairleigh Dickinson political scientist and the poll's director.


The poll found 57 percent of voters oppose Corzine's plan, with 34 percent supporting it. Among those who use the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway to commute, 68 percent oppose it and 26 percent support it. (Hester, AP)



While Gov. Jon S. Corzine is out selling his plan to hike tolls to pay down state debt, a group of Republicans headed by Assemblyman Mike Doherty will hold their own town hall meetings to lobby against it.

"We think that this is a disastrous plan and we're going to do whatever we can to stop it," Doherty, R-Warren/Hunterdon, said Tuesday.

Doherty has vowed to hit as many areas as possible before Corzine's mid-March target date for the Legislature to approve his plan. Doherty will present his view on why the governor's plan is a "disaster" and solicit concerns on the proposal from the public. He'll be joined by Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris, and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Mercer/Monmouth,

"I am not at all confident that the town meetings being conducted by the governor are an accurate representation of the public's concerns on these matters," Doherty said.

The Republicans have criticized the format of Corzine's town hall meetings, in which residents have been asked to register in advance.

Doherty called the process "rigged." (Graber, Gloucester County Times)



State lawmakers will take their first crack at Governor Corzine's plan to significantly raise highway tolls to pay down state debt during a meeting in the State House this afternoon.

The governor's financial restructuring plan, which calls for increasing tolls by a compounded 800 percent over 75 years, is the only item up for discussion on the agenda for the Senate's Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The 3 p.m. meeting will mark the first formal review of the plan by state lawmakers since it was unveiled on Jan. 8.

Corzine is attending an economic forum in Switzerland, but administration officials are scheduled to outline the plan for the committee.

The governor has yet to release legislation, but said he is working with the Office of Legislative Services and expects a draft of the bill to be available by next week.

"I would prefer to see it sooner than later," Corzine said during a news conference Tuesday. "It is a complicated piece of legislation."(Reitmeyer, Bergen Record)


Gov. Corzine yesterday appointed 17 people, including current and retired business and casino executives, to a steering committee to assist him in promoting his plan to restructure the state's finances and reduce its debt.

The appointees also include former politicians, a union vice president, a former state Supreme Court justice, a minister, and a university president. Bob Franks, a former Republican congressman who ran unsuccessfully against Corzine in the 2000 U.S. Senate race, had been named to head the group…….

Among the appointees was former State Sen. Bill Gormley, a Republican whose district included Atlantic City.

Gormleys aid he did not think toll increases on the Atlantic City Expressway would hurt the gambling resort.

Instead, he praised Corzine for not engaging in what he called the "annual ritual of let's see what we can do to the casinos" to plug holes in the state budget (Gambardello, Philadelphia Inquirer)


On Jan. 10, 1933, New Jersey Gov. A. Harry Moore told the state Legislature that the era of major highway expansion had come to an end. So much for foresight……

Moore spoke almost exactly 75 years before the date — Jan. 8, 2008 — that Gov. Jon S. Corzine unveiled his plan for the state's toll roads for the next 75 years. Corzine is hoping he has better vision as he pitches his proposal to raise tolls, halve state debt and create a new nonprofit entity that would run the toll roads, plus a portion of Route 440, for generations.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, questioned whether anyone could project state needs more than 70 years into the future.

"Most of us in our lives, if we take out a 30-year mortgage we feel like we're committed forever," said Wisniewski, chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee and a vocal critic of Corzine's plan. "It just seems to me daunting to be able to say that we know how to predict what's good for the state of New Jersey in 75 years."

Corzine, however, noted that financial agreements in other parts of the world may last 100 years or longer. Indiana's toll road deal was for 75 years, and Chicago entered a 99-year lease.(Tamari, Gannett)



ATLANTIC CITY – Any questions about whether Mayor Scott Evans will run to keep his seat at City Hall likely can be put to rest now. An invitation circulating throughout Atlantic County promotes a campaign fundraiser for Evans' 2008 mayoral bid, charging $1,000 per person for admission to a reception and dinner at Angelo's Fairmount Tavern on Feb. 12.

The event is sponsored by the Scott Evans Mayor 2008 Committee. Despite the invitation, Evans claimed the fundraiser was merely to obtain contributions for his "political account." "Look at the wording, look at the wording," Evans argued. "It says 'Scott Evans Mayor 2008.' There's no 'for mayor' in there."

When asked whether he expected those attending the fundraiser to know what exactly they were contributing to, he said: "They'll know by Feb. 12."

In the end, Evans would only acknowledge that he is "seriously considering" running in the election.

The event is being organized by Galloway Township attorney Jim Carroll, a former Atlantic County Democratic Committee chairman, who is listed as a contact to confirm a reservation. He did not return phone calls seeking comment.(Clark, Press of Atlantic City)


Middlesex County Freeholder Camille Fernicola announced she will not seek re-election this year in what may be the first in a series of moves that have the potential of reshaping the Democratic county ticket in the fall.

Fernicola said when she completes her fourth term in December she will step down from the seven- member, all-Democratic board. The 65-year-old freeholder had previously been a councilwoman in her hometown of Piscataway for 15 years.

Freeholder Director David Crabiel said Fernicola has been a "conscientious freeholder and I'm going to miss her." County Democratic Chairman Joseph Spicuzzo expects to convene a convention in March to decide Fernicola's replacement for the ticket. But there may be other openings also.

The 77-year-old Crabiel, who re cently stepped down as Milltown Democratic chairman, said he has not yet decided if he would seek re- election this year. (Walsh, Star-Ledger)


Political aspirations, not the law, are behind the city council's ultimatum that the police director live in the city or be fired, the mayor said yesterday.

Mayor Douglas H. Palmer said he believes some council members want to run for mayor in the next city election, and are trying to get a foothold by turning the fate of Joseph Santiago, a former police director in Newark, into a campaign issue.

"I believe some want to run for office. For an odd reason, they think this is a good issue to run on," he said. "Trying to get rid of Santiago (is not the issue to run on)."

Palmer, who said he has not decided whether he will run again, would not name the council members he suspects of playing politics for personal gain.

The majority of council last week voted for a resolution urging Palmer to make Santiago move back into the city or fire him. The resolution also refutes the mayor's contention that he had the right to give the director a waiver from the residency requirement. Most of those who voted for the resolution have said they would support a legal challenge if the mayor did not adhere to the resolution. (Loayza, Trenton Times)



A few thousand more Morris County voters will be able to take part in the upcoming "Super Tuesday" presidential primary than were registered to vote in last November's general election.

The deadline to register in the presidential primary was last Tuesday, and by that date about 3,000 new Morris voters had signed up, bringing the total of voters in the county to 292,260.

On Feb. 5, there are 23 other states, including New York, holding presidential primaries.

County Clerk Joan Bramhall said she was surprised by the relatively small number of new voters.

In the past, a presidential election has brought out large numbers of new voters. In 2004, more than 16,000 new voters registered for the presidential election, she said. (Daigle, Daily Record)


A bribery trial fraught with conflicting testimony and political intrigue was scheduled for a second act Tuesday, but a state Superior Court judge has moved to postpone it until March 13.

At the center was to be Cornell Davis, 33, the former Atlantic City Board of Education president whose trial last spring addressing a bribe Davis allegedly accepted and a second allegedly unsuccessful attempt to solicit a bribe ended in a hung jury.

The chief assistant prosecutor portrayed him as an intelligent man who for "a buck" preyed on people trying to positively influence the district. Davis maintained his innocence. (Rao, Press of Atlantic City)




Councilman John Cryan proposed at Tuesday night's council meeting that the ordinance authorizing Mayor Donald Cresitello's recent salary raise should be rescinded.

But the idea died on the spot, because his motion didn't draw a second from his fellow council members.

Signs that the idea was born to lose came earlier, when at least one other council member and a resident who had been a leader of a petition drive to put the raise issue on the November ballot said they disliked Cryan's idea.

Tom Hollo, who had signed the referendum petition and was on the committee that successfully completed it, said before the council meeting that he is against rescinding the pay ordinance.

"Let voters speak once again," he said, adding that the committee had worked hard to collect signatures.(Hassan, Daily Record)

  Today’s news from