Andrews comes out for monetization, LoBiondi wields power of incumbency, judges see their pensions padded from pay raise, paid family leave back on the agenda.
IS THERE A SENATE SEAT IN ROB ANDREWS’ FUTURE?
Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., today will endorse Gov. Corzine's proposal to increase highway tolls to pay state debt, fund transportation work and fix troubled state finances, a Statehouse official told The Associated Press.
Andrews will endorse Corzine's plan at a news conference this morning in Bellmawr, said the official, who is involved in the effort. The official requested anonymity so as not to upstage the announcement by Corzine and the veteran congressman.
Andrews will become the first major Democrat to endorse Corzine's plan, which is designed to pay at least half of $32 billion in state debt and fund transportation projects for 75 years.
Various polls have shown about 60 percent of voters oppose the plan, but Corzine has received support from former Republican Rep. Robert Franks and an array of business, labor and education officials, including the Atlantic City casinos and executives from Verizon, Chubb, Schering Plough and Princeton University. (AP)
THE POWER OF INCUMBENCY
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, has not yet begun to campaign for re-election in his sprawling district.
But he hardly has to.
Between the public events he attends, the position papers he writes and the press releases his staff distributes, the LoBiondo name gets plenty of airtime and newspaper coverage without making a single stump speech or spending campaign money.
This is the power of incumbency.
Sitting members of the U.S. House of Representatives won re-election 89 percent of the time in 2006.
In 2004, incumbents won 91 percent of their races. LoBiondo has won every federal contest with at least two-thirds of the vote since his freshman year in 1994.
But where is the line drawn between constituent services and campaigning?
As the muddied waters of the Republican presidential primaries continue to roil nationwide, local operatives for each of the candidates are joining the fray, slugging it out in advance of New Jersey's Feb. 5 contest.
So far, the state GOP primary is a toss-up, with the latest polls showing Arizona Sen. John McCain squeaking by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and former Massachusetts Gov.; Mitt Romney trailing. The poll's margin of error puts the two leading candidates in a dead heat.
Previous primaries and caucuses have failed to separate the field with McCain pulling off victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina and Romney edging out wins in Michigan and Nevada.
Tomorrow's Florida primary could serve to ordain a frontrunner if either McCain or Romney is victorious, or further muddle the field if Giuliani gets the nod. (Isherwood, Trenton Times)
Because of a pay raise approved this month, retiring Superior Court judges can see their pensions boosted by $6,000 a year if they work one day this year.
Under pension rules, state judges who are fully vested in the system can collect 75 percent of their final salary. So when Gov. Corzine and the Legislature increased their pay 5 percent from $149,000 to $157,000 this month, they also boosted veteran judges' pensions from about $112,000 to nearly $118,000.
At least five Superior Court judges have indicated they plan to retire by April 1 during the two weeks since the pay raise was approved by the Legislature. In recent years, about 22 judges have retired annually in New Jersey.
"I wasn't hanging fire because I needed a certain number; it's just that I knew it would go up," retiring Superior Court Judge Paul T. Koenig Jr. said. "And why would I retire the first of October when I knew there was say a 50-50 chance that we might get another pay raise either January or July? That was the rumor .(Volpe, Gannett)
PAID FAMILY LEAVE COMING BACK
Senators today will renew efforts to make New Jersey the third state to let workers take paid leave to care for either a sick relative or new child, though businesses remain fiercely opposed to the proposal.
The Senate budget committee is scheduled today to consider legislation that would let workers take up to six weeks paid leave from work.
A proposal that would have let workers take 10 weeks paid leave failed to make it into law during the legislative session that ended on Jan. 8. That's after a plan for 12 weeks paid leave also stalled.
Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney, the initiative's leading backer, said he hopes the revised proposal will satisfy business concerns.
"I'm confident that this proposal will still give families of working New Jerseyans the comfort and time they need to deal with crises without disarming small businesses of the support they need to thrive," said Sweeney, D-Gloucester.(AP)
ATLANTIC CITY OFFICIALS ACTING SELFISH? YOU DON’T SAY
No matter how insignificant the election, Atlantic City's various political factions have mastered the art of getting out the vote, albeit controversially. But as the three remaining Democratic presidential candidates make their way onto an early New Jersey primary ballot next week, this politically charged, primarily Democratic resort has been uncharacteristically quiet.
"Selfishness," says Marcus Wilson, a member of the city's Democratic Committee. "If they're not running, or not getting paid, or if they don't have a personal stake in the election, they don't care."
For the past month, Wilson and his friend, former City Councilwoman Stephenine Dixon, have been combing the city's streets for potential voters, armed with fliers promoting Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and stacks of absentee ballot applications………
The use of absentee ballots in Atlantic City has turned into an art form in recent years. With the strategy's progression has come accusations of campaign workers circumventing the intent of absentee-ballot laws to swing elections or engaging in absentee-ballot corruption. (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)
The impending retirement of the judge presiding over a whistle-blower's suit against the Board of Public Utilities has once again delayed the start of a trial for a case that has thus far cost state taxpayers more than $1 million to defend.
More than two years after suing the BPU and top officials, its fiscal officer, Joseph Potena, was tentatively scheduled to have his day in court today to try to prove his claims that his supervisors became critical of his job performance, threatened insubordination charges and usurped his responsibilities.
Potena claimed all this happened because he alerted the state Treasury Department that the board had set up an $80 million to $100 million Clean Energy account in a private bank without Treasury approval. (Volpe, Gannett)
IN GLOUCESTER COUNTY
Although a move to consolidate jobs at the Gloucester County Board of Elections is expected to save $100,000 in salaries, Republicans are wondering if it will only help the well-entrenched Democrats even more.
A lone superintendent of the election agency will replace two administrator's posts currently held by one Democrat and one Republican.
"Whether you need the people or not, you're matching the people up one for one," said Freeholder Director Stephen Sweeney. "By having a superintendent, you don't have to have a partisan counterpart." (McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)
IT’S JUST PASSAIC
Picture this: Passaic 2008. The City Council has scheduled a vote to fill the vacancy on the council created when Marcellus Jackson resigned after pleading guilty to a federal corruption charge. Three council members are present for the vote on Tuesday. Three members, including the president, are absent. The mayor is there in case he is needed to break a tie. But with three councilmen missing, there's no vote.
In any other city, the main story would be that the missing councilmen — Council President and Assemblyman Gary Schaer, Chaim Munk and Daniel Schwartz — wanted to dodge a difficult vote. Terrence Love, the likely replacement and a Passaic schoolteacher, has the support of the other three council members. Earlier this month, the council deadlocked 3-3 on appointing Love.
Some Passaic residents want Jeffrey Dye to get the seat. He unsuccessfully ran for a council seat in 2005. Approving Love comes with political consequences. Perhaps the council members who were AWOL want to avoid them. Mayor Sammy Rivera told the Herald News last week, "Gary has his own political agenda."
That may be, but he is not alone. The "Sammy and Schaer Show" has been anything but harmonious of late. "Sammy" — Mayor Rivera — is under indictment. In fact, he was arrested with former city Councilman Jackson. Rivera claims he is innocent, despite federal officials claiming they have him on tape saying he is all too willing to accept a bribe.
Leave that on the side and focus on the facts. The council appears split down the middle. The mayor has the authority to break the tie. So the same person who is under indictment, caught up in the same corruption probe that led to Jackson's admission of guilt and resignation, probably will be the deciding vote for Jackson's replacement. Is that irony or just Passaic? (Doblin, Bergen Record)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND
LAUTENBERG SPEAKS TO POLITICKERNJ.COM
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg looked east Friday, high above the industrial wasteland crammed into the swamp and river beds, and the lights on the commuter traffic on the Turnpike in the distance, and the packed trains just below boring into Newark Penn Station.
"When I first became a senator I knew I wanted my office to be here in Newark, in the center of things," said Lautenberg, who turned 84 this past week while looking at a favorable job rating of 43% in the latest Monmouth University/Gannett poll.
It’s in an election year for New Jersey’s senior senator, which is why after voting on the floor earlier in the day he returned to New Jersey to make some fund-raising calls in anticipation of his general election showdown with Republicans.
The Democratic incumbent leads two Republican primary candidates: 38%-24% against millionaire developer Anne Evans Estabrook, and 40%-25% against State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio. The Monmouth poll did not include Ramapo College Professor Murray Sabrin, who entered the race after the survey was taken.
In another sign that the campaigns are revving up, the National Republican Senatorial Committee last week unveiled an attack ad against him, which notes that New Jersey rates last in return on federal taxes. Featuring a 1982 clip of a bushier side-burned Lautenberg vowing to get a better rate of return than 45th in the state on tax dollars, the ad states, "Twenty-six years after his promise… New Jersey isn’t 45th anymore, it’s dead last."
Lautenberg dismisses the charge as "politics," and bluntly counters that the Republican candidates must answer for the dismal record of their party and the presence of a man in the White House whom he acknowledges has been "painful" to behold.
"We have failed to make necessary investments, and we are falling behind in health standards and longevity standards," said Lautenberg. "This administration has disregarded our domestic needs." (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
WELCOME NEW, UNAFILLIATED VOTERS
More than 48,000 new voters registered in time to vote in next month's presidential primary and, in true Garden State fashion, the overwhelming majority did not align with any party.
In a state where "unaffiliated" voters outnumber Democrats and Republicans combined, roughly eight in 10 new voters opted not to join a party — at least not yet. They can still do that on Feb. 5 by going to the polls and choosing the party in whose primary they wish to vote.
New figures released yesterday by the state Attorney General's Office show 4.8 million New Jerseyans are registered to cast ballots on Feb. 5, up by 48,502 since the general election in November. The overwhelming increase was in the ranks of the unaffiliated, which swelled by 42,058. In contrast, the electorate gained only 6,140 registered Democrats and 295 Republicans in the same period.
Statewide, 58 percent of registered voters are unaffiliated, while 24 percent are Democrats and 18 percent are Republicans.
"I'm not surprised," said Ingrid Reed, director of the New Jersey Project at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics. "I think by and large people think of not affiliating as protecting their privacy and keeping their options open." (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)
MCCAIN HANGS HIS NEW JERSEY HAT IN HAMILTON
As U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona continues his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, he will call Hamilton his New Jersey home.
Campaign workers held the grand opening of his new statewide headquarters here yesterday at 4619 Nottingham Way, signaling the final push for votes before the Feb. 5 primary.
State Sen. Bill Baroni, a longtime McCain supporter who this year has been named the state campaign chairman, opened the office with a rousing speech to some 20 volunteers.
"New Jersey is McCain country," Baroni told the campaign volunteers who turned out to help with McCain's final push before the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primary, in which voters in 24 states including New Jersey will cast their votes for their presidential nominee. "John McCain is no stranger to New Jersey. He has been here time and time again for his own campaign as well as to campaign for others in the state," Barone said. (Isherwood, Trenton Times)
WILL NEW JERSEY SEE A CRUSH OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES?
If you drive through northwestern New Jersey this weekend, you'll be hard-pressed to find evidence that a big election will occur here in nine days. There are virtually no road signs, posters, billboards. No blitz of radio and TV advertising for the upcoming presidential primary.
Even some of the lowest-key town council elections usually generate more glitz and buzz. But the quiet should end — especially on the Republican side in GOP-dominated counties — starting Wednesday, say political experts.
Depending on results of the Florida primary, with its huge haul of delegates, some Republican presidential candidates may charge north, and spend some of their millions to court the vote in key Republican areas, including Morris, Sussex, Warren and Bergen counties.
In particular, Republicans are closely watching the fortunes of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, once thought to be a likely winner in New Jersey and a favorite of many top Morris County Republicans.
"It'll be very interesting to see what happens. Will Rudy fly in here after Florida?" said Ingrid Reed, a senior policy analyst at Rutgers University's Eagleton Institute of Politics. "You would think you'll see more Republicans than expected come here, especially because it seemed Rudy had this state sewed up but now it seems to be an open field. (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)
CHARGES TO BE DROPPED, BUT LONEGAN WILL STILL BY A MARTYR
Middle Township Prosecutor Mary D'Arcy Bittner said she will ask a municipal court judge Monday morning to drop trespassing charges against former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and Somers Point lawyer Seth Grossman.
"If the information I've received is correct," Bittner said, "and barring any further information, I anticipate requesting the dismissal of charges on Monday."
Both Middle Township and its Board of Education already had publicly apologized to the two men and had requested that the charges be dropped.
"If the complainants won't proceed, we won't have a case," Bittner said. "In addition, I've independently looked at it and at this point, you don't see the proof to prove trespass."(Lemongello, Press of Atlantic City)
LONEGAN FIASCO “COULD HARDLY HAVE COME AT A WORSE TIME” FOR CORZINE
Steven M. Lonegan may not be the mayor of Bogota anymore, but he appears to have found a new mission as Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s bête noire.
As Mr. Corzine continues his whirlwind tour to convince a skeptical public that sharply increased tolls can help fix New Jersey’s fiscal woes, Mr. Lonegan, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in the Republican primary in 2005, has been his constant shadow. At the first three meetings, Mr. Lonegan hardly stood out from the average crowd of about 750 people, casually chatting with local activists and distributing fliers.
But his journey took a surreal turn here last weekend, when he was one of two people arrested outside the Cape May County meeting site, Middle Township High School, for supposedly failing to follow the protest guidelines spelled out by the local police. And though local authorities on Wednesday night asked that the charges be dropped, because they determined that Mr. Lonegan was, in fact, merely exercising his First Amendment rights, the political fallout is still being felt in Trenton.
For Mr. Corzine, the problem is not whether Mr. Lonegan was right or wrong, or whether the local authorities got a little overzealous.
The problem is the perception that Mr. Corzine’s staff may have had a hand in pressuring local officials to make the arrest, and therefore stifle dissent.
Given the fact that the polls have indicated that most residents are still skittish about Mr. Corzine’s plan, the Cape May incident could hardly have come at a worse time. (Chen, New York Times)
ADLER CAMPAIGNS WITH HOYER
MARLTON – The Democrat who hopes to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton, R-3rd, went to the home of a single mother Friday to discuss his plans to bolster a sagging economy.
Warga said her health-insurance premiums and energy bills have been rising steadily, but her wages have not. She has tapped into her retirement funds to make ends meet. If he is elected, Adler said, helping middle-class families will be his top priority.
If he is elected, Adler said, helping middle-class families will be his top priority.
"Faced with unconscionably high property taxes, gas prices and health-care costs, working families of New Jersey are struggling to keep their heads above
ROUSSEAU: BUDGET FREEZE WILL HIT STATE HOUSE LIKE LIGHTNING, BUT WAY MORE BORING
While the debate rages over the big toll hikes in his plan to restructure the state's finances, Gov. Jon Corzine predicts a less publicized part of the proposal — a state budget that includes deep cuts — may cause even more controversy.
The governor is vowing to put state government on a permanent diet — and end New Jersey's era of quick budget fixes. That means no more one-shot revenue sources to prop up spending plans.
"There will be more noise about the cuts than the tolls," Corzine told 400 people last week at a town hall meeting in Cape May County.
Acting Treasurer David Rousseau said the changes will hit the Statehouse like lightning.
"This is going to be a culture shock to Trenton — a frozen budget," Rousseau said. (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
FATHER VS. SON
Hackensack may become the site of the first Clash of the Keans.
Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean is being sought as the surrogate stand-in for Arizona Sen. John McCain in a pre-primary presidential "forum" and straw poll at the Bergen County Republican Organization's headquarters on Main Street next Saturday.
He may be sitting — and glaring perhaps? — across the table from his son, state Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., who has been asked to speak on behalf of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Neither Kean has confirmed his appearance, said Robert Ortiz, the BCRO chairman. And neither Kean returned a phone call late Friday.
Both Keans are descendants of the genteel school of Jersey politics, but both are veterans of rough-and-tumble statewide campaigns — Kean père, most notably slugging it out against Democrat Jim Florio in 1981 and Junior's failed, barb-throwing bid for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Bob Menendez in 2006.
But Ortiz is not expecting fireworks. He envisions letting each surrogate make remarks for about 10 to 12 minutes. They won't be given a chance to rebut charges or ask each other pointed questions.
"I don't anticipate that it will get rambunctious," Ortiz said. "Republicans are pretty content with the field and, no matter who wins on the Republican side, we will all be siding with that candidate."(Stile, Bergen Record)
THE ASBURY PARK PRESS WRITES MORE MONETIZATION STORIES
Marguerite McAleenan of Barnegat voted for and supported Gov. Corzine because she thought the former head of the Goldman Sachs investment firm could solve the state's financial problems. T
That was until Corzine wanted to raise her tolls by $5,000.
Now the insurance field representative, who makes $55,000 a year, says she is ready to leave the state in large part because of Corzine's plan to boost highway tolls some 800 percent by 2022.
McAleenan says she spends $728 annually in tolls to commute to her job in Edison. The possibility of paying upwards of $5,800 a year for the same trip, even if it's 14 years later, is absurd, she said. (Method, Asbury Park Press)
Cumberland County Prosecutor Ron Casella believes Freeholder Director Lou Magazzu is attempting to block his re-appointment.
"I think the public should know that," the prosecutor said in an interview with the News on Thursday. "We had a conversation (last fall) where I asked for his support. He specifically said he couldn't support me. He's been working very hard since then to make sure I'm not re-appointed."
Casella's term as prosecutor expires in April.
Prosecutors are appointed and re-appointed by the state Legislature.
If someone is not appointed prosecutor, Casella will remain in the position until one is, or until he is reappointed.
The opinions of local politicians are taken into consideration in making the decision, according to members of the Cumberland County Freeholder Board. (Dunn, Bridgeton News)
NEW JERSEY NOT THE CENTER OF THE PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS UNIVERSE, BUT IT’S BETTER THAN NOTHING
It's not quite the primary they wanted. But officials say the one that's coming next month is a whole lot better than the one they had.
"If we put it in perspective, virtually no attention was paid to us before," said state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, who helped sponsor the bill that moved the state's presidential primary election up four months from early June to Feb. 5.
For years, New Jersey primary elections mattered little on the national stage because, by the time it rolled around in the first or second week of June, both parties' presidential nominations were long sewn up. And then lawmakers hit on the idea shared by quite a few counterparts in other states: Set an early primary. Be seen. Get voters interested. Be relevant.
THE LAST TIME WE MATTERED
Walter Mondale climbed a scaffold at Jersey City's Journal Square PATH station to thank unionized carpenters holding placards promoting his candidacy for president.
In Plainsboro, rock star Stephen Stills warmed up a crowd waiting to hear from Mondale's main rival, U.S. Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado.
And when New Jerseyans went to the polls the following day, the fifth of June, they went big for Mondale, effectively clinching the Democratic nomination for the former vice president.
It was 1984, the last time New Jersey's votes in a presidential primary mattered. (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)
Rudy Giuliani appeared to have New Jersey in his back pocket.
As the former New York City mayor's sputtering bid for the Republican presidential nomination heads to a crucial test in Florida on Tuesday, however, victory is no longer assured anywhere — not even his in home state or its closest neighbors. Even Giuliani's ability to remain in the race through Super Tuesday is in doubt.
"Clearly the strategy was to plant the flag there (in Florida) and build on that established momentum on Super Tuesday," said Bob Franks, a former Republican congressman who is co-chair of Giuliani's New Jersey campaign. "It's a strategy they had to pursue, and we are hopeful of the outcome."
Giuliani's support in New Jersey and elsewhere has slipped precipitously in recent weeks, according to polls.
At the same time, Arizona Sen. John McCain, another moderate, has come on strong, eroding Giuliani's seemingly insurmountable lead in New Jersey. According to the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, released Wednesday, McCain actually edged past Giuliani in New Jersey, though the margin is too small to be considered statistically significant.
"We feel very good," said Sen. Bill Baroni, who chairs McCain's New Jersey campaign. "Just as last summer we didn't get overly down when things didn't look so good, we're not getting overly confident now." (Delli Santi, AP)
OBAMA’S “TRUTH SQUAD”
Pre-Iowa, they thought it was going to be a cakewalk, but supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton insist that initial jolt of dread between Iowa and New Hampshire has turned into excitement, while the supporters of Sen. Barack Obama say they are excited – and on guard for truth-twisting.
Obama’s victory in South Carolina last night – his second in the process so far – made the Clinton machine in New Jersey change gears again as they get ready to try to roll over Obama’s grassroots operations on Feb. 5.
"Obviously, we got a late start because people were taking some things for granted," said Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, who in the lead-up to Obama’s win gathered about 25 people at the Ewing Township Library on Saturday to help prepare them for phone-banking duties on behalf of the Clinton campaign (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
The battle lines for New Jersey's Feb. 5 Democratic presidential primary are already demarcated among high-profile players in the state party.
And although politicians in New Jersey have divided loyalties among the major candidates, they are portraying this as a sign of a healthy, not a fractured, party.
Many organization Democrats have made themselves foot soldiers in Sen. Hillary Clinton's march to become the nation's first female president, although some high-profile elected leaders have broken step to put their names behind the campaigns of Clinton's closest rivals — Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.
Clinton's New Jersey loyalists include Gov. Jon Corzine, Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Ewing, and Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer.
Those squarely entrenched in Obama's camp in his bid to become the country's first black president range from state Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Lawrence, to Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein, D-Plainsboro, to Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
Another high-ranking Democrat, Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-West Orange, has thrown his support to John Edwards in the fight for the White House. (Stern, Star-Ledger)
Oprah Winfrey and Chuck Norris may win votes across the nation, but in New Jersey endorsements from the A-list politicians are still the ones that matter most.
Hillary Clinton, with an impressive roll of New Jersey politicians endorsing her candidacy in the state's Feb. 5 presidential primary, leads Barack Obama 49 percent to 32 percent in the latest Quinnipiac University poll of New Jersey's Democratic voters even as the national race is tightening.
She counts Governor Corzine, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr., Frank Pallone and Rob Andrews among her supporters in New Jersey.
And Clinton just made a trip to Hackensack in the middle of the busy primary season to pick up the endorsement of Bergen County Democratic Party Chairman Joseph Ferriero.
Republicans, despite being outnumbered by Democrats in New Jersey and shut out of the top elected spots, have made their pitches for presidential candidates. John McCain has the support of former GOP Gov. Thomas H. Kean. Tom Kean Jr., the ranking Republican in the State House, instead backs Rudy Giuliani, as do Bergen County's GOP Chairman Rob Ortiz and U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo. Mitt Romney has support from several legislators, including state Sen. Leonard Lance.(Reitmeyer, Bergen Record)
Some state Republicans may regret switching how they award their presidential delegates if John McCain beats Rudy Giuliani on Feb. 5 in New Jersey, a state that pundits had said only weeks ago belonged to the former New York City mayor.
When it looked like Giuliani's popularity would allow him to coast to victory in New Jersey, his supporters pushed to make the state a winner-take-all one for Republicans. Usually, the party doles out delegates based on winners in congressional districts.
With at least four recent public-opinion polls showing McCain tied with or ahead of Giuliani, it's possible that the Arizona senator could garner all 52 of the state's delegates while the former New York mayor gets none.
Giuliani's New Jersey supporters remain confident in Giuliani's plan of skipping the early-voting states that have fewer delegates to focus on Tuesday's winner-take-all vote in Florida and gain momentum for Super Tuesday, the Feb. 5 contests that will include New Jersey.(Volpe, Gannett)
NO PAPER TRAIL
With no paper trail to document their votes, the bulk of New Jersey residents will place their faith in technology as they choose presidential candidates in the Feb. 5 primaries.
New Jersey's polling places are run on more than 10,000 electronic, push-button machines. Voters press buttons to cast votes stored on the computers' memory. In most cases, voters are not able to check paper receipts to verify the computers are properly recording their choices.
"You don't know if they're really working. You don't know if the right people are getting votes," said Penny Venetis, a clinical law professor at Rutgers School of Law in Newark who is representing voting rights groups that have sued the state over the machines.
New Jersey's voting machines were supposed to have voter-verified paper receipts by now, under a Legislature-imposed deadline. But lawmakers extended the deadline six months after New Jersey Institute of Technology researchers found flaws in paper printers for the machines. (AP)
RIGHT BETWEEN VON SAVAGE AND GILMORE
It may be just an informal straw poll, but the result of Saturday's Atlantic County Republican Committee vote at the Cologne Fire Hall in Hamilton Township is just the latest bad news for Rudy Giuliani.
The former New York City mayor came in a distant second to Arizona Sen. John McCain at the breakfast meeting, finishing with 14 votes to McCain's 34. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney finished third with 10 votes, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Rep. Ron Paul pulling in seven and two votes, respectively.
The ballot, which represented a quorum of the Republican Committee, comes after three of the four Republican state assemblymen representing sections of the county had endorsed Giuliani leading up to the Feb. 5 New Jersey presidential primary, one of 19 Republican primaries or caucuses to be held on what is becoming known as "Super Duper Tuesday."
It also comes on the heels of a recent Quinnipiac poll that showed Giuliani losing what had once been a commanding 30-plus-point lead in the state. The Jan. 23 poll had McCain in the lead with 29 percent of the vote, followed by Giuliani with 26 percent.(Lemongello, Press of Atlantic City)
THE GUY WHO RUNS ESSEX COUNTY
His office filled with charts and maps of various projects, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. outlined accomplishments during the past year that he will highlight tomorrow in his annual speech to residents.
The county executive will deliver the annual state-of-the-county address tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the Essex County Hospital Center, one of the projects he touts as an example of his administration's ability to get things done at minimal cost to the taxpayer.
"Here's a facility we built in 25 months," the county executive said during an interview last week in his office. "We designed it, built it and did the transition on budget and on time. That's unheard of. But we did it."
The county's first new mental health facility in more than a century opened last February at cost of $60 million. All but 10 percent was paid for by the state, DiVincenzo said. He said he would push for the state to pay the county's portion of $6 million. (Roberts, Star-Ledger)
ORTIZ DID SOMETHING
Days after a state elections agency ruled that it is illegal to use campaign funds to pay for criminal defense attorneys, Bergen County Republicans asked the state to apply that rule to a former Democratic legislator under federal investigation.
In a letter sent this week to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, Bergen County GOP Chairman Rob Ortiz said former Democratic state Sen. Joseph Coniglio should not have used money from his reelection campaign to pay for his personal legal defense in an ongoing criminal probe.
Coniglio, who did not seek reelection in November, is a target of a federal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office into his role as a paid plumbing consultant to Hackensack University Medical Center.
The former senator has used at least $130,000 in campaign funds to pay for his criminal defense attorney, Gerald Krovatin, according to state campaign finance records.(Carmiel, Bergen Record)
THIS ONE PROBABLY WON’T MAKE CHRIS CILLIZZA’S LIST
Parsippany resident Tom Wyka kicked off his campaign for Congress in the 11th District on Saturday by saying that he would seek the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, the creation of an affordable health insurance system and the full implementation of the 9/11 Commission report.
"The Bush administration insists that we must stay in Iraq or the terrorists will follow us home," Wyka said at the VFW post.
"But the experts tell us that the strife in Iraq is the result of Iraqis struggling for control of Iraq, not radical jihadists bent on attacking the United States. But as one expert pointed out, the way we've been treating terrorism suspects may be inspiring more people to think of the United States as an enemy. So the continuing occupation is making us less safe."
The 42-year-old Clifton native works as a project manager for Pinnacle Solutions in Springfield, a banking software company. He is married and has two children. (Van Dyk, Daily Record)
IT’S NOT JUST A TWO MAN RACE IN DISTRICT 3
Former Tabernacle Township Committeeman Justin Murphy announced his candidacy for Congress last night, widening the field for the Republican nomination to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton to three candidates.
Murphy, 42 will vie against Medford Mayor Chris Myers and Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly for the GOP nod in the June 3 primary for the Third Congressional District seat.
Myers has been endorsed by Saxton and the Burlington County Republican Party; Ocean County Republicans are backing Kelly.
The winner will take on Democratic state Sen. John Adler, D-6th, of Cherry Hill in the November general election.
“I'm the candidate who's not machine-backed,” Murphy said before he addressed supporters at the Medford VFW Post 7677 here. “I'll present myself as someone who's above political machines and civil wars people are tired of.” (Mathis, Burlington County Times)
In an attempt to keep the judicial system both transparent and modern, the state Supreme Court has proposed a new set of rules that, if enacted, would grant the public greater access to court documents.
The new policy would make it easier for the general public to understand what information from court records is accessible, would provide even more access to electronic records via terminals inside county courthouses and would make case docket and criminal conviction information available on the Internet.
Information that would be exempt from the public access requirements include personal identification numbers (Social Security numbers), financial documents and banking information under most circumstances, and information from cases handled in the court's Family Division
In January 2006, then-Chief Justice Deborah Poritz formed a special committee to comprehensively review the judiciary's policy governing the public's right to inspect and copy court records.
In a Nov. 29, letter to current Chief Justice Stuart Rabner, Associate Justice Barry T. Albin, who is the chairman of special committee, said he was proud of the report the committee produced.(Spahr, Press of Atlantic City)