Today’s news from

Clinton comes to Camden County, current Democratic race reminds insiders of 1968, African-American politicos split on Bill Clinton, Codey tosses

Clinton comes to Camden County, current Democratic race reminds insiders of 1968, African-American politicos split on Bill Clinton, Codey tosses around idea of leasing the state lottery.


Former President Bill Clinton, more than ever a campaign issue himself, comes to South Jersey today to rally support for his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

The doors for the rally at the Papiano Gymnasium at Camden County College in Blackwood will open to the public at 10:15 a.m.

"No tickets or RSVPs will be necessary," said Brendan Gilfillan, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign in New Jersey. "But people may want to get there early.

The message from the former president, who came under attack last week for his aggressive campaigning against Barack Obama in South Carolina, will be positive, Gilfillan said.

The message from the former president, who came under attack last week for his aggressive campaigning against Barack Obama in South Carolina, will be positive, Gilfillan said. (Pearsall, Courier-Post)


Working guard duty at Fort Dix in 1968, 22-year old government issueRay Lesniak counted himself a fortunate onebecause he didn'tget shipped off toVietnam.

"Even though Iain't no senator's son," said the senator, 40 years later now, quoting the Creedence Clearwater Revivial song lyrics from the older era.

He was into politics even then, and he liked Sen. Robert Kennedy for president.

"I was a huge supporter," he said.

For insiders like Lesniak who have been immersed in Democratic Party stand-offsfor decades, the primaryrumblebetween senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama bears traces of that 1968 match-up between establishment warhorse Hubert Humphrey and tousle-headed rock star Kennedy. (Pizarro,


Rep. Frank Pallone said that he hoped the days of a politicized Department of Justice were over when Alberto Gonzales resigned.

But so far, he has not been pleased with Gonzales’s successor, Michael Mukasey – at least not based on his response to Pallone’s concerns about deferred prosecution agreements, like the one that allowed U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie to give his former boss, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, an oversight contract worth up to $52 million.

Pallone wrote two letters to the Justice Department – one in December and one in January—and has still not received a response to either. He’s already introduced legislation regulating the practice of dolling out deferred prosecution agreements.

“It’s no surprise to me that the Department of Justice is stonewalling,” said Pallone. “Bush has had three Attorney Generals now — all political. I don’t think they uphold the law and they just can’t be trusted to do the right thing.”


The ranking African-American woman in the New Jersey Assembly calls former President Bill Clinton "an asset" to his wife's campaign.

The ranking African-American woman in the state Senate blames Bill Clinton for injecting race into the presidential campaign.

For better or worse, the former president is scheduled to lead a rally today in Camden County in support of Sen. Hillary Clinton's bid to become the nation's first woman president.

Before South Carolina's primary Saturday, Bill Clinton spent more time in that state than his wife did — and in the process became the focus of controversy over whether the Clinton campaign was going too far in its attacks on her top rival, Sen. Barack Obama, who is seeking to be the nation's first black president.

Following Obama's big victory in that state, the Clintons need to reach out to voters in places like Camden County, according to Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University.

"Senator Clinton needs to shore up her support within the cities, within the African-American communities in particular," Harrison said. "One of his roles will be to motivate older African-American voters." (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)


As Gov. Jon Corzine went to Camden County last night to make his case for higher tolls to revamp the state's finances and fund transportation projects, Senate President Richard Codey advanced another idea to raise cash: leasing the New Jersey Lottery to a private operator.

Codey (D-Essex) said he wants to ask voters this November to approve a measure that would allow the state to lease the lottery. He said it might raise as much as $10 billion and could help reduce the toll increases included in Corzine's plan.

"I think we need to keep all of our financial options open at the moment," said Codey.

Corzine last night faced about 600 people at a school in Voorhees, more than a week after a political furor erupted when conservative activist Steven Lonegan was arrested outside a town meeting the governor held in Cape May County. (Donohue and Hepp, Star-Ledger)


With one week to go before Super Tuesday, when New Jersey is among two dozen states holding presidential primaries or caucuses, here is what the leading candidates' campaigns have planned in the state so far:


Sen. Hillary Clinton: Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, addresses a rally at Camden County College in Blackwood this morning. The campaign also plans a get-out-the-vote push highlighted by a Saturday bus tour featuring Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). "It's going to be aggressive," said Michael Muller, Clinton's No.2 campaign official in the state. "We're going to get our field army out there."

Sen. Barack Obama: The campaign now considers New Jersey "completely in play," state director Mark Alexander said. He said the Obama team is planning a two-front push of local grassroots organizing and larger rallies. While schedules remain in flux, Alexander said a main event this week will be a Hackensack rally tomorrow night led by Rep. Steve Rothman. And the campaign is trying to organize a rally with former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), though Alexander said he could not discuss events that have not been formally scheduled. (Margolin, Star-Ledger)


Seventh district congressional candidate Kate Whitman does not want to distance herself from her mother. But at a candidate forum on Thursday night, she did draw a distinction, describing herself as “more conservative than my mother.”

In terms of Kate Whitman’s candidacy, being the daughter of former two term Republican governor Christine Todd Whitman cuts both ways.

Whitman’s name recognition helped get her a place as one of the most high profile candidates in the crowded seventh district Republican field. And she managed to raise $200,000 during the first quarter of 2007 – more than any other candidate (even if some, like state Senator Leonard Lance, were not yet raising money). At least some of that money came from contacts made through her mother, though Whitman said that there are new donors as well.

But Christie Whitman’s name, with its pro-choice connotations and the memories of budgets past– is mud to a lot of conservative voters. And those are the types who typically turn out for primaries. (Friedman,


New Jersey promised to pick up the tab for the Feb. 5 presidential primary, but county election officials are questioning whether the $10.3 million that was budgeted for the historic event is enough.

Towns and county governments usually cover most election costs. State Democratic Chairman Joseph Cryan said when the Legislature voted to switch the primary election from June to February, the state vowed to pay the expenses in hopes of deflating opposition to the move.

"It was done so the counties wouldn't howl," said Cryan, who is also an assemblyman from Union County.

As the primary approaches, however, election officials doubt whether $10.3 million will cover all the bills. The state election division sent notices to the county election board listing all the costs that may be reimbursed including: ballot printing, board workers salaries, mailings, overtime for office staff, polling place rentals, publication of election notices and transporting voting machines. (Walsh, Star-Ledger)


Employees coping with the demands of a new child or a sick loved one would be entitled to six weeks of paid leave under a bill roundly criticized by business leaders but approved by a Senate committee yesterday.

Previous versions of the paid leave bill — introduced a dozen years ago — sought 12 weeks, then 10 weeks, of paid time off. The latest iteration seeks a six-week leave of absence, in order to gain the support of business owners.

The compromise did little to sway representatives from state and regional chambers of commerce, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association and the N.J. Hospital Association, among others.

The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved the bill 8-6, amid predictions that its adoption was "another nail in the coffin" of the state's business community.

"This legislation will have a significant negative impact on business throughout the state, especially small business," Sen. Leonard Lance said before he voted against the bill (S786). He said New Jersey would be the first state on the East Coast to enact a paid family leave insurance program, which may drive businesses out of state. (Livio, Star-Ledger)


Republican Bob Franks sat at the center of the State House cafeteria and at the center of attention Thursday, and for good reason — he's Jon Corzine's New Best Friend.

People angled over to his table, eager to make eye contact or offer an air-smooch of support. Veteran lobbyist Aladar Komjathy fondly recalled how Franks had prophesied that Democrats would be routed from power by voters in full boil over then Gov. Jim Florio's $2.8 billion in tax hikes.

"I remember the good old days,'' Komjathy told Franks, recalling the time when he worked as an aide for a Mercer County senator in 1991. "You told me a weekend ahead of time, 'Heads up, my man.' I'll never forget that."

But Franks' main job these days — much to the consternation of the Republican Party — is to give a "heads up" to Governor Corzine. The wily Republican, who helped engineer a GOP revival 17 years ago by demonizing a Democratic governor, is now defending one. (Stile, Bergen Record)


Rep. Robert Andrews signed onto Gov. Jon S. Corzine's controversial plan to restructure the state's finances Monday, warning that doing nothing could jeopardize projects like the expansion of mass transit into Gloucester County.

"There's a lot of talk about the cost of the governor's plan," said Andrews, D-1st Dist., of Haddon Heights, standing with Corzine against the backdrop of the Atlantic City Expressway. "The real issue is, what is the cost of doing nothing?"

The centerpiece of Corzine's plan would raise tolls on the state's three limited-access highways by 50 percent every four years from 2010 to 2022 in order to generate state revenue. The proceeds would pay down half the state's debt and fund a 75-year transportation improvement plan.

Corzine has committed $250 million for the extension of the PATCO High Speedline into Gloucester County. (Graber, Gloucester County Times)


President Bush's final State of the Union address Monday night missed its mark locally, with several residents in Monmouth and Ocean counties saying they were either underwhelmed or simply regarded the speech as irrelevant.

As the president used part of his address to prod Congress toward an economic stimulus package and additional funding for the Iraq war, he was greeted locally by skepticism and a certain weariness.

Some said they didn't even care to listen.

"There is nothing he has to say that could interest me," said George Cinque, a registered Republican from Millstone Township. "I voted for him twice, but I'm just utterly disappointed." (Johnson, Asbury Park Press)


A member of the State Parole Board and veteran social worker was nominated yesterday by Gov. Jon Corzine to serve as executive director for the Juvenile Justice Commission.

Veleria Lawson of Manalapan served as a social worker for the Middletown and Lakewood districts, working on their child study teams for a collective 23 years, At torney General Anne Milgram said late yesterday.

Lawson, appointed to the Pa role Board in 2004, is one of two members assigned to review juvenile cases. She interviews youth, helps them develop future goals, and links them to community programs to ease their transition from juvenile justice and correction facilities. (Livio, Star-Ledger)


A former administrator at Camden's H.B. Wilson Elementary School pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to steal more than $14,000 that was supposed to pay for student field trips.

Patricia Johnson, 58, of Atco, also admitted to trying to bill the school board $25,000 for attending meetings that never took place.

She faces three to five years in prison at her sentencing on Sept. 22, and she has agreed to testify against three codefendants in the case, the state Attorney General's Office said.

The case against them is the only one to emerge from a sweeping criminal probe that state investigators launched into spending practices and alleged test rigging in the Camden schools in 2006. (Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer)


TRENTON — City communications director Irving Bradley, the target of a residency complaint, said he has moved to the city but that it is no one's business where he stays on weekends.

The complaint against Bradley comes amid a furor over the residency of city Police Director Joseph Santiago.

Bradley said he is renting an apartment in the Broad Street Bank building and began moving his possessions there about 10 days ago.

Bradley said he would live in the city from Monday through Friday, adding "what I do outside of that is my business." (Kitchenman, Trenton Times)


Governor Corzine and some state politicians are making the trip to Arizona to support Big Blue, even though the high cost of tickets and airfare are preventing a traditional Trenton feeding frenzy.

They can take advantage of a direct line to the New York Giants via the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. But forget about a State House rush, courtesy of lobbyists who already wine and dine New Jersey's elected leaders.

Most Super Bowl tickets have a face value of $700 to $900, well above the $250 threshold New Jersey law sets for legislators who accept gifts from Trenton lobbyists. And the price of tickets from most online auction sites was far higher than that Monday — $2,300 to $2,600.

Corzine, however, is heading to Arizona later this week and will watch the game with a group that will include his two sons, his son-in-law and his girlfriend's son, said press secretary Lilo Stainton. (Reitmeyer, Bergen Record)



While noting Essex County's success in upgrading parks, improving county buildings and reaching out to the poor, Executive Joseph DiVincenzo had a stern message for residents last night: Tough financial times are ahead.

"These are challenging economic times, and we can no longer afford to do things as we did in the past," he said to a standing-room-only crowd at the Essex County Hospital in Cedar Grove.

During his fifth "state of the county" speech, DiVincenzo listed achievements that were accomplished during the past year — everything from operating the county jail without federal oversight to preserving endangered animals at the county-owned Turtle Back Zoo.

But he cautioned that aside from construction projects being paid for with state, federal and corporate dollars, there is no extra money at the county level. DiVincenzo said he used half of the county's $35 million surplus to balance this year's budget, continued a hiring freeze and cut 15 administrative positions. (Moore, Star-Ledger)



RAMSEY — Richard Muti was known as a tough-talker who was keen on having has way during the four years he served as the mayor of Ramsey.

He battled employee unions over health benefits, took the lead in getting a local pay-to-play law on the books and questioned spending on a Board of Education project.

Some call him a bully. Others marvel at his willingness to follow his principles to the end — even if it were detrimental to him. For example, his was fired from the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office 10 months shy of earning full retirement benefits, for criticizing his boss.

Voted out of office in 2006, Muti returns to public life this month with the release of a book: "Passion, Politics and Patriotism in Small-Town America: Confessions of a Plain-Talking, Independent Mayor." (Pries, Bergen Record)


TOMS RIVER – After being indicted last week by an Ocean County grand jury on eluding charges, former Stafford Township mayor Wesley K. Bell has something to smile about.

Bell filed a harassment complaint with the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office involving Sheriff's Officer Ronald Palmieri, the officer Bell is accused of eluding in November. Now the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office is ordering the Ocean Sheriff's Department to take appropriate action.

The complaint against Palmieri alleges that the sheriff's officer harassed Bell, according to a letter sent from the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office to Ocean County Sheriff's Department Chief Jeff Thompson. The Prosecutor's Office is now requesting that a "professional standards investigation and evaluation be conducted," according to Captain Jack Sramaty of the Prosecutor's Office.

Bell was arrested in November and charged with eluding police after leading Palmieri on a 10-mile pursuit. (Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)



Robert Romano doesn't want to do what his father did.

He wants to do it even better.

Mayoral candidate Romano is the son of the late former Vineland Mayor Joseph E. Romano.

In the May 13 municipal election, Romano faces incumbent Mayor Perry Barse and Nick Girone, a former city school board member.

he city has seen unprecedented residential growth since Joseph Romano left office in 1996.

That's why, Robert Romano said, he would devote all his attention to the mayor's job, even though it's technically a part-time position.

"I will be a full-time mayor," Romano said last week during a South Jersey Focus meeting with Daily Journal editors. (Zatzariny, Daily Journal)


The Hillside Township Council leadership's willingness to work with those who disagree with it is being questioned not only by Mayor Karen McCoy Oliver, but the two independent members of the governing body.

Shelley Bates and Gerald Freedman engaged in terse ex changes with the council president and vice president during a public meeting last week, prompting residents in the audience to call for an end to hostilities.

"This is something of critical importance to township residents, and I just don't understand how she can sit there and vote 'no,'" council vice president John Kulish said after Bates cast the dissenting vote on an amendment to the proposed 2008 municipal budget.

"Excuse me, point of order, Mr. council president," Bates promptly requested.

However, council president Leonard Gilbert ruled Kulish had the right to comment before casting his vote. (Jett, Star-Ledger)




TOMS RIVER — The township has hired a former newspaper reporter to serve as a public relations coordinator, officials said.

Angela Santoriello, 36, of Toms River will make $42,000 a year in her new position, according to the township. She previously covered Toms River as a reporter for the Ocean County Observer for more than a year, until earlier this month. She then briefly covered southern Ocean County for the Asbury Park Press.

Officially, Santoriello has been hired into an administrative secretary position, which recently became vacant because of a maternity leave, said Robert Chankalian, township administrator. She will provide office, administrative, secretarial and community relations assistance. (Kidd, Asbury Park Press)

  Today’s news from