Political allegiances shift after Florida primary, Giuliani will join McCain rally in Hamilton, congressional Dems want Ashcroft to testify on federal monitors, Ken Zisa will run again for Assembly.
CODEY TO OBAMA, VITALE AND SWEENEY TO CLINTON
Senate President Richard Codey is expected to endorse Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to sources close to Codey, who had served as New Jersey Chairman of John Edwards’ campaign.
Edwards announced today that he would be abandoning his run for the presidency.
Mark Alexander, state director of the Obama Campaign, said he did not know about any decision by Codey to back Obama.
"Of course, we would be very happy to have him," said Alexander. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
As the field of presidential contestants narrowed yesterday, much of New Jersey's political class worked to realign itself with the new reality……..
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., along with a chorus of other Republicans who had supported Rudy Giuliani, threw their endorsements to John McCain.
It was a day of frantic phone calls, e-mail alerts, news releases and, of course, political spin.
"This has been a very exciting day," said state Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Mercer), who is leading McCain's campaign in New Jersey.
Similar activity played out around the country as the candidates and their campaigns reached out to the uncommitted and the dispossessed in hopes of securing their endorsements — which often come along with their fundraiser lists and get-out-the-vote organizations. (Margolin, Star-Ledger)
GIULIANI SPONSORS THE EXODUS TO MCCAIN
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who ended his bid for the GOP presidential nomination earlier this evening, is expected to join Sen. John McCain at a rally in Hamilton on Monday — the day before the New Jersey presidential primary.(Editor, PolitickerNJ.com)
Many of the top Republican officials in New Jersey found themselves moving into a new political camp Wednesday.
Once solidly behind Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor they embraced pretty much as a favorite son, the bulk of New Jersey's GOP establishment was preparing to throw its support behind Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Wednesday evening, Giuliani withdrew from the presidential race, endorsed McCain and urged his followers to work for the latter's nomination.
The mayor's supporters in New Jersey are expected to officially announce their intention to do so from the steps of the State House in Trenton today.
"Obviously we're very excited to have them," said Rick DeMichele, the chairman of the Republican Party in Camden County, and one of only three county chairmen in New Jersey to support McCain until now. "Right now the McCain campaign is in full welcoming mode." (Pearsall, Courier-Post)
NOBODY WANTS TO MISS A GOOD OPPORTUNITY TO GRILL ASHCROFT
WASHINGTON — House Democrats announced plans yesterday for a special hearing to examine the Justice Department's use of private monitors in out-of-court settlements and asked former attorney general John Ashcroft to testify about the multimillion-dollar monitoring fees he is collecting for work in a New Jersey case.
In a letter to Ashcroft, U.S. Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) asked him to appear at a Feb. 26 House subcommittee hearing devoted to "the alarming growth of secret corporate monitoring contracts awarded in the settlement of corporate fraud cases."
They said Ashcroft had ignored calls from their staffs and that they hoped he would appear "without resorting to a compulsory process."
The request marked the latest attempt by congressional Democrats to delve deeper into a practice they say has quietly thrived in recent years, opening the door to political favoritism.
It also has given them a fresh opportunity to scrutinize Ashcroft, once a lightning rod in the Bush administration, and U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, the New Jersey Republican who appointed him last fall as monitor to Zimmer Holdings Inc., an Indiana medical device company. Under terms of that contract, Ashcroft's legal and consulting firm will collect between $27 million and $52 million over 18 months. (Martin, Star-Ledger)
ROMNEY MUST HAVE WOOED THEM WITH HIS “WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?” RENDITION
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani is endorsing Sen. John McCain for president, and the McCain camp in New Jersey anticipates welcoming into its collective arms that grim exodus of former Giuliani supporters.
"What will happen, presuming published reports are somewhat accurate, is that a good portion of them will be joining us," said Larry Bathgate, national finance co-chairman of the McCain campaign.
Sen. Joe Kyrillos, state chairman of the Mitt Romney Presidential Campaign,hopes tostem the stampede.Today he corralled at least some former Giuliani partisans, dislodged from Giuliani's ranks after the former mayor's devastating loss in the Florida primary on Tuesday.
They are: Ken LeFevre, former Assemblyman and Atlantic County Republican Chairman; Assemblyman Sam Thompson (District 13); Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (District 12); Bob Prunetti, former Mercer County Executive; John Eckdahl, Mayor of Rumson; Jim Allen, former Mayor of Morris Township and Chester Township; and Luis Linares of the Republican Hispanic Association. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)
HEY NIBOT, GET BACK TO WORK
Rudy Giuliani's volunteers led a final push to pull off a victory in Florida's primary Tuesday from a remote location — the Bergen County Republican Organization clubhouse in Hackensack.
About a dozen supporters huddled in a hive of phone carrels, making a last-ditch dial up for Floridians who had not cast their ballots by late afternoon. It was a grim, all-business setting. Boxes of pizza sat ignored. Clara Nibot of Bergenfield was urged to cut the chatter and get back to her list of Cuban-American voters in Miami-Dade County.
"He is very popular there and I think we'll do alright," said Nibot, who is Cuban-American.
But by Wednesday, the Rudy Warriors had been urged to cast their lot (and voter call lists) to Sen. John McCain, winner of the Florida primary. Giuliani, the onetime front-runner, the hero of 9/11, the household name who Bergen Republicans hoped would generate turnout for local slates in the fall, limped into third place in Florida and onto a California stage the next day to endorse his "old friend," McCain.
That swift chain of events ignited an intra-party Republican competition for Rudy's Refugees, even before the final Florida totals had been tallied.
Emboldened McCain allies are eager to roll out the results of their recruitment drive at a news conference in Trenton this morning — a lineup of county chairmen and other former Giuliani loyalists who jumped on the McCain "Straight Talk Express" bandwagon, including Bergen County Chairman Robert Ortiz……..
The Rudy collapse is just another illustration where conventional wisdom — as well as polling — has failed to chart this volatile presidential primary frenzy, Romney backers say. Party endorsements are nice, but mean little to rank-and-file voters getting watching the race unfold on television and blogs. And while polls show McCain leading in New Jersey, Romney supporters cite exit polls in Florida, showing McCain and Romney as second choices for Giuliani voters. (Stile, Bergen Record)
AFTER SUPER TUESDAY
With voters in two dozen states ready to have their say next week in the presidential nomination contests, former president Bill Clinton is scheduled to campaign for his wife this weekend in … Ohio, which holds its primary March 4.
That's one sign the campaigns are already looking past the Feb. 5 "Super Tuesday" cluster of primaries and caucuses to the follow-up rounds in big states like Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania that may yet decide each party's winner.
But while next Tuesday's balloting won't clinch the Republican or Democratic nomination, it could produce a clear leader in one or both parties, with momentum that could prove hard to resist.
"February 5 is not going to give anyone enough delegates for the nomination, but it should produce a clear favorite and a challenger," said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Washington-based Rothenberg Political Report. At that point, he said, perceptions of "inevitability" come into play and the challenger in each party must decide whether it's worth pursuing the race further. (Farmer, Star-Ledger)
WILL THIS BE A PRIMARY BATTLE, OR WILL GORDON JOHNSON GO QUIETLY?
HACKENSACK — City Police Chief Ken Zisa said Wednesday he will run for a state Assembly seat in 2009.
The police chief served as a Democratic assemblyman for eight years but left office to run for sheriff in 2001. He lost, and has since made several aborted attempts to get back into the state Legislature.
"I've had a desire to go back to the Legislature," Zisa said Wednesday. "It's widely known in political circles."
Zisa's run would set the stage for a Democratic primary in the 37th District with Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, assuming that both incumbents decide to run again. (Kindergan, Bergen Record)
IF HE EXAMINED KEAN, JR.’S POLITICAL INSTINCTS, LANCE WOULD RUN THE OTHER WAY
Union County's senior ranking Republican, Sen. Thomas Kean Jr., threw his support yesterday to Sen. Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon), endorsing Lance for the GOP nomination to the 7th Congressional District seat to succeed Rep. Mike Ferguson.
The 7th District spans four counties, Hunterdon, Somerset, Union and a small portion of Middlesex. With at least eight Republicans now seeking the party's nomination, Kean's decision is expected to help his longtime friend.
However, it appears the district's legislative delegation is not in complete agreement. Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union) confirmed that he and Assemblyman Eric Munoz will be endorsing former Summit Councilwoman P. Kelly Hatfield, who is also seeking the party's nomination.
If the candidate field wasn't crowded enough, Bridgewater Councilman Michael Hsing yesterday declared his candidacy for the congressional seat. (Gluck, Star-Ledger)
ALL RALLIED OUT
Supporters of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama flocked by the hundreds to rallies in Montclair and Hackensack on Wednesday as Democratic Party leaders drummed up support for Super Tuesday.
"This is serious business, this democracy," said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, who backs Clinton. "Between now and next Tuesday, we have a lot of work to do."
The speakers at the rallies — one for Clinton at Montclair State University, and the Obama event at the Hackensack Civic Center — were a Who's Who of Democrats in North Jersey.
They focused on the contrasts between the two candidates: Clinton's roster of New Jersey political insider endorsements versus Obama's grass-roots support on one side, Clinton's experience versus Obama's call for change on the other. (Bautista and Akin, Bergen Record)
Jack Kelly and Chris Myers, the two leading candidates for the Republicans’ third district congressional nomination, have both indicated that they plan to keep their primary contest gentlemanly despite strong pushes from each of their counties’ Republican organizations.
“What you don’t want to turn this into is us against them,” Kelly, an Ocean County Freeholder, told PolitickerNJ.com in November. “We need to assure them that the needs of the district come first. Which one of us becomes a successful candidate comes second.”
But are the candidates merely paying lip service to civility this early in the race, or will they actually be able to live up to the idea?
If the 1984 primary race for the seat is any indication — the last time there was a competitive primary in the district and Burlington and Ocean Counties went head-to-head – then yes, the contest may very well remain civil. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)
NOBODY SAID IT WOULD BE EASY
For Gov. Jon Corzine, it was another day of mixed messages for his controversial plan to revamp state finances through higher tolls.
A poll released early yesterday showed stiff public resistance to the plan. But the Democratic governor got a new round of endorsements from leaders in business, unions and education — as well as some Republicans.
Supporters of the plan said they've created a non-profit group to build grassroots backing. But in Cranford last night, some residents told Corzine they don't believe it will all work — the same public skepticism that dominated Corzine's first five town meetings.
Corzine aims to raise up to $38 billion by selling bonds against a long-term commitment to raise tolls. He wants to pay down half the state's $32 billion debt and fund transportation and open space projects for decades. His plan also calls for limits on future state spending and borrowing. (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
IT’S OFFICIAL: STEVE LONEGAN ACTUALLY IS GANDHI
Less than two weeks after a former New Jersey mayor and a former freeholder were arrested during a protest of Gov. Corzine's toll-hike proposal, Atlantic County freeholders have passed a resolution they hope will prevent a similar incident when the governor stages a town hall meeting here next Thursday.
The unanimous vote to reaffirm citizens' constitutional rights of free speech and protest came Tuesday night after freeholders viewed a video showing former Atlantic County Freeholder Seth Grossman and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan being arrested at a public meeting held by Corzine in Cape May Court House on Jan. 19.
"I was very surprised when I saw the videotape," Atlantic County Freeholder James Curcio said yesterday. "It was our belief that the First Amendment rights of the protesters were violated there, and we didn't want that sort of thing happening in Atlantic County." (Urgo, Philadelphia Inquirer)
CHRIS CHRISTIE WOULD PROBABLY PREFER THAT THIS STORY GET MORE ATTENTION THAN THE MUKASEY TESTIMONY
A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted former Passaic City Councilman Jonathan Soto on charges of pocketing $22,000 in bribes from undercover operatives seeking his help in obtaining lucrative municipal and school contracts.
The 15-count indictment adds two misdemeanor charges of attempted drug possession to the conspiracy and extortion allegations that were first outlined in a criminal complaint at the time of Soto's Sept. 6 arrest.
"These guys are comedians, man," Soto said by telephone Wednesday. "I don't even know anything about it. I've been indicted on drug charges?"
Soto, fellow Passaic Councilman Marcellus Jackson, city Mayor Sammy Rivera and former Assemblyman Alfred E. Steele of Paterson were among 11 officials rounded up in an FBI sting operation that stretched from Atlantic County to North Jersey. Six of the officials, including Jackson and Steele, have since pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and are awaiting sentence.
WOW. HE’S OLDER THAN FRANK LAUTENBERG
It's been more than two decades since Sidney Schreiber doffed his black robes for the last time and stepped down from the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Now the oldest living member of the high court at age 93, Schreiber has spent most of his retirement from the bench pursuing his devotion to the law, only recently reducing his day-to-day workload. Since moving to Florida a few years ago, he has slowed down on the hands-on legal work, but continues to follow politics and current events.
For years after he retired, Schreiber dedicated himself to reading the court's opinions, working on cases, mentoring and coaching lawyers through trials and appeals and scholarly legal study.
"The responsibility and the nature of the work — it was a great experience," Schreiber said in a recent telephone interview. "It is very important to understand the standpoint of society in a matter. It is never simply a case of 'A' against 'B.' I always tried to think of the larger implications." (Coscarelli, Star-Ledger)
WHO WILL THEY CHOOSE?
More than five times as many Republicans have been added to the rolls in Ocean County than Democrats as New Jersey prepares for the Super Tuesday presidential primary.
But the largest pool of voters, those unaffiliated with either party, could have a big impact on the outcome, according to Robert F. Giles, a Republican supervisor with the county Board of Elections.
"It depends on how many unaffiliated voters go to the polls and declare (affiliation with a party)," Giles said.
State law allows voters who were never affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties to vote in one of the presidential primaries Tuesday. However, voting in either party's primary affiliates the voter with that party in voter registration records. (Bennett, Asbury Park Press)
THE FIRST AMENDMENT IS BACK AT MONTCLAIR STATE
Montclair State University's campus newspaper will be back in the hands of students today, despite a funding dispute with the Student Government Association that has drawn national attention.
At a rancorous SGA meeting that began yesterday afternoon and lasted more than five hours, the student association approved a measure to release funding for publication of the weekly Montclarion student newspaper. Funds were frozen last week in a dispute over closed SGA meetings and a lawyer hired to advise the newspaper.
The measure restores funding for a 30-day "cooling off period," during which the two sides are to seek a resolution with the help of a university administration mediator.
"Essentially, we bought ourselves 30 days," Editor-in-Chief Karl de Vries said, though adding he was not happy with the outcome. "It's still far short of what should have taken place. The SGA should have recognized its mistake and approved our budget up and down the line." (Larini, Star-Ledger)
EVERYTHING THAT TOUCHES THIS COMMISSION TURNS TO….
The Burlington County Democrats are calling for the Republican chairman of the county bridge commission to resign after he was charged with driving under the influence last week.
John B. Comegno II, 35, also was charged with reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and other offenses after his BMW was found on top of a neighbor's mailbox near his home in Moorestown last Thursday night, police said.
He refused to take a Breathalyzer test.
"He's chairman of a public agency that has had a troubling history related to the decisions the leadership makes, and the decision to drink and drive is a horrific choice and reflects absolutely bad judgment," said Rick Perr, chairman of the county Democrats. (Katz, Courier-Post)
HAMILTON — A new era of cooperation has dawned in Hamilton, one that U.S. Rep. Chris Smith says has not been seen in nearly a decade.
Smith, R-Hamilton, met with new Republican Mayor John Bencivengo yesterday in an effort to rebuild the federal-municipal partnership that the congressman said frayed under the past administration.
"Hamilton was the only township in my district where I did not have a partnership with the mayor and after eight years that has been restored," Smith said.
Smith said Bencivengo, who took office Jan. 1, inherited a "colossal mess" and to the extent he can help, he will.
"We won't allow the mess to inhibit the flow of federal resources, and we will work as aggressively as possible to help the people of Hamilton Township," Smith said. (Isherwood, Trenton Times)
HE CAUGHT THE EVILDOER
VINELAND – A weeklong investigation by Mayor Perry Barse into the nabbing of five cardboard placards he brought to City Council came to a head Wednesday – but not before it caused the disciplining of a police officer.
At a press conference, Barse screened surveillance footage that appeared to show an erstwhile political rival leaving City Hall with placards Barse said he had made to illustrate a talk at City Council.
The placards, each 2 feet square, had been left on a table outside council chambers, he said.
Barse projected the footage – which showed a man resembling Adam Goldstein, who ran for City Council against one of Barse's slate last fall, carrying the signs – saying he had unmasked the "wrongdoer." (Fletcher, Press of Atlantic City)
WHAT A WAY TO TELL SOMEONE THEY’RE FIRED
ESTELL MANOR – As council members voted one by one Wednesday night, City Clerk Alison Bradford typed more vigorously, audibly so, as she and the other two dozen people in the room discovered she was about to lose her job.
Bradford recorded the council's 3-2 approval of Kimberley Hodsdon, who quit as Northfield deputy clerk on Friday, to replace her immediately after 29 months as acting clerk.
Mayor Joseph Venezia nominated Hodsdon because, he said, the state's Department of Community Affairs requires a town to go no more than three years without a registered municipal clerk, a certification Hodsdon has. Bradford failed the test for that certification in September – getting a 78 percent, short of the required 80 percent, she said – and was scheduled to take the test again April 11.
Venezia didn't want to wait that long.
"The next test is in April, then we're getting really close to the drop-dead date" in August, Venezia said after the meeting. "I wanted to get this done sooner rather than later." (Cambell, Press of Atlantic City)
One politically connected Bayonne school official may be trading in his old job for a new one.
Michael Pierson, who mounted an unsuccessful bid for a Third Ward council seat on a ticket led by former Mayor Joseph V. Doria Jr. in 2006, is a candidate for the newly created job of assistant school business administrator.
Friday was the deadline for applications for the position and School Business Administrator Cliff Doll confirmed that Pierson was among about 25 applicants.
Doll said that Pierson, currently the district's athletic director, was one of four applicants whom he previously taught business education as an adjunct professor at St. Peter's College, Jersey City. Doll didn't name the others.
If Pierson gets the job, it's expected that he would step down as athletic director, sources said. (Leir, Jersey Jounral)
DOUBLE DIPPER!!! OH WAIT, NEVERMIND
FLORHAM PARK — The chief of the Morris County Park Police now has a second — albeit unpaid — job: borough councilman.
Bill Huyler, 45, a Park Police veteran, has been appointed to the council seat vacated by Scott Eveland, who became mayor this month.
The all-Republican council voted unanimously during its Tuesday meeting to pick Huyler, Eveland said.
"I look forward to working with the current council," Huyler said. "I'm honored at the faith they have in me and my abilities." (Padmandabhan, Daily Record)