Bigger Dem voter roles look appealing to Jeff Van Drew, Corzine drops 440 toll plan, toll road public benefit corporation would not be transparent, Democratic congressional candidates ou-traise Republicans.
VAN DREW IS GREAT AT NOT COMMITTING
It looked like Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo would get a free pass to re-election – again. But the twists and turns of this presidential election may produce a surprise in the 2nd Congressional District.
It had appeared the Democrats' top prospect, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew, would not run for LoBiondo's House seat. Insiders said the party was ready to concede the district, which covers all or parts of six southern counties. But Van Drew can't be counted out just yet.
Why? On Feb. 5, 1.1 million New Jersey Democrats turned out for the presidential primary. That number shattered records for voting in a state primary.
In addition, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's campaign has revved up young and minority voters. An Obama candidacy could draw huge numbers of Democratic votes in cities like Atlantic City, Pleasantville and Bridgeton.
Suddenly, what seemed at first like a good year for Democrats to run now looks like a potentially historic opportunity for Democrats in New Jersey. (Froonjian, Press of Atlantic City)
“I NEVER BELIEVED HE WAS GOING TO PUT TOLLBOOTHS UP ON THAT ROAD ANYWAY”
Gov. Jon Corzine told a Middlesex County audience yesterday that he no longer expects to add tolls to Route 440 as part of his plan to pay down state debt and fund highway, bridge and transit projects.
Two-thirds of the way through a sometimes heated two-hour-and-15-minute town meeting, Eugene DeMarco of East Brunswick criticized the plan to toll Route 440 and asked Corzine why he thought Middlesex County residents would support it.
"Since it's not central to the plan," Corzine told him, "I don't think we'll be moving forward on that aspect of it."
The remark drew applause and cheers from the 500 people gathered in the East Brunswick High School Auditorium.
"I never believed he was going to put tollbooths up on that road anyway," Alice Mitchell of New Brunswick said as she was leaving the meeting. "But I was happy to hear him say so himself." (Feeney, Star-Ledger)
WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT WHOLE INCREASED TRANSPARENCY PROMISE?
Gov. Corzine would bar the public from examining the inner workings of the toll-road corporation that he wants to create to raise $32 billion, even though it would employ thousands and spend billions of dollars, according to his proposed bill.
Under Corzine's draft legislation for the toll-road monetization plan, the proposed Public Benefit Corp., which would operate more than 334 miles of state roadways and could increase tolls by as much as 800 percent in the next 14 years, would not be subject to the state's Open Public Records Act. By failing to put the PBC under the open records law, it would omit from public scrutiny broad swaths of records from an organization that would have an initial toll revenue of about $900 million.
Not opening the PBC up to full public inspection would be "unconscionable," said state Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, who opposes the monetization plan.
"I'm stunned. This entity would be in control of a significant public asset, and controlling multiple billions of dollars, and billions of billions over the next 99 years," Beck said. "To me, it must be subject to (the Open Public Records Act), so there is transparency for the citizens." (Prado Roberts, Asbury Park Press)
SURPRISE: DEMOCRATS HAVE MORE MONEY
If money were the only predictor of political success, then the Democrats who seek to replace retiring GOP Reps. Mike Ferguson and Jim Saxton would win their bids to take the only two open congressional races in New Jersey this year.
That's because state Assemblywoman Linda Stender and state Sen. John Adler, who are vying for the seats held by Ferguson and Saxton respectively, have more money than any of their Republican opponents, the latest federal campaign filings show.
Stender raised nearly $350,000 from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 and had $502,000 cash on hand, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Adler raised $400,000 in the last quarter and had nearly $591,000 cash on hand, the FEC records show.
Both candidates have "strong support from the party up and down the state," said Richard McGrath, spokesman for the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. "With both seats, we're playing offense on Republican turf. We're doing it . . . with two great candidates." (Chebium, Courier-Post)
THIS COULD BECOME A DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN COMMERCIAL NEXT YEAR: WHY DOES VINCE POLISTINA HATES COLD WAR ERA VETERANS?
TRENTON – As the Assembly on Thursday blitzed through dozens of bills, Assemblyman Vincent J. Polistina refused to sit still.
Over and over again, the freshman Republican from Atlantic County, participating in his first voting session, stood to question how much each initiative would cost the state, even on the most innocuous sounding bills, such as giving certificates to New Jerseyans who served in the military during the Cold War.
It's not that Polistina opposed honoring veterans. He said he favored doing that.
But the bill, Polistina said, would cost the state an estimated $350,000 while it faces a $2.5 billion budget deficit and the threat of massive budget cuts and significant highway toll increases.
"This bill will cost money," Polistina said. "I do not believe this is the right time to be introducing anything that could cost upwards of $350,000." (AP)
DOVER — A dozen Dover residents and one alderman gathered in a choir room at the United Methodist Church Sunday night to raise their voices over concerns the administration in the borough does not address its residents.
Rev. Daniel Martinez invited who he felt were key spokespeople in the town to identify issues stemming from what he calls a disconnect between the administration of Mayor James Dodd and Dover's residents.
Many of the attendees agreed that the town has become a place where elected and appointed officials are abusing the law to raise revenue for the town and drive out immigrants.
"It feels like there is a broken link between the administration and the town," Martinez said. "They say they're listening, but I don't feel any of my concerns that I have brought forward to them have been addressed, and I know I am not alone."
IN JERSEY CITY
As part of the ongoing process to return the Jersey City public school system to local control, state officials have said an election must be held within a year for voters to decide if they want to keep an elected school board or switch to one appointed by the mayor.
But Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy wants a third option – a "hybrid" board consisting of three elected members, three appointed by the mayor, and three positions that would be reserved for higher education officials in Jersey City.
"This isn't my idea," Healy said during a meeting with The Jersey Journal's editorial board last week. "This is something a study group commissioned under former state Education Commissioner (William) Libera came up with during the (Gov. James) McGreevey administration. This idea comes from those who know the business."
The three standing members should be deans of education – or their designees – from St. Peter's College, New Jersey City University, and Hudson County Community College, Healy said. (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – NEWS FROM THE WEEKEND
IF IT ACTUALLY IS DEAD, WHERE WILL REPUBLICANS GO FOR POLITICAL MILEAGE?
"The governor knows, he clearly knows that this bill is never going to pass," said Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, D-Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester. "I don't think it has enough support to get done."
Instead, Sweeney said, the bill is an ongoing process with a public debate that could stretch out until the state adopts a budget at the end of June.
"At the end of the day, I think you will see something different than what is out there now," said Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex. "There will be compromises. I think there will be some things added. I think some things taken away." (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)
NEW JERSEY’S political hue is not just blue these days. It’s cobalt.
In the last two months, the state has become the first in a generation to abolish the death penalty, the first north of the Mason-Dixon line to apologize for slavery and the second, after Maryland, to pledge its Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
A family-leave measure to give employees paid time off to care for a newborn or sick relative appears headed toward approval by the State Legislature. A state commission is urging lawmakers to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour, which would be the highest in the nation.
And voters recently approved borrowing an additional $200 million to save open space in the nation’s most densely populated state — the latest in more than $1.5 billion in borrowing to protect farmland and open space since 1981.
It may not be a surprise that New Jersey, which ranks among the states spending the most on education per student and is one of only four states to recognize gay civil unions, is pursing a course that analysts say is in keeping with the Progressive Era ideals espoused by its former governor, Woodrow Wilson. He described his state as “a sort of laboratory in which the best blood is prepared for other communities to thrive on.” (Peters, New York Times)
THEY DON’T HAVE A VOTE
Gov. Corzine has been building support for his proposal to increase tolls on some of the nation's busiest highways to pay state debt and fund transportation, but from neither the public nor lawmakers who ultimately have to approve it.
Instead, the Democratic governor has focused on luring business executives, congressman, university officials and former public officials to his side.
"I'm proud that this group of individuals, who represent the highest echelons of some of the most important aspects of our society, have the foresight and courage to join me in restructuring New Jersey's fiscal future," Corzine said.
But lawmakers and many state residents remain skeptical and unswayed — so far — by those endorsements. That could prove crucial since lawmakers, elected by the public, will be the ones who decide whether to approve the plan to significantly boost tolls on the Atlantic City Expressway, Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike and add tolls to Route 440. (Hester, AP)
STAR-LEDGER ATTENDS ALL TOLL PLAN MEETINGS – LUCKILY, NOT JUST ONE REPORTER HAD TO GO TO ALL OF THEM
Midway through an unprecedented 21-county series of town hall meetings, Gov. Jon Corzine has addressed 8,000 residents about his plan to revamp New Jersey's finances by raising tolls, and he has faced hundreds of skeptical questions, scattered catcalls and even a few polite cheers.
After 11 meetings, the governor's plan is as controversial as ever, and a growing number of lawmakers say he'll need to make big changes before they support it.
The road show, which makes its 12th stop today in East Brunswick, was crafted by Corzine to persuade residents to shoulder massive toll increases over the next dozen years to pay off half the state's debt and fund road projects.
As Corzine gets peppered by agitated residents in every county, critics contend he is committing the biggest act of political masochism ever seen in New Jersey. Supporters say he's providing a refreshing dose of democracy. (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
NOT QUITE HANDS ACROSS NEW JERSEY
Pigs flew over the State House on Friday afternoon, albeit in the form of balloons sent up by hundreds of protesters lampooning Governor Corzine's plan to fix state finances with highway toll hikes.
The protesters, stoked by radio station hosts and a group of Republican politicians, crowded the steps and sidewalk in front of the State House in Trenton, spilled over into the street and spread across the roadway, blocking traffic and crowding sidewalks.
They held signs reading "No Tolls for Budget Holes" and "Resign Corzine," and danced to protest-themed songs like Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" and Van Halen's version of "Dancing in the Street."
They chanted "No New Tolls" and "Oink, Oink, Oink," a reference to the implicit "Pigs will fly over the State House" metaphor Corzine has been using to support his plan to raise tolls and freeze spending instead of his opponents' calls for just spending cuts.
The loudest moment of the noon protest, however, occurred when several clusters of inflatable pig balloons were released into the air by the protesters.
Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan was one of the participants in the anti-Corzine rally. Lonegan was arrested last month after protesting at one of the town hall meetings Corzine has been holding throughout the state to pitch his plan, which would generate as much as $40 billion by significantly raising highway tolls and borrowing against the future revenue. (Reitmeyer, Bergen Record)
IT’S A BIRD. IT’S A PLANE. IT’S FRANK LAUTENBERG AND RUSH HOLT!
In Democratic presidential politics, the number that matters is 2,025.
That is the number of delegates needed to secure the nomination, and if Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama keep splitting the vote almost evenly, neither will reach it with delegates won in primaries and caucuses.
Which is why Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1st Dist.), who supports Clinton, and Rep. Steven Rothman (D-9th Dist.), who is backing Obama, are furiously lobbying colleagues around the country.
The two congressmen personify the campaign within the campaign, the behind-the-scenes effort to line up the Democrats who may ultimately pick their party's nominee for president.
It is the battle for the 796 superdelegates — the governors, members of Congress and party officials who have an automatic ticket to the convention, are free to vote for the candidate of their choice, and can change their minds at any time. (Schwaneberg and Margolin, Star-Ledger)
YOUNG EVANGELICALS COULD BREAK FOR OBAMA
The young evangelical vote is up for grabs in the 2008 election and may even go to Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
That was the feeling of panelists and some students during a round-table discussion Friday at Princeton University
"I think that Obama is an appealing candidate for younger evangelicals, both for his politics of hope and for his personal Christianity," said Robin Rogers-Dillon, an associate professor of sociology at Queens College. "If it's a race with Hillary Clinton, I think it's almost certain the evangelical vote will go to John McCain. If it's with Obama I think it remains an open question."
Panelist Melani McAlister of George Washington University agreed.
"I think it'll matter a great deal who the Democratic nominee is," said McAlister, an associate professor of American studies and international affairs. "I think Obama's going to pull in a lot of moderate evangelicals if he's the candidate." (DeMarco, Trenton Times)
GET IT? HE’S RUNNING
READINGTON — Iraq War veteran and former assistant prosecutor Tom Roughneen is running for Congress in more ways than one.
Wearing a shirt with his Web site printed across the front, Roughneen jogged up Main Street in the Whitehouse Station section of the township at 8 a.m. Friday. He was flanked by his wife, Dr. Alice Tzeng, his father, Joe, and his brother-in-law, Bowen Tzeng.
"I just thought it was natural," Roughneen said about donning his running shoes on the campaign trail. "The other reason why is that I was finding it very difficult, even with a great staff, to get my workouts in."
The 38-year-old Watchung resident is one name on a long list of Republicans seeking their party's nomination for Congress in the 7th district, which includes parts of Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex and Union counties. (Bricketto, Courier-Post)
THEY SHOULD NAME THE BRETHALYZER TEST AFTER HIM INSTEAD
Officials say it is a fitting tribute to a politician who brought billions of transportation dollars to the state during his years in Congress.
But a Hillsborough family disagrees. They say that naming Route 23 after former Rep. Robert A. Roe is a "horrible" idea, especially after he severely injured a mother and daughter in a 1993 drunken driving accident.
In 2006 several state Assembly members introduced a bill to rename the 50-mile road that runs from Essex County to the New York state border in Sussex County after Roe (D-8th). The 83-year-old Roe served 23 years in the House and was chairman of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee. He retired in 1992.
The bill passed by an overwhelming margin earlier this year and $2,500 was allocated for new road signs.
John Worosila of Hillsborough, in a telephone interview yesterday, said lawmakers should focus more on fixing the roadways and think twice before they hand out naming rights. (Holl, Star-Ledger)
PUT A FORK IN IT
Facing heat over Governor Corzine's unpopular toll plan from the three Republicans vying to run against him in November, Sen. Frank Lautenberg said through a spokesman Thursday that "this is not the time to be raising tolls."
The statement came as developer Anne Evans Estabrook of Spring Lake, state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio of Montville and Ramapo College Professor Murray Sabrin of Fort Lee all tried to tar Lautenberg with the toll issue. The three are seeking the Republican Senate nomination in the June primary.
None said how he or she would fix the state's massive financial problems, but what the hey, this is a campaign. And the tactic of tying a governor's unpopular actions around the neck of a senator from the same party has a long history.
Then-unknown Christie Whitman nearly brought down seemingly invincible Sen. Bill Bradley in 1990 by badgering him to take a position on Gov. Jim Florio's sales and income tax increases. Bradley tried to brush the issue off, saying state government and Congress are separate jobs.. (Jackson, Bergen Record)
Two Republicans battling to succeed U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton have started the year far behind their Democratic challenger.
State Sen. John Adler, D-Camden, has raised more than $600,000 since he launched his campaign in September, while Republican contenders Jack Kelly and Chris Myers say they had not raised $5,000 before the end of the year, despite making known their intention to run shortly after Saxton, R-3rd, announced his retirement Nov. 9.
Under Federal Election Commission regulations, a person does not have to file quarterly reports before he or she has spent more than $5,000. Myers and Kelly would have had to hit that threshold before the end of 2007 to be required to file financial reports by the most recent Jan. 31 deadline.
Political contributors often want proof that candidates have support before they open their checkbooks.
Kelly, an Ocean County freeholder, and Myers, mayor of Medford Township, each say they've since raised at least $150,000, but they haven't reported anything to the FEC. (Previti, Press of Atlantic City)
FACING A POTENTIALLY TOUGH REELECTION? GO AHEAD AND TAKE A DIG AT BUSH
"In light of the lessons learned from recent hurricanes, I would think the (Office of Management and Budget) would do the relatively simple math and realize they are saving taxpayers money by spending a few million now to restore eroded beaches and dunes, rather than spending billions after a hurricane to rebuild our coastal cities," LoBiondo said during a hearing at the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment in Washington, D.C. LoBiondo is the only New Jersey representative on the subcommittee.
In recent years, the president has left beach replenishment out of his budget proposal, and Congress has put the funding in when it passed the final version. (Press of Atlantic City)
IF MANCUSO KEEPS THIS UP, HE CAN GET A HIGHWAY NAMED AFTER HIM
Frederic Bor, the councilman's attorney, said Thursday he has received most of the information he had sought from the city, which had not responded to repeated requests from the case's attorneys and a municipal court judge.
Despite reviewing the new information, Bor said he remains undeterred in his determination to prove his client's innocence and is preparing for a "full blown trial" likely to be scheduled at the start of April.
"We have a strong belief that the prosecution will not be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt," Bor said.
Mancuso was arrested during the early morning hours of April 21 after allegedly driving a city-issued vehicle on the beach. He is charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and driving on the beach without a permit. (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)
Edgewater Borough Attorney Philip N. Boggia's two $600 donations are a mere pittance in the mountain of cash amassed by the Bergen County Democratic Organization.
But a local activist wants him to pay a steep price for his giving.
Valory T. Bardinas, an independent candidate who lost her council bid last year, has asked the state judiciary to mete out "maximum punishment" to Boggia, who is also the municipal judge in Moonachie.
Bardinas, who filed a complaint in December, says the contributions — made in January 2004 and January 2005 — violate rules barring judges from political activity. (Stile, Bergen Record)
IN SALEM COUNTY
The Salem County Republican Organization introduced its three candidates for the Salem County Board of Chosen Freeholders Friday during the annual Lincoln Day Dinner.
The GOP nominees who will vie for the three open seat on the board are Benjamin H. Laury of Elmer, Evern D. Ford of Woodstown and Dale A. Cross from Pennsville.
The freeholder board is currently controlled by Democrats, 6 to 1. Julie Acton, who was elected in November, is the lone Republican member of the board. (Carpenter, Today’s Sunbeam)
An abandoned Bayonne beagle is now mugging for TV cameras. Wandering along Second Street on Jan. 30, the 4-year-old tri-color male was scooped up by a volunteer with Companion Animal Rescue & Education (CARE), a nonprofit animal advocacy group in Bayonne.
"The dog – we named him Scout – needed a bath, but he wasn't starving," CARE President Pamela Lindquist said……….
But Scout also drew the attention of "The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet," a national daytime talk show that airs weekdays on New York's Channel 5.
The show was doing a segment called "Political Pooches," designed to match the presidential candidates to types of dogs. The producers were looking for a beagle as a match for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, said Nancy Carr, CARE's vice president.
"They saw one on our site and they sent a car down (on Friday ) to pick up Scout," Carr said. "They had a pug for (John) McCain, a labradoodle for Hillary (Clinton), and a great dane for (Barack) Obama."