Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

What nationalist manifesto, Passaic GOP says
Passaic County Republicans endorsed Joseph Pennacchio for U.S. Senate tonight – the first contest since the publication of a controversial nationalist manifesto that he wrote seventeen years ago. Pennacchio has represented a part of Passaic County in the Legislature since 2001. (PolitickerNJ.com)

Mercer Dems bring yet another challenger to Smith

Among the Mercer County Democrats who gathered for Saturday’s convention were three people who had fought the same fight as Josh Zeitz and lost.

United States Rep. Chris Smith has been beating Democrats in the Fourth Congressional District for 27 years, but the assembled supporters had high hopes for Zeitz.

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) introduced the latest Democratic challenger as a “very accomplished scholar and really exciting candidate.”

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, Washington Township Municipal Chairman Larry Schneider and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) lost to Smith in 1992, 1998 and 2000 respectively.

“I’m celebrating my tenth anniversary this year,” Schneider dead-panned. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Jersey Joe manifesto shakes GOP

State Sen. Joe Pennacchio never had the enthusiastic support of most party leaders for his U.S. Senate candidacy. But just as it seemed like they had no option other than to coalesce around him instead of rival candidate Murray Sabrin, the latest turn in the campaign has caused several leaders to make one last push for a Senate candidate.

The reemergence of Pennacchio’s controversial 1991 booklet yesterday as a campaign issue has worried the party leaders who were already reluctant to get on board with Pennacchio, and they have renewed their efforts to find an alternate candidate. Although the existence of the book was known to many party leaders, many had not read it until Sabrin released it yesterday. Some fear that incumbent Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg will have a field day with the material, leading to a Lautenberg landslide that could spell trouble for their down-ballot candidates.

“We’re still fishing, we just haven’t gotten a fish,” said one Republican official who wished to remain anonymous. “We’ve got a lot of bait in the water.” (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Rothman likes Shulman
Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman endorsed Dennis Shulman for Congress today.

“After meeting with Dennis and hearing about him from people throughout
Northern New Jersey, I am convinced that he will make an excellent Member of ongress, ” said Rothman in a statement.

Shulman, a blind rabbi/psychologist, is vying for the Democratic nomination against Camille Abate to take on Republican Scott Garrett in the fifth congressional district, which borders Rothman’s. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

It’s Sowell versus Lyons in Irvington

Council President John Sowell and Councilman David Lyons stepped up their attacks on each other this week, as each aggressively backs a candidate in the other’s ward in the upcoming Irvington Council race.

Sowell, an eight-year veteran of the council and friend of Mayor Wayne Smith, hopes Gene Etchison bumps Lyons off the council in north Irvington. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Pennacchio defends his manifesto

On the same day Murray Sabrin denounced as “fascist” a work written seventeen years ago by state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris), the two Republican candidates for U.S. Senate intensified their debate at a forum sponsored by the Woodbridge Township Republican Organization.

Sabrin, an economics and finance professor at Ramapo College, last night stood by his characterization of Pennacchio’s self-published work, The Nationalist Agenda, a Blueprint for the 21st Century, as a “fascist manifesto” and reiterated his demand that Pennacchio drop out of the race. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Mercer GOP puts Stender and Pelosi in crosshairs
The Republican congressional candidates vying to succeed Rep. Mike Ferguson last night mostly found common ground by calling for President George W. Bush’s tax cuts to be made permanent, and depicting likely Democratic nominee Assemblywoman Linda Stender as a big government liberal.

A forum sponsored by the Woodbridge Township Republican Organization and held at the Forge, featured Kate Whitman, State Sen. Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon), Warren Township Mayor Victor Sordillo, Scotch Plains Mayor Martin Marks, former Summit Council President Kelly Hatfield, Bridgewater Town Councilman Michael Hsing, Iraq War veteran/ex-Prosecutor Thomas Roughneen, and Seton Hall University business professor A.D. Amar. Of the announced candidates, only former Hillsborough Deputy Mayor Chris Venis was absent. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Witness: James steered business to son

Former Newark mayor Sharpe James attempted to steer city real estate deals to a firm that employed his son, one of the mayor’s yachting companions testified at James’ corruption trial yesterday.

Prentiss Thompson, a former investigator for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, said
he and James have an association that dates back four decades, forged over a shared affinity for boating. They were both members of an organization called the “Rainbow Yacht Club,” he said. (Jeff Whelan, Maryann Spoto, Star-Ledger)

McGreevey divorce case sealed after wild stories emerge

After former Gov. James E. McGreevey and his estranged wife traded public accusations about who did or did not share a bed with them, the judge overseeing the former first couple’s bitter divorce case took steps yesterday to dim the spotlight.

Superior Court Judge Karen Cassidy issued an order to seal all filings, transcripts and future hearings related to the “custody and parenting time” of 6-year-old Jacqueline McGreevey. The judge even sealed the document spelling out her reasoning behind the ruling but said it was with consent of the parties.

The order is likely to affect about half the filings and court proceedings in the case. A hearing scheduled for tomorrow in Elizabeth is still expected to be open to the public.

Cassidy’s directive followed a war of words that started when a former aide, Theodore Pedersen, told The Star-Ledger on Sunday that he had routinely engaged in three-way sex with the couple before McGreevey’s 2001 election as governor. (Judith Lucas and Robert Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)

Corzine staffer to testify in corruption case

Javier Inclan, the former Hudson County clerk who joined Governor Corzine‘s staff last year, is expected to answer questions at an upcoming federal corruption trial about undocumented cash contributions he reportedly passed to Guttenberg’s mayor, two sources said.

Inclan, who currently serves as the governor’s deputy chief of staff, will be called as a witness for the prosecution to detail how he came to deliver what he believed to be a cash-filled envelope to Mayor David Delle Donna, the sources said.

Inclan has not been charged in connection with the case. (Peter J. Sampson, The Record)

Corzine lightly backs health care plan

Gov. Jon Corzine said yesterday he agrees with “the direction” of a health care reform plan unveiled Monday by state lawmakers that gives children high priority when it comes to coverage.

Speaking at a conference in New Brunswick, Corzine called health care reform “a very, very complex problem” but one that must be addressed. And while he acknowledged that the state’s own budget difficulties will make reforming the system difficult, Corzine said he realizes that “often, failure to expend money ends up costing us in the long run.” (Angela Stewart, Star-Ledger)

Corzine sticks by fading toll plan
Governor Corzine refuses to admit that his plan to rescue New Jersey’s finances with steep toll hikes is dead.

He’s still stuck between the first stage of grieving (denial) and the third step (negotiating for Divine Intervention), even though the public and the Legislature have moved to the fifth and final stage (acceptance).

“I am encouraging other ideas,” he said during an interview with The Record’s editorial board last Thursday. It was the closest he came to acknowledging that SOS — the “Save Our State” program — is R.I.P. (Charles Stile, The Record)

Campaign finance, debate changes on tap
New Jersey’s self-financed gubernatorial candidates could still buy their way into state-sanctioned debates in 2009 provided they spend their money for legitimate campaign purposes, under rules proposed by the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Another proposal — aimed at NJN, the state’s publicly run television station — would require stations hosting those debates to notify ELEC within 48 hours of a format change.

The proposals touch on issues that arose in 2005, when two wealthy candidates, Jon S. Corzine and Doug Forrester, eschewed public financing and spent roughly $70 million on their campaigns while lesser-known third-party candidates struggled for attention.

Jeffrey Pawlowski, the Libertarian candidate, loaned his campaign $275,000 and then quickly repaid himself, to meet what at the time was a $300,000 threshold for raising and spending campaign funds to qualify for state debates. (Gregory J. Volpe, Gannett)

Xanadu forced to show the goods
Responding to complaints that the Xanadu retail/entertainment complex rising in the Meadowlands looks “yucky,” the sports authority has demanded a public show-and-tell by the project’s architects.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority’s board “has widespread concern with the current appearance” of Xanadu, Carl Goldberg, the board’s chairman, wrote in a letter to Larry Siegel, president of Meadowlands Xanadu.

At the board’s March 27 meeting, the architects must show Xanadu will look like when it is complete, from its signs to its color schemes, Goldberg wrote.

“We’re sensitive to comments made by the public and in the media,” Goldberg said yesterday. “We’ve all taken great pains to make it clear that this is still a project under construction.” (Maura McDermott, Star-Ledger)

Cape May GOP backs slate
The county’s Regular Republican Organization endorsed incumbent freeholders Daniel Beyel and Ralph Sheets for the county’s primary election.

Will Morey, who announced in February he was challenging the incumbents for the Republican nod, didn’t rule out still seeking a freeholder post this year.

“At this point in time, I’m taking in the process that I’ve just been through. It’s time to reflect on that,” Morey said Tuesday.

Since February, freeholder candidates have appeared before Republican committees in the county municipalities seeking the organization’s endorsement. (Brian Ianieri, Press)

Vineland mayor hopefuls spar on police
In a news conference on Thursday, mayoral challenger Robert Romano accepted the endorsement of the area’s largest police union, Police Benevolent Association Local 266.

He later criticized Mayor Perry Barse for figures presented in a late February press conference. (Jason Laday, Bridgeton News)

And on Wal-Mart, too
Mayor Perry Barse claims one of the plaintiffs in a failed lawsuit to stop Wal-Mart from coming to Landis Avenue is an “active member” of mayoral opponent Robert Romano‘s campaign.

Romano said the mayor’s accusation was unfounded. (Joel Landau, Daily Journal)

Voting machine watchdog panel urged

The ongoing debate over errors in the presidential primary election results led yesterday to a call by a state senator to establish a new government panel tasked to perform more rigorous testing of electronic voting machines.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D- Union) said he was angered that Sequoia Voting Systems, the manufacturer of New Jersey’s 10,000 voting machines, quashed Union County’s plans to have a Princeton University computer expert test nine voting machines that posted errors in the Feb. 5 primary election.

Sequoia threatened to sue Union County if it turned voting machines over to professor Edward Felten at Princeton. The Colorado- based company said the independent analysis would violate its licensing agreement with the county. (Diane C. Walsh, Star-Ledger)

Hamilton budget moves past Gilmore
After six months of budget battles under former Mayor Glen Gilmore and weeks of scrambling on the part of Mayor John Bencivengo‘s administration, the township council has finally adopted the budget for the fiscal year that ends in June.

The council unanimously approved an $80 million spending plan that will lead to a tax rate of $1.06 per $100 of assessed property value, a 25-cent increase.

That rate will result in an annual tax bill of $1,463 for the owner of a home assessed at the $138,000 township average, a $345 increase from last year’s average tax bill.

Council President Dennis Pone called the budget’s adoption “the true end of the Gilmore era” as he voted to approve the last spending plan that included any part of the former mayor’s term of office.

Gilmore’s administration was charged with preparing the budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year, which began in June 2007. (Ryan Tracy, Trenton Times)

Dover mayor won’t translate Web site

Mayor James Dodd is sticking to his opposition to a proposal to translate portions of the town’s official Web site into Spanish, even though a letter that implied that he had changed his mind on the issue was sent to a local pastor earlier this month.

In an interview Tuesday, Dodd disavowed the letter that had been sent in his name to the Rev. Daniel Martinez, pastor of First United Methodist Church.

A group led by Martinez has offered to have volunteers translate portions of the town’s Web site at no cost to the town. The offer came in response to Dodd’s position that cost considerations were one of the reasons he opposed translating any of the site. (Michael Scholl, Daily Record)

Victory Gardens mayor’s ouster upheld
A state appeals court has upheld the recall ouster of former Victory Gardens Mayor Nanette Courtine, ruling voters’ decision in 2006 to replace her with a new mayor was legal, according to court documents released yesterday.

A three-judge panel at the Appellate Division affirmed the 2007 ruling by Superior Court Judge Theodore Bozonelis that found the borough’s November 2006 recall election was absent fraud or corruption.

The court also denied a second appeal by current Mayor Betty Simmons for $1,670 to help defray her legal fees.

Courtine lost the mayoral seat to Simmons by a 121-59 vote after borough residents petitioned for a recall. Some residents complained that she failed to keep the public informed about borough affairs. (Leslie Kwoh, Star-Ledger)

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com