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No looking back on Pennacchio
There’s still no shortage of party leaders scrambling to find alternative candidates to Joe Pennacchio and Murray Sabrin in the Republican Senate primary, but Pennacchio’s support has not seemed to waver the counties where he’s already won the party line.

In Hunterdon County, no doubts have been raised in GOP Chairman Henry Kuhl’s mind about the viability of Pennacchio’s candidacy. (Friedman,

Sabrin: Let them drink beer; Pennacchio: Sabrin on the “fringe”
U.S. Senate candidate Murray Sabrin has found a novel way to appeal to young voters: let them drink.

Sabrin is kicking off his Legalizing Freedom College Tour by calling on the elimination of the national minimum drinking age of 21 in favor of allowing states to come up with their own ages.

Over the next month, Sabrin will visit four New Jersey college campuses to try to get youngsters riled up for his campaign. He’s planned stops at William Paterson University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Brookdale Community College. (Matt Friedman,

Camden County mayors give budget the raspberry
Mayors from across Camden County gathered at a community center here Wednesday to deliver a singular message to Gov. Jon S. Corzine:

The budget he's proposing is madness for municipalities that are trying to provide decent services for their residents.

"While we work diligently to share services, cut spending and provide adequate services to our public, the governor's proposed state aid cuts are forcing us to not only raise our local property taxes but lay off staff and eliminate services in key safety and infrastructure areas," said Phyllis Magazzu, mayor of Berlin Township and president of the Camden County Mayors Association, which organized Wednesday's meeting. (Lisa Gryzboski, Courier-Post)

Hey “Abbott”! Corzine doesn’t want to pay anymore

The Corzine administration is asking the state Supreme Court to deem its new school funding formula constitutional, a move that would all but remove the "Abbott" designation given to the state's poorest districts.

The papers submitted Tuesday ask the Supreme Court to free the state from the requirements the court has placed through the years to equalize education funding in districts rich and poor — except a mandate to fund school construction, for which state officials plan to borrow another $2.5 billion.

The new funding formula, known as the School Funding Reform Act, adopted by the Legislature at a frenzied pace during its January lame-duck session to be implemented for the 2008-09 school year, aims to shift the way the state doles out its education dollars from the wealth of a municipality to a child-based formula that focuses on individual students' needs and risks. (Gregory J. Volpe, Gannett)

Greenwald says towns can raise taxes

Mayors should have the option of imposing new municipal taxes to pay for local services, a key lawmaker said Wednesday.

Assemblyman Louis Greenwald, D-Camden, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, said giving towns other choices for raising revenue, at a time when mayors are reeling from proposed cuts in state aid, will allow each municipality to decide if it is willing to pay more for higher levels of services. (Jonathan Tamari, Gannett)

Does anyone want to take on LoBiondo?
Although state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) still hasn’t formally decided whether to challenge Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor) in the Second Congressional District, most Democrats assume he’s not going to make a run for it.

And with fewer than three weeks remaining to file a petition, no candidates have put their names forward.

“I’m unaware of anyone that has surfaced, and I’m disappointed about that because I think now is as good a time as any to pose a really credible challenge to making the seat a Democratic seat,” said Atlantic County Democratic insider Damon Tyner, a former candidate for state Assembly. (Friedman,

Passaic GOP gets started on freeholder bids
Two Republican freeholder candidates launched their campaigns by targeting Passaic County's tax increases, spending and its claim that it needed to borrow $10 million to avoid a shutdown.

The Passaic County Regular Republican Organization on Tuesday night endorsed former Ringwood Mayor Jerry Holt to make a second bid for freeholder this year after an unsuccessful run in 2007.

Holt will run alongside newcomer Michael Marotta of Wayne, a maintenance and construction supervisor at the Passaic Valley Water Commission who also gained the party's endorsement. (Paul Brubaker, The Record)

Russo recycles campaign

The "Bob Russo for Freeholder" poster was propped up inside Mango's Reggae Café as loyalists filed in and out of the Montclair eatery, stopping by a table manned by Russo's wife, Christine, to sign petitions to get him on the countywide ballot.

But you had to look close. The poster was vintage 1978, from then- 30-year-old Russo's razor-tight run for Essex County's 5th District freeholder seat. "We're recycling this because we're very frugal," the candidate said. (Philip Read, Star-Ledger)

Not a "blueprint" in the Pennacchio sense of the word

Calling it a "blueprint for the future," Ocean County's freeholders approved a $359 million budget after a public hearing Wednesday where the only comments came from a Jackson man praising the spending plan.

The freeholders approved a 4.35 percent spending increase, $14.9 million that asks taxpayers for $276 million, up $13 million from last year.

The county tax rate will fall two-tenths
of a penny, to 25.4 cents per $100 assessed value, because of a $5.7 billion increase in property values last year.

Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. said the budget is within the guidelines the freeholders have set for their spending plan in recent years. They use the increase in the consumer price index — an average of 3.6 percent between the Philadelphia (3.5 percent) and New York (3.7 percent) metropolitan rates set by the U.S. Department of Labor — and the rate of growth of the county's population, 1.6 percent. (Don Bennett, Press)

Hunterdon’s go the other way

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Hunterdon County Freeholders introduced an annual budget that is less than the previous year.

By eliminating some vacant jobs and taking a hard look at every expenditure, the 2008 budget introduced Tuesday night is roughly $2.5 million less than last year's spending plan, officials said. (John Holl, Star-Ledger)


New day coming for Ocean City Council

Just one councilman has filed for re-election approaching today's deadline.

Roy Wagner, a councilman in the 4th Ward, filed his nominating petitions at City Hall. Three others have not.

Councilman Gregory Johnson, 2nd Ward, picked up petitions but has not yet filed them. Councilmen Jack Thomas, 3rd Ward, and Jody Alessandrine, 1st Ward, are not seeking re-election this year.

"My primary focus is my job," Alessandrine said. "I need a couple years to concentrate on career and family." (Michael Miller, Press)

Romano gets more police support in Vineland
Mayoral candidate Robert Romano has the backing of both local police unions.

Neither nod came without controversy, though. (Tim Zatzariny Jr., The Daily Journal)

Courtine going back to court
Ousted mayor Nanette Courtine said she plans to go to the New Jersey Supreme Court to appeal a ruling that voters' decision in 2006 to replace her with a new mayor was legal.

"I'm looking at taking it to the next level," she said yesterday. (Star-Ledger)

Love in the air at James trial

Sharpe James and Tamika Riley attended Broadway shows and sporting events together, rendezvoused at least twice at a Newark hotel and visited a friend's summer home on Long Island, James' bodyguard testified yesterday at the former mayor's federal corruption trial.

Later, Riley's former secretary testified that James gave the publicist a fur coat, a piece of jewelry and flowers. (James Whelan and Maryann Soto, Star-Ledger)

Dina says she didn’t know; judge to rule today
A judge will decide today whether Dina Matos McGreevey can continue to push her claim that the former governor committed fraud when he tricked her into a loveless marriage to hide his homosexuality and increase his political prospects.

Matos McGreevey contends that in their nearly four years of marriage she had no clue former governor James E. McGreevey was gay. (Judith Lucas, Star-Ledger)

County election officials give Milgram what for

County officials across New Jersey took off the gloves yesterday and demanded that state Attorney General Anne Milgram join their push for an independent analysis of the state's voting machines.

In a forcefully worded letter, the officials said they would no longer tolerate Milgram's silence on the issue that haunted them since discrepancies were found in the Feb. 5 presidential primary results. (Diane C. Walsh, Star-Ledger)

Lance for polar bears
They agree on low taxes and strong defense, but one distinguishing issue for Republicans in the 7th district congressional primary is the environment.

State Sen. Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon) explains that “conservative” and “conservation” have the same derivation, and does not favor drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as a way of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. (Max Pizarro,

Pallone, Payne join call to end war
Holding pictures of troops from New Jersey killed in Iraq and waving signs reading "U.S. Out of Iraq Now," protesters yesterday marked the five-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war by calling for troops to be brought home immediately.

"It's time as we gather on this fifth anniversary to say, 'Five years too many. Out of Iraq now,' " said the Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action, which helped organize the rally held in front of the Statehouse.

About 70 people gathered on the steps of the capitol building, many holding signs calling for President Bush's impeachment or with the words "Five Years Too Many."

Sue Niederer's son, Lt. Seth Dvorin, was killed in Iraq on Feb. 3, 2004. Niederer, who held a sign reading "President Bush You Killed My Son," said U.S. troops should be brought home immediately.

"What are these kids dying for?" Niederer said. "Let's get these kids out of there."

According to the Defense Department, at least 71 soldiers with ties to New Jersey have been killed in connection with the war in Iraq.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.), who spoke to the crowd along with U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne (D., N.J.), said the ongoing costs associated with the war mean that other spending needs such as education or health care were being ignored. (Rebecc
a Santana, Associated Press) Today’s news from