Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

Andy takes Atlantic
Businessman Andy Unanue bested the field of GOP candidates for U.S. Senate at the Atlantic County Republican Convention here tonight, winning yet another line as part of an in absentia candidacy that is not even a week old.

Vacationing out of the state, Unanue beat state Sen. Joe Pennacchio and economist Murray Sabrin, who both spoke at the event held in the Renault Winery.

Unanue earned 758 votes to Pennacchio’s 325 and Sabrin’s 48. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

And Ocean
If you came to the Ocean County Republican convention hoping for a floor fight tonight for the party nod for U.S. Senate, you were disappointed.

In typical Ocean County Republican fashion, the party awarded its line with efficiency and brevity – easily selecting Goya Foods heir Andy Unanue as its choice for a U.S. Senate candidate. Unanue already had the backing of powerful Republican Chairman George Gilmore, and had won the hearts and minds of the screening committee from his vacation spot in Vail, Colo. via telephone conference. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Corzine willing to talk
Gov. Corzine said yesterday that he will find ways to phase-in proposed cuts in state aid to towns and cities but that he remains committed to enticing municipalities to share services.

Corzine has proposed cutting state aid for small towns as a way to encourage them to share services and, hopefully, to cut local property taxes as a result.

Overall, state financial aid for municipalities would be cut by 10.5 percent in Corzine’s $33 billion budget plan, but the biggest cuts would be for towns with fewer than 10,000 residents. (Tom Hester, Jr., Associated Press)

If there are records, where are they?
Five Republican members of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee charged yesterday that a multimillion-dollar municipal state aid program is mismanaged and claim they have been told by the Department of Community Affairs that records related to the program, which they requested, do not exist.

A DCA spokesman, however, said both state and local records related to the so-called “distressed cities” program are available.

In a letter to DCA Commissioner Joseph Doria, the senators said: “When our staff recently requested copies of memoranda or other documents that would explain the reasoning behind hundreds of millions of dollars of particular allocations, they were informed no such documents exist.” They said they asked for records going back to Jan. 1, 2005.

The senators — Steven Oroho (R-Sussex), Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon), Anthony Bucco (R-Morris), Kevin O’Toole (R-Passaic) and Philip Haines (R-Burlington) — said the aid program is “grossly mismanaged” and they want Doria to bring the program’s administrators with him when he appears before the panel to discuss his department’s proposed 2008-09 budget on April 7. (Tom Hester and Claire Heininger, Star-Ledger)

Roughneen marches on
In a crowded field of Republican candidates in the 7th Congressional District, long-shot Thomas Roughneen highlights his background as an Iraq War veteran and son of Irish immigrants.

Honor and sacrifice are words he uses often.

Although he is an admirer of President George W. Bush, the 38-year-old former assistant prosecutor from Watchung does not believe the administration put Americans on the proper war footing for a protracted conflict in the Middle East.

A major in the Army, Roughneen (pronounced ROCK-neen) laments the lack of attention and respect received by returning war veterans and a general disconnect between American life and the ongoing mission in Iraq. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Who’s who in New Jersey law
The PolitickerNJ.com list of the NEW JERSEY’S MOST POWERFUL LAW FIRMS identifies the law firms in the state that carry the most political power – the most sway over the business of government and politics. We looked for the firms with the combination of political influence, marquee names, and access to policymakers at different levels of government. These lawyers understand how the inside political game is played and how to get results for their clients. The list will recognize and include smaller firms that play a dominate role in the workings of local government in different regions of the state. As always, our lists are subjective, and we encourage you to contact us with your comments. (PolitickerNJ.com)

Where’s Andy?
Andy Unanue, who entered the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination on Sunday, lives in New York, according to a housekeeper who answered the phone at his parents’ home in Bergen County.

Voting records show Unanue listed at an Alpine residence. A search of tax records for that home, however, shows that it is owned by his parents, Joseph and Carmine Unanue. The housekeeper confirmed that the home does not belong to Andy Unanue and he does not live there.

Unanue does own a residence at 25 Central Park West in New York City.

Unanue’s campaign said that, for all intents and purposes, Unanue lives with his parents. (PolitickerNJ.com)

Burlington Dems looking for rare win
Burlington County hasn’t had a Democratic freeholder in 25 years, just one testament to its powerful Republican machine, which until recently has faced few real challenges.

In the last few years, Democrats have gathered some steam, winning a surrogate seat for the first time in 40 years and breaking Republicans’ grip in unlikely towns such as Mount Laurel, Evesham and Moorestown. But in a stunning setback, the party lost elections in all three of Burlington County’s legislative districts last fall.

A freeholder race and a handful of municipal elections this year are the next opportunities for the Democratic Party to seize ground in the state’s largest county.

The Democrats this week endorsed Evesham Councilman Chris Brown and Shamong Committeewoman Mary Anne Reinhart to oppose freeholders Aubrey Fenton and Stacey Jordan with what party leaders say will be aggressive campaigns to focus on ethics reform, lowering taxes and promoting government transparency. (Maya Rao, Inquirer)

New blood in Cumberland County
County Democrats will meet Saturday to hear a second round of interviews from potential freeholder candidates.

Earlier this week, Vineland Planning Board Member Michael Cyter, Millville corrections officer Bob Balicki, former Bridgeton Board of Education Member Todd Edwards and Vineland NAACP President Richard Smith made presentations to a Democratic steering committee.

Millville attorney Lauren Van Embden is expected to make a presentation Saturday.

The immense interest from residents wanting to run for freeholder comes after Freeholders Jane Christy, Bruce Peterson and Jeff Trout announced earlier this month they would not be seeking re-election.

Their decisions have created a huge opportunity for new people wanting to get involved in county politics. (Matt Dunn, Bridgeton News)

Rainear looking to climb another peak
Freeholder Doug Rainear has his sights set on Surrogate Art Marchand‘s post.

Rainear gave a presentation and resume to a Democratic steering committee this week, expressing an interest in campaigning for the county surrogate post currently held by Republican Marchand, according to a high-ranking Democratic official.

Marchand’s term expires at the end of this year.

The former prosecutor served has surrogate since 2003, when he won a close election against Democratic candidate Jennifer Lookabaugh. (Matt Dunn, Bridgeton News)

Last come, first listed in Vineland council race
The last-minute City Council candidate landed first on the ballot Thursday.

Tom Urgo won the first spot on the ballot for the May 13 municipal election during a drawing in council chambers at City Hall on Thursday afternoon. (Tim Zatzariny Jr., The Daily Journal)

Sharpton in A.C. over Klan settlement
High-profile allegations of racial discrimination in this resort prompted a visit Thursday night by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who urged locals to fight for themselves against discrimination.

“I’m always happy to be in Atlantic City, but I’m not happy for the occasions that we come for,” he said to a packed crowd at Second Baptist Church.

Sharpton was invited to the city amid various claims of racial injustice, the most prominent involving City Council’s approval Wednesday of a nearly $200,000 settlement awarding back pay to a former fire captain who was fired after allegedly imitating a Ku Klux Klansman and threatening a black city firefighter in 2003. (Michael Clark, Press of Atlantic City)

Cumberland planning on tax cuts
Cumberland County freeholders plan to cut taxes by at least 7 cents this year.

Freeholder Director Lou Magazzu announced the plan during Thursday night’s regular freeholder meeting.

He called the proposed county tax cut “the greatest single reduction in modern history.”

“It is my hope that this decrease will offset expected increases in property taxes that will result due to reduction in state aid to municipalities and school districts,” Magazzu said in a prepared statement. (Daniel Walsh, Press of Atlantic City)

Riley lived rich off James ties, prosecutors say
Tamika Riley looked and acted like a success.

She drove a Mercedes and wore fashionable clothes, those who knew her say. She dropped names of the powerful and famous, and her publicity firm represented celebrities such as basketball star Eric Williams and rapper Ja Rule.

But prosecutors have sought to shatter that image during the corruption trial in which the 39-year-old Riley is the co-defendant of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James.

The government’s latest efforts came yesterday, when they put one of the key investigators in the case on the witness stand in federal court to walk jurors through his analysis of 17 bank accounts Riley held between 1999 and 2007. (Jeff Whelan and Maryann Spoto, Star-Ledger)

Delle Donna’s demands
New Jersey public officials charged with corruption in recent years have been accused of selling their influence in exchange for everything from envelopes full of cash to Viagra.

But yesterday a Hudson County bar owner told a jury about what may be the most eclectic list of payoffs yet.

Guttenberg barkeep Luisa Medrano said she fended off town inspectors by showering Mayor David Delle Donna and his wife, Anna, with thousands of dollars in gifts, including Macy’s gift cards, cash to gamble in Atlantic City, breast reduction surgery for Anna, a cuddly Yorkshire Terrier named Toby and pet insurance for the dog. (Brian Donohue, Star-Ledger)

P.R. corruption charges reach N.J.
Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila was charged yesterday with campaign finance violations that carry a penalty of 20 years in prison.

The indictment also names 12 others, including Robert Feldman, a Philadelphia businessman who was a top fundraiser to former Gov. James E. McGreevey. (Joe Donohue and Josh Margolin, Star-Ledger)

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com