Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

Seeing red (and blue) across the state
QUITE A FEW Jersey political powerbrokers are seeing red. Red, after all, is a primary color. And Democrats and Republicans are engaged in what promise to be bruising primary battles.

There are six men in the race for the June 3 primary for U.S. Senate. The Republicans are Dick Zimmer, state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio and Murray Sabrin. On the Democratic side, Rep. Rob Andrews and Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello are challenging Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Traditionally, party leaders do not like primaries. A clear front-runner can amass more support and spend less time campaigning than a challenged candidate.

Five months ago, no one expected Lautenberg to face a contested primary. When Cresitello entered the race, there was little noise from the Democratic bosses. There isn’t a lot of money behind the Morristown mayor, and his immigration positions make him more salable as a Republican than as a Democrat.

But then came Andrews. (Alfred P. Doblin, The Record)

The roads to Vineland City Hall
VINELAND — Seven years down the road from when it began, Mayor Perry Barse stands by his ambitious plan to repair all 280 miles of city streets.

But his opponents in the May 13 mayoral election — Robert Romano and Nick Girone — say that plan has veered far off course and the city has made little progress in repaving Vineland’s roads.

“This plan is worthless,” said Romano, a Vineland police lieutenant.

“The administration posted a list years ago showing which roads would be repaired and when,” said Girone, a former city Board of Education member. “However, the costly study to produce the list is not being fully implemented.” (Tim Zatzariny Jr., The Daily Journal)

Last chance to hear voices
VINELAND — The last of mayoral candidate Robert Romano‘s “Voices Across Vineland” campaign stops is scheduled for May 1, less than two weeks before the municipal election.

Romano, a Vineland police lieutenant in charge of internal affairs, is challenging incumbent Mayor Perry Barse, who is seeking his third term in office. Former Vineland School Board President Nick Girone is also running for mayor.

Romano’s three-stop tour of town hall-style meetings is designed to allow the candidate and his council slate to “take their message directly to the people, and for the residents of Vineland to talk directly with the candidates,” according to a campaign spokeswoman.

“We’re trying to hit all the different sections of Vineland with this tour,” said Romano on Friday. “This last one is in North Vineland.” (Jason Laday, Bridgeton News)

Did they tell us so?
They’ve talked of keeping parks and the state agriculture department open and maybe boosting aid for towns and cities, but legislators have devoted scant debate this year to sustaining property tax rebates they so highly touted just a year ago.

Democrats who expanded the rebates last year and promised they weren’t an election-year gimmick seem ready to accept Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine‘s proposal to eliminate rebates for households earning more than $150,000 and scale them back for others.

That has Republicans saying, “We told you so.” They spent last year deeming the expanded rebates a ploy to ensure Democrats — as they ultimately did — kept their legislative majorities in November’s elections.

“Why should the public believe anything we say here based on that experience?” asked Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth.

But Democratic leaders said they couldn’t have foreseen the national economic woes that helped threaten state tax revenues and prompt Corzine to propose a $33 billion budget with $2.7 billion in spending cuts.

“No one could have foreseen the national recession to this degree when we passed that rebate program a year ago,” said Assembly Budget Chairman Lou Greenwald, D-Camden. (Tom Hester Jr., Associated Press)

Should’ve thought of that before
New Jersey legislators who hold other elected offices face a real dilemma as they consider Gov. Jon S. Corzine‘s budget: Vote to do what is best for the state as a whole or what best serves their community.

Nineteen legislators hold at least one other elected spot — thanks to the loophole carved out for them in the law Corzine signed last year to ban the practice.

Now, those 19 dual-office holders are among the 120 state legislators who are evaluating the $33.3 billion budget Corzine has proposed for fiscal 2009. And several hold key spots on the influential budget committees in both the Senate and Assembly.

“When all is said and done, the reason you don’t have dual-office holding is it’s a basic conflict of interest,” said Ingrid Reed, director of the New Jersey Project at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics. (John Reitmeyer, Herald News)

Closing time
Attorneys in the corruption trial of Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna will begin presenting closing arguments at 11 a.m. today, and the jury is expected to begin deliberating tomorrow.

On the stand Friday, Delle Donna showed contempt for the testimony of Javier Inclan, a deputy chief of staff for Gov. Jon Corzine and a former Guttenberg councilman. Inclan testified that in 2002, while treasurer of the Guttenberg Democratic Organization, he passed along to Delle Donna two envelopes from bar owner Luisa Medrano that he believed were stuffed with cash. (Michelangelo Conte, Jersey Journal)

Sunday, April 20

None of the above
Apart from their generally conservative politics, Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris) and Ramapo College professor Murray Sabrin are very different politicians.

Pennacchio, a 52-year-old dentist, has methodically worked his way up the ladder, from Republican fundraiser to Morris County freeholder to state assemblyman and, since January, state senator.

The 61-year-old Sabrin is the consummate outsider, a former Libertarian who has never held elected office and rarely misses a chance to slam the “failed Republican leadership” of the state party.

But as they both seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate this year, “Jersey Joe” and “Maverick Murray” are finding they have something in common beyond a penchant for self-adopted nicknames:

The GOP seems to want anyone but them as its candidate. (Robert Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)

The battle over the war
Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Rob Andrews both want to get the United States out of Iraq.

But each is trying to tar the other’s anti-Iraq credentials in what has already become a bitter fight for the Democratic nomination for the seat Lautenberg now holds.

Lautenberg fired first, issuing a statement through his campaign manager – on the day Andrews became a candidate – denouncing the nine-term congressman from Haddon Heights for his “authorship of the Iraq war resolution.”

A few days later, someone — it wasn’t Andrews — built a Web site named robandrews2008.com featuring a photograph of President Bush signing the war resolution and surrounded by congressional supporters. A big circle is around Andrews’ face.

Andrews has fought back, arguing that he has presented a detailed plan for getting the troops out, while Lautenberg, who supported going to war when he was a candidate in 2002, simply has voted for plans other people wrote. (Herb Jackson, The Record)

Location, location, location
South Jersey Congressman Rob Andrews doesn’t see his bid for the United States Senate as a North-South battle.

He says it’s “change versus the status quo.”

But if history means anything, geography is still a component that counts.

And one that Andrews, 50, will have to contend with in the next six weeks before the Democratic primary against incumbent U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, 84, of Bergen County and Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello. (Trish G. Graber, Gloucester County Times)

Welcoming Nancy, dissing Rob
PATERSON – Hamilton never ran against Washington but if he had he probably would have given him fair warning.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8) doesn’t deny that competition is good in politics, but U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews’s (D-1) method of challenging an elder statesman was wrongheaded, in Pascrell’s opinion.

“I don’t think it was healthy,” said the congressman, standing in Overlook Park above the Great Falls in Paterson on Saturday morning. “The way he waited until the end causes animosity.”

Pascrell said Andrews gave his word not only to U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, but to the other Democratic members of the congressional delegation that he wouldn’t run.

They he ran anyway against Lautenberg.

Pascrell appeared in the park on the day he welcomed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA.), to New Jersey to attend a private fund-raiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Pelosi and the Democrats are looking to supplement a special House race in May in Louisiana, in addition to general election contests in November. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

A slight downgrade
The political handicappers at Congressional Quarterly last week changed their rating of Rep. Scott Garrett‘s reelection bid from “safe Republican” to “Republican favored.”

“The rating means that Garrett remains highly favored to retain his seat, but does face a credible challenge this year,” reported.

Rabbi and psychologist Dennis Shulman of Demarest, a Democrat seeking the nomination to challenge Garrett, reported last week he raised more than $123,000 in the three months ending March 31. That included a contribution from the political action committee controlled by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. (Jackson, The Record)

They’ll see each other in court
Before candidates take their races for their parties’ congressional nominations to the streets and airwaves, they have gone to court on several issues questioning the legality of an opponent’s candidacy or the way county clerks lay out their ballots.

These early-campaign court battles have been waged in both parties, in races for the Senate and the House of Representatives. So far, no challenges have succeeded.

Lawyers for U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., who is running to supplant U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and the state’s county clerks are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday over ballot placement. (Gregory J. Volpe, Gannett)

Back in the game
A dozen years after he left elected politics, a former New Jersey congressman is making his second bid to get back in the game.

Dick Zimmer announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate this week, after being courted by party leaders desperate for a moderate candidate who could raise the money needed to mount a credible challenge among an independent electorate.

Zimmer, 63, who describes himself as a proud fiscal conservative but more moderate on social issues, like abortion, thinks he’s an appealing choice for New Jerseyans weary of the Iraq war and wary of self-serving politicians like former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, who was found guilty on corruption charges this week. (Angela Delli Santi, Associated Press)

Blocking foul
Republican Sen. Gerald Cardinale of Demarest is blocking state Public Defender Yvonne Segars‘ nomination to the Bergen County Superior Court, saying he has concerns over Segars’ firing of a deputy six years ago.

Details of that episode are spelled out in a recently settled lawsuit, filed in 2004 by Christine Leone-Zwillinger of Cherry Hill. A Republican candidate for Camden County sheriff in 1997, Leone-Zwillinger says in court papers that Segars fired her in 2002 and replaced her with an underqualified Democratic lawyer. (Charles Stile, The Record)

Ewing GOP thinks tables have turned
EWING — With a Republican mayor in office for the first time in 13 years, the local GOP is looking to shore up its political power by wresting control of the township council from Democrats next fall.

Three seats are up for grabs on the five-member governing body, which is controlled by Democrats in a 5-1 majority. The seats are for four-year terms.

Republican candidates Ron Prykanowski, Judith Peoples and Aldo Genovesi are challenging Democratic incumbents Bert Steinmann, Les Summiel and Joe Murphy. (Lisa Coryell, Trenton Times)

The Dems of Washington Township
WASHINGTON TWP. The slate of candidates for mayor and council who are backed by the local Democratic Party shared information this week about their background and goals.

Matthew Lyons, who is seeking his party’s nod for the mayoral candidacy, is on the ticket with Ray MacDowell and Scott Newman. (Jessica Beym, Gloucester County Times)

Saturday, April 19

Like minds open wallets
All three of the major candidates in the race for U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton‘s 3rd District seat have received a chunk of their campaign contributions from close political and professional associates.

According to campaign finance reports released by the Federal Election Commission this week, Republican candidate Chris Myers, a vice president with Lockheed Martin, received nearly half of his contributions from people in the defense, aerospace and technical industries.

The reports showed Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly, also a Republican, is largely funded by people connected to the Ocean County Republican machine.

And state Sen. John Adler, D-Camden, who is a lawyer, is heavily funded by lawyers and members of the Democratic Party. (Rob Spahr, Press of Atlantic City)

Case dismissed
A Mercer County Superior Court Judge has dismissed Joe Pennacchio’s complaint against former Senate candidate Andy Unanue that could have ended Dick Zimmer‘s fledgling Senate candidacy.

Pennacchio campaign manager Dan Gallic confirmed that the challenge was tossed out.

“I didn’t read the opinion. All I know is it was dismissed,” he said. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerJN.com)

Marital problems
The marriage of convenience between the Hudson County Democratic Organization and three state legislators in the 31st District, which includes Bayonne and parts of Jersey City, is showing some signs of domestic abuse.

State Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham and Assemblymen Anthony Chiappone and L. Harvey Smith were recruited by the HCDO during the county Dems’ civil war to do battle with rebel factions. It was an uncomfortable alliance. (Political Insider, Jersey Journal)

Free to move on
The state judicial oversight panel has ended its review of Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Donohue, the brother-in-law of the state Democratic chairman, and will not file charges, officials said yesterday.

The decision by the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct clears the way for the state Senate to confirm Donohue’s nomination for judicial tenure before his seven- year term expires May 15. Donohue, 56, is assigned to Superior Court in Elizabeth, where he currently handles criminal cases.

“The ACJC has not and will not file a formal complaint against the judge and that information has been communicated to members of the Senate,” Tamara Kendig, a spokeswoman for the state judiciary, said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Adler (D-Camden) said his panel held up Donohue’s nomination last month because of the ACJC review. “Since he’s been cleared, he (Adler) will schedule him for a hearing at the next committee meeting May 5,” said Jim Manion, a spokesman for Senate Democrats. Adler “will likely support him and he believes that the rest of the committee will most likely support him.” (Josh Margolin and Rick Hepp, Star-Ledger)

Suppress the vote?
Public votes on school budgets should be eliminated and April school board elections moved to November, Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts said Friday.

Tuesday’s school election drew 14 percent of voters, while no school election in the past 25 years topped 20 percent turnout.

“It’s time for New Jersey to wake up to the reality that the April school elections are a poor way to decide the direction of public education in districts across the state,” said Roberts, D-Camden. (Tom Hester Jr., Associated Press)

Give the people choice
A school choice pilot program for children in seven municipalities will be pushed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the coming months after some maneuvering around a legislative hurdle.

Advocates have been pushing for school choice for years but have been blocked by Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. But Sen. Raymond Lesniak, D-Union, a sponsor of the measure, plans to bypass Turner’s committee with a rewritten version that focuses on economic benefits, placing it in the Senate Economic Growth Committee, which he chairs.

The program would give scholarships to poor children in Camden, Elizabeth, Lakewood, Newark, Orange, Paterson and Trenton to enable them to attend another public or private school. Business groups, which support the measure, would fund the scholarships through donations that count as tax credits. (Gregory J. Volpe, Gannett)

Hearing them out
CARNEYS POINT TWP. Business leaders gathered from around Salem County on Friday to hear Third District Legislators discuss the state of the district.

Topping the agenda for State Sen. Stephen Sweeney and Assemblyman Douglas Fisher were several items from Gov. Jon S. Corzine‘s budget that have made a direct hit on life in Salem County.

From the proposal to close Fort Mott and Parvin state parks, along with the Hancock House, to the latest attempt to strip state police coverage from rural municipalities, the legislators delivered a varied and passionate presentation. (Tracy Wiggins, Gloucester County Times)

Clash of the Paterson titans
PATERSON – Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres and Councilman Aslon Goow live close to each other in the same ward but they’re hardly close friends. Their long-time rivalry has made them enemies and defines the city’s political landscape.

This year as Goow, a private eye and Paterson native, is trying to win a third term on the council, his opponents are either in Torres’s camp or champion the mayor’s issues. Goow, the Ward Two Councilman, needs to defeat Elizabeth Gonzalez and John Larko to keep his seat, but he is nursing his own ambition to be mayor, so he mostly keeps his sights trained on Torres, who knows Goow’s out there gunning for his job in the next election. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

A mere oversight
NEWARK – Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna, on trial for corruption, said yesterday that his failure to report $25,000 in income tax in 2004 and 2005 was a “mistake.”

Under cross-examination, Delle Donna said he and his wife Anna, a former town Planning Board member who is also on trial, put together their returns and, speaking directly to the jury, he said: “If we made mistakes, that’s what they were – mistakes.” (Michelangelo Conte, Jersey Journal)

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com