Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

Sparring partners
Ramapo College professor Murray Sabrin has pledged to get U.S. combat troops out of Iraq by September 2010, a promise his two rivals for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate reject.

Sabrin and state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio (R-Morris) described themselves as “pro-life,” while former U.S. Rep. Dick Zimmer (R- 12th Dist.) said he favors abortion rights, subject to “reasonable restrictions.”

Those were among the differences that emerged last night as the contenders for the Republican nomination met in their first three- way debate at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison. Sabrin and Pennacchio had debated each other last month, before Zimmer entered the race. (Robert Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)

Who said anything about age?
Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews, by way of Camden, met with The Jersey Journal editorial board. Andrews appeared young and spry, with a bounce to his step.

OK, the question of age did come up.

Andrews, 50, is challenging incumbent Frank Lautenberg, 84, for U.S. Senate in the June primary. While Andrews said the age question should be left up to the voters, he did demand that Lautenberg meet him in debate. No doubt to emphasize the “differences” between them.

“There are three GOP candidates meeting (last night) on a stage at Fairleigh Dickinson University to debate issues,” Andrews said. “I’m embarrassed. We should be the party of ideas.” (Political Insider, Jersey Journal)

Motion denied
A candidate’s constitutional right to associate with other office seekers supersedes a state law that forbids the practice, known as bracketing, for statewide offices, a Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.

The decision denied U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews‘ bid to have the state’s county clerks redraw ballots for the June primary.

Andrews, who is running against U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., challenged the legality of the ballot-drawing process, which differs in each county, arguing that state law forbids U.S. Senate candidates from joining with other candidates on the ballot and that it’s unfair to give preferential ballot placement to those associated with a slate of candidates, commonly called the “county line.’ (Gregory J. Volpe, Gannett)

Let’s do it again
Former Newark mayor Sharpe James, who was convicted last week on fraud and conspiracy charges, is tentatively scheduled to face a second trial on additional corruption charges beginning July 8.

U.S. District Judge William Martini set the date yesterday during a conference with prosecutors and James’ defense attorneys, Thomas Ashley and Alan Zegas. The defense attorneys said they plan to file motions seeking a delay and possibly a change of venue to Camden. (Jeff Whelan, Star-Ledger)

A vow to fight
The Senate budget chief vowed Tuesday to fight proposed state aid cuts for towns and cities as the governor expressed hope state parks slated for closure would stay open.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Barbara Buono also said she’ll insist legislators be barred from adding their own special projects to the budget.

The Middlesex County Democrat said Gov. Jon S. Corzine‘s proposed municipal aid cuts would especially hurt smaller towns. Corzine has proposed a 10 percent cut in overall municipal aid, with the sharpest cuts targeting towns with less than 10,000 people. He’s said the cuts may be phased in, but hasn’t announced a final proposal.

The cuts are among $2.7 billion proposed by Corzine, also a Democrat, to try to address state fiscal woes.

Buono said she’ll find alternatives to restore the funding that has been used to help control the nation’s highest property taxes. She called the proposed municipal aid cuts “intolerable.” (Tom Hester Jr., Associated Press)

No detours
NEPTUNE — Diverting motor vehicle registration surcharge fees from their proposed destinations has further weakened the state government’s credibility with its residents, state Senate Minority Leader Thomas H. Kean Jr. said Tuesday.

At a meeting with the Asbury Park Press editorial board, Kean said the state should have followed through on its promise to buy replacements for an aging fleet of medical evacuation helicopters and pay for new State Police trooper classes with all of the extra revenue. A surcharge on motor vehicle registrations was increased from $1 to $4 in 2006 for those purposes.

“When money doesn’t go where it’s intended to go, faith in government as a whole gets shaken,” Kean said. (Bob Jordan, Asbury Park Press)

Vivid imagery in court
Finally after a month of testimony, the fate of Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna and his wife, Anna, is in the hands of the jury.

On the final day to convince jurors, lawyers for both Delle Donnas and the federal government emphatically stated their cases. The jury is expected to begin deliberating today.

Defense attorneys ravaged the credibility of the government’s key witness, bar owner Luisa Medrano, who had testified that she showered Anna Delle Donna with cash and gifts in exchange for a hands-off policy at her bar.

Medrano had been charged with human trafficking and kidnapping, but pleaded guilty to a lesser sentence in exchange for her testimony.

In his rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Calcagni used the defense’s characterization of Medrano to his benefit. “Swans do not swim in cesspools,” he said, questioning how the Delle Donnas could be pals with a person their lawyers have painted as pure evil.

“She was never the government’s friend, she was theirs,” said the prosecutor, pointing at the defendants. (Michelangelo Conte, Jersey Journal)

DiVincenzo gears up
Midway through his second term, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo is gearing up for whatever fight comes his way as he plans for a third term in office.

“Joe is looking ahead to running, and serving, to complete the execution of his vision for Essex County,” said chief-of-staff Phil Alagia.

To that end, DiVincenzo today is holding a $300-a head celebration in West Orange.

An ally of North Ward Democratic leader Steve Adubato, Sr., who supports U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1) for U.S. Senate over incumbent U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, DiVincenzo to date has remained neutral in the U.S. Senate primary. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

A withdrawal
CHESTER — Harry Hager announced on Tuesday that he is dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 11th District, the seat now held by Republican Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, R-Harding.

Hager’s exit leaves Tom Wyka of Parsippany and Ellen Greenberg contending for the Democratic nomination in the June 3 primary. The winner will face either Frelinghuysen or Republican challenger Kate Erber of Morristown.

Hager cited the difficulty of mounting a campaign and a recent health issue for his withdrawal. (The Daily Journal)

The people’s champion
WEST WINDSOR — A confrontational township council meeting, punctuated by applause, heated exchanges and charges of special interests, resulted in a 3-2 vote in favor of introducing the $35.4 million budget and the 12 percent tax hike it will bring.

By the time the session ended, council member Linda Geevers had drawn two rounds of applause from residents.

The first came after she refused a $2,500 raise. She was applauded again when she accused council President Will Anklowitz and council member Charles Morgan of pushing an ordinance benefiting construction workers because both men received campaign contributions from unions. (Joyce J. Persico, Trenton Times)

Burying the hatchet
Rep. Rob Andrews named former rival Michael Murphy as his campaign’s general chairman.

Murphy, a former Morris County Prosecutor who operates a public relations firm and is the stepson of former Gov. Richard Hughes, ran against Andrews for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1997. They both lost to Jim McGreevey, who went on to lose to Christie Whitman.

Andrews called Murphy’s 1997 campaign “tough but very fair.” (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

And now, the lawsuit
Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan intends to sue the governor, the state attorney general and several others in connection with his arrest outside a town hall meeting in Cape May County held by Governor Corzine.

Lonegan was arrested Jan. 19 outside a meeting about Corzine’s toll-hike plan. He was charged with defiant trespass, a disorderly persons offense, after failing to retreat to a designated protest zone.

A Middle Township municipal judge subsequently dismissed the charge against Lonegan after municipal officials there apologized for his arrest.

Lonegan has since publicly accused the governor’s staff of being involved in the arrest. Corzine and his aides repeatedly have denied playing any role. (John Petrick, The Record)

And you thought Hillary and Barack were rough
BEACHWOOD — Police officers responded to the Democratic Club meeting Monday evening after an audience member reportedly became agitated and threw a chair, striking at least one woman, according to several club officers and residents at the meeting.

It was “Meet the Candidates” night, with Democratic Borough Council candidates Bob Woodward of Capstan Avenue and Mike Merola of Sunset Road there to talk with about 30 people, according to club President Robert Clark.

Police Officer Keith Meissner, Patrolman Sean Langan and Special Officer William Zyckowski went to the Community Center at 147 Compass Ave. about 7:30 p.m. after an argument broke out, Police Chief William J. Cairns said Tuesday.

“Words were exchanged according to reports, and they had to break up the problem,” Cairns said, adding that he had heard rumors of a chair being thrown, but that that wasn’t specifically reported by the officers.

Cairns said eight or 10 people have signed complaints with police, with allegations ranging from terroristic threats to official misconduct. Cairns said police would be investigating the reports. (Chelsea Michels, Asbury Park Press)

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com