Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

Fighting about the war
Responding quickly to television advertisements blaming him for U.S. involvement in Iraq, Rep. Rob Andrews insisted yesterday he is the one New Jersey Democrat running for U.S. Senate with a plan to bring American troops home.

Standing on the steps of Trenton’s War Memorial Building, Andrews (D-1st Dist.) challenged U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) to stop “hiding” behind staffers, news releases and television ads and debate him face-to-face on how to extricate America from “Iraq’s civil war.”

Both candidates ratcheted up their rhetoric. Andrews called on Lautenberg to “come clean” about his own early support for the Iraq invasion; Lautenberg said an Andrews mailer “blatantly lies” about his efforts to get out. (Robert Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)

Zimmer to the rescue too late?
New Jersey Republican leaders, with one candidate after another dropping from the race, were headed for embarrassment – no candidate to support – until former Rep. Dick Zimmer came to the rescue.

Zimmer, a Washington, D.C., lobbyist from Hunterdon County, has a political pedigree to challenge in the June 3 primary election. He served in the Assembly and state Senate in the 1980s and the House of Representatives in the 1990s. (Joe Albright, Jersey Journal)

Who is “them”?
As the quagmire in Iraq moves into its sixth year, the three Republicans seeking the party’s nomination for the U.S. Senate were asked an interesting question at a debate Tuesday night at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

“Just who is the enemy in Iraq?”

Not one of the three — state Sen. Joseph Pennnacchio, R-Montville, former Rep. Dick Zimmer, R-Hunterdon, or college professor Murray Sabrin — gave a real answer. An answer, of course, would be very hard.

Are radical Shiites the enemy? Well, some of them are part of the U.S.-installed government in Iraq. Are the Sunnis the enemy? Maybe, but the Sunnis are also the enemy of the radical Shiites. Is al-Qaida the enemy? Yes, but that brings up the fact that al-Qaida had little presence in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion. (Fred Snowflack, The Daily Record)

Appeal set
Congressman Robert Andrews has been granted an emergent appeal in his case to get consistent placement on ballots with other Democrats running for U.S. Senate.

The state’s Appellate Court said Wednesday that it will hear the case by next week and required documents to be filed by today. (Pete McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)

High-minded debate
In what is quickly becoming a dogfight, Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly this morning derided his opponent, Medford Mayor Chris Myers, for to date not submitting personal financial disclosure information required by the feds.

The Myers campaign answered that they intend to file in the next few days, and meanwhile took aim at Kelly as a government bureaucrat gorged for years on patronage jobs – a depiction that Kelly strenuously resisted. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Take it back
MADISON — Democrats Tom Wyka and Ellen Greenberg said it is time to take the country back from the people who are running it.

With the Bush administration in its second term, Wyka said, “it is not the time to stand on the sidelines.”

Greenberg said voters must act “to end the unrelenting assault on the country by the government.”

The Democrats were speaking at a debate on Tuesday sponsored by the Drew University Democrats.

Wyka, an information technology project manager from Parsippany, and Greenberg, an attorney from Mendham, are competing for the Democratic nomination for the 11th District congressional seat occupied by Republican Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen of Harding. Frelinghuysen is being challenged in the June primary by newcomer Kate Erber of Morristown. (Michael Daigle, The Daily Record)

Why’s that so pricey?
FREEHOLD — Debate over the Monmouth County government’s runaway legal bills has jumpstarted the campaigns for freeholder board seats, more than six months before the general election.

Democrats running for the two open seats issued a press release charging that the bulk of the county’s $2.8 million in legal expenditures from last year went to “Republican cronies like County Counsel Malcolm Carton, county Attorney Matt Giacobbe, and the law firm where former Republican Sheriff Joe Oxley is employed.”

Republicans have controlled the freeholder board for more than 20 years. Carton oversees and distributes cases and assignments to 20 attorneys, including Giacobbe, who was paid $314,000 on vouchers he submitted for work performed last year. In 2006, Giacobbe’s billings included $53,000 for work on a report that endorsed the county’s current legal department setup. (Bob Jordan, Asbury Park Press)

A New Jersey original
It is classic New Jersey: A newly convicted ex-lawmaker leaves a federal courthouse and climbs into a car bearing a license plate proclaiming “former senator.”

The black Cadillac belongs to Sharpe James, a former Newark mayor and state senator who last week became the latest public figure in New Jersey to be convicted on federal corruption charges.

James faces a long stint in jail, but he still enjoys one of the perks of holding state office in the Garden State – a special license plate, emblazoned with the official New Jersey seal, that lets the world know he served in the Legislature.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania are among only a handful of states that offer special plates to retired lawmakers. Former legislators and mayors can pay $50 to get them. (Tom Hester Jr., Associated Press)

That was fast
The jury in the corruption trial of Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna and his wife, Anna, began their deliberations yesterday afternoon and within 90 minutes indicated that they might have reached verdicts on some of the five counts.

Having started their deliberations at 2, the group sent a question to the judge at 3:22 asking: “Can we write what we have already voted, on the decision form you gave us?”

Judge Harold Ackerman, sitting in federal court in Newark, called the jury back into court and told the six men and six women on the jury: “Yes, providing the decision that you have reached represents the unanimous opinion of all the jurors.” (Michelangelo Conte, Jersey Journal)

No restitution
Marlboro will not be compensated for damages it claimed it sustained because of corrupt developers and local public officials, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Joel Pisano dismissed a lawsuit in which township attorneys alleged Marlboro was hurt by bribery and other foul play between past officials and developers.

Pisano said the township’s complaint, filed in October, failed to name a specific “injury to its business or property” under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

“Marlboro has not pled any financial loss arising from defendants’ conduct,” Pisano ruled.

“Rather, Marlboro emphasizes that defendants’ conduct defrauded the township and its citizens, deprived it of its “intangible right to honest services’ of its employees, and caused a diminution of public confidence.

“These types of injuries do not affect any of Marlboro’s financial interests in business or property,” Pisano said.

The defendants named in the lawsuit included former Mayor Matthew Scannapieco, Planning Board member Stanley Young, Municipal Utilities Chairman Richard Vuola and Western Monmouth Utilities Authority Executive Director Frank Abate. (Alesha Williams Boyd, Asbury Park Press)

Sore winner
Someone needs to teach Steve Lonegan how to enjoy winning.

Poor guy.

Lonegan, the former Bogota mayor and perpetual scold to anything remotely liberal, landed in jail briefly on a Saturday afternoon in January in Middle Township.

Lonegan had journeyed all the way to the Cape May County community to protest Governor Corzine‘s proposed toll hikes. Corzine was in Middle Township that Saturday for one of his town meetings to try to promote his toll plan.

Minutes before Corzine spoke to a crowd inside the local high school auditorium, Lonegan was arrested outside and charged with “defiant trespassing.” Lonegan was trying to hand out anti-toll pamphlets. Cops claimed he refused to leave the sidewalk outside the school and voice his disapproval of Corzine from a “designated protest zone.”

Before going further, it’s worth noting that Corzine’s toll hikes are now political road kill. Very dead. It’s also worth noting that Lonegan did not become the Birdman of Alcatraz or anything remotely resembling a long-term resident of a state correctional facility.

Yes, he was frisked and handcuffed. Or, as he tells it, “handcuffed to a jail cell wall.” But he was sprung within an hour. He did not even have to wear one of those orange prison jump suits.

More importantly, Lonegan became a political martyr. His arrest and brief jail stint generated a month of favorable publicity for him.

As if that weren’t enough, though, officials from Middle Township apologized within five days of the incident. Several days later, a municipal court judge dismissed all charges against Lonegan.

In other words, Lonegan won — big time.

But now, Lonegan says he wants to fight on. Perhaps overcome with the rush of victory that has so often eluded him when he ran for any office outside of tiny Bogota, Lonegan is threatening to take this mess to court. He has filed papers, signaling that he might sue Corzine, Attorney General Anne Milgram and just about anyone else who might have been involved in his arrest. (Mike Kelly, The Record)

End it. Don’t mend it
A suggestion for North Jersey’s legislative delegation: Step up and introduce The Homestead Rebate Redirection Act of 2008.

Plainly put, the bill would suspend the $2.2 billion program, which sends out no-strings-attached checks to more than 1.5 million homeowners at the start of the fall campaign season.

The time to act is now. The behind-the-caucus-door whispers in Trenton — that the rebate is a frivolous vote-buying luxury that the state can no longer afford — have spilled into the State House hallways.

Governor Corzine got the chatter started by calling for trimming rebates in his proposed budget. Senate President Dick Codey says it’s time to roll back the program even further. And there are some privately suggesting it’s time to go all the way — shut it down, at least for a year, and maybe for good before it calcifies into a permanent entitlement. (Charles Stile, The Record)

Bigger than Dukakis?
Joyce Michaelson had already turned heads by uploading campaign videos on YouTube, believed to be a first in a Montclair mayoral race.

She has also shared the spotlight with Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis, who came to an in-town reception to back Peter Zorich, who is Dukakis’ son as well as Michaelson’s 2nd Ward running mate on her “Partnership Montclair” slate.

Yesterday, Michaelson rolled out a big gun in state politics to back her campaign: Richard Codey, the state Senate president and on-again, off-again acting governor. (Philip Read, Star-Ledger)

More union backing for Romano
VINELAND — Robert Romano‘s mayoral campaign on Wednesday announced it has secured the endorsement of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 152.

It is the candidate’s fifth local union endorsement, many of them coming from police and law enforcement organizations, such as the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 8 and the Superior Officers Association. (Jason Laday, Bridgeton News)

Totally booked up
BAYONNE – Now that retired municipal judge Pat Conaghan has lunged out of the gate as the first candidate to officially run for mayor in November’s special election, he means to keep an aggressive public schedule.

Both on the trail, and if elected. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

She lives
Gov. Jon Corzine said Sen. Hillary Clinton‘s near double-digit victory over arch-rival Sen. Barack Obama in Pennsylvania last night lays the foundation for a successful conclusion to the Democratic Primary for his presidential candidate.

“You can’t underestimate that Obama was looking for a knockout. He played to win and lost,” Corzine told reporters in an afternoon conference call, which also included State Democratic Chairman Joseph Cryan. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Placing bets on Bayonne
Have a favorite horse you want to bet on? In the near future, you might be able to place that bet, year-round, in Bayonne.

The New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, the agency that operates the Meadowlands Racetrack, wants to set up its second off-track wagering facility on a six-acre tract on Route 440 North, just off the East Fifth Street exit.

Last October, the NJSEA opened its first OTW in a strip mall in Woodbridge, where $2 million is wagered weekly. The state Legislature has authorized 15 OTWs for New Jersey.

Bayonne has until May 15 to decide whether to accept the proposal or to slam the teller window shut.

Interim Bayonne Mayor Terrence Malloy wants to visit the Woodbridge OTW before he makes up his mind, but First Ward Councilman Ted Connolly, who has already visited that facility, said he’d welcome one in Bayonne. (Ronald Leir, Jersey Journal)

Trump has some work to do
Donald Trump has some work to do on his plans for cleaning up the old landfills in the Meadowlands upon which he intends to build a small city, according to state lawyers.

In a six-sentence letter released Wednesday, Assistant Attorney General Robert Romano said the work list, budget and financing plan Trump’s organization submitted last week did not satisfy the state’s requirements.

“These submissions leave open a number of important issues and include numerous contingencies,” Romano wrote to Trump.

The letter does not explain what was lacking in Trump’s paperwork.

Trump and Michael Cohen, Trump’s EnCap project executive, were invited to meet with state officials, however, to “address the open issues.” (John Brennan, The Record)

License to drive
HOBOKEN – Former Hoboken Mayor Steve Cappiello is back on the road after a 30-day driver’s license suspension.

Cappiello, who was 84 at the time, was arrested on Dec. 5 and charged with driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident. The former mayor hit a car stopped at a stop sign on Fourth Street near Park Avenue in Hoboken at 8:45 p.m. and police pulled him over a few blocks away, reports said. (Amy Sara Clark, Jersey Journal)

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com