Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

The bell rings
South Jersey Rep. Rob Andrews announced yesterday he will challenge four-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg for the Democratic nomination in a primary that is bound to become a battle of the generations.

"The people of the state want a choice and they want a change," said Andrews, who is 50. Lautenberg is 84 and has represented New Jersey in the U.S. Senate for almost a quarter-century.

"I am David and he is Goliath, but I think the country is ready for some Davids," said Andrews, who has represented the 1st Congressional District since 1990.

Lautenberg's campaign manager, Brendan Gill, said the primary "will be a unique opportunity for Democrats to make a clear choice: Whether to choose Senator Lautenberg, who has consistently stood up to George Bush, or Congressman Andrews, who helped write Bush's resolution to go to war with Iraq." (Robert Schwaneberg and Josh Margolin, Star-Ledger)

Word from the top adds another candidate
Biotech millionaire John Crowley is now close to entering the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, after receiving calls from several GOP Senators, including presidential candidate John McCain, urging him to run, according to Republican sources.

Other sources said that Crowley spoke with one Republican Senate candidate, Andy Unanue, tonight and told him that he is now likely to run. Unanue has told some GOP leaders that he would withdraw from the race if Crowley gets in. (PolitickerNJ.com)

Who are those guys?
With two months to go before the June primary, most people still don’t know who any of the Republican Senate candidates are.

According to a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released this morning, state Sen. Joe Pennacchio is the most recognized of the Republicans, with 77% of voters unable to recognize him. 84% of respondents didn’t know who Murray Sabrin was, while Andrew Unanue was unknown to 90%.

Democratic incumbent Frank Lautenberg is recognized by 85% of respondents. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Tough week for Andy
Andy Unanue, scion of the Goya Foods empire, had an eventful week after declaring his intention to seek the Republican nomination in New Jersey's U.S. Senate race.

The 40-year-old political neophyte – who has until Monday to file for a spot on the June 3 primary ballot – relived old allegations about coming into work drunk, faced questions about whether he previously violated federal campaign finance rules, and confirmed that he doesn't actually live in New Jersey. He lives in New York.

To cap things off, Unanue acknowledged that he pleaded guilty to drunken driving more than a decade ago.

In a phone interview Friday from Vail, Colo., where he was vacationing with family, Unanue said he regretted the incident, which took place on Aug. 29, 1993, in Fort Lee, N.J., according to state records. (Adrienne Lu, The Inquirer)

Ferriero’s bad idea
Party leader Joe Ferriero took one of the biggest gambles of his political career this week — a plot to scare U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg into retirement by toying with an endorsement of a primary challenger.

But the Bergen County Democratic chairman's dice roll on the larger, geopolitical stage of statewide politics left him empty-handed and humiliated.

Instead of forging a new North Jersey-South Jersey Axis of Power, Ferriero may very well have made new enemies in Bergen County, Trenton and Washington. Admirers who had gushed at his plan-for-every-pitfall discipline, his long-term vision, his fund-raising prowess were baffled by his colossal misfire.

"How did a pro, like Joe, not see this?" said one longtime North Jersey Democratic operative. "This was not an impressive showing." (Charles Stile, The Record)

Democrats split on budget
The Democratic leader of the state Assembly yesterday broke ranks with Gov. Jon Corzine by flatly opposing his plan to divvy up state funding for municipalities based, in part, on their population.

Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) said the state must treat all municipalities "fairly and equitably through efficiency performance measures." (Joe Donohue, Star-Ledger)

Who’s afraid of the big, bad cash?
While state Sen. John Adler, the unopposed third district Democratic congressional candidate, sits on $1.15 million dollars, his two prospective Republican opponents admit that their fundraising numbers will pale in comparison.

But that’s ok, the Republicans say. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Getting ready in Orange
The candidates running for mayor in Orange are schedule to participate in a forum Thursday sponsored by the Rev. Reginald Jackson at St. Matthew’s AME Church.

Local clergy members will pose questions to the six invited candidates, who include At-Large Councilman Donald Page, Councilwoman Tency Eason, West Ward Patrolman Eldridge Hawkins, Jr., Zoning Board Chair Janice Morrell, activist and county employee Betty Brown, and teacher's aide Dwight Holmes. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Laying down the law in Beverly
Crude Internet videos. Secretly recorded conversations. Phone threats.

With the rough-and-tumble politics of Beverly, a riverfront city that covers less than a square mile, it was perhaps inevitable that one of the local battles would find its way to court.

Yesterday, Municipal Judge Dennis McInerney stepped into a dispute between the presidents of the school board and City Council. (Maya Rao, The Inquirer)

A bill too late in Newark
Newark Housing Authority officials said yesterday the future of the Brick Towers redevelopment plan is in jeopardy because the city council put off action on two critical measures.

Central Ward Councilwoman Dana Rone said she did not have enough time to read through a $21 million proposal to build 80 affordable units in her ward. The housing authority proposes to build the apartments at Montgomery Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, near Brick Towers. (Katie Wang, Star-Ledger)

A Paterson love fest
Andre Sayegh
, candidate for the Paterson City Council in the 6th Ward, today officially accepted the endorsement of retiring Councilman Thomas C. Rooney, a former Paterson mayor.

A member of the Paterson Board of Education, Sayegh is running for the 6th Ward seat against Illia Villanueva and Eliecer Montoya. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Twenty years later, a seat at the council
About 20 years since not seeking re-election to borough council after one term, Justin Labar has been appointed to fill a vacant seat on council until the end of next year.

After a brief discussion behind closed doors, council picked Labar over two other candidates also interviewed at Tuesday's special meeting. A borough resident for the past 38 years, Labar owns an auto repair shop on East Market Street. (Bill Wichert, The Express-Times)

A fight over more than parking in Denville
Mayor Ted Hussa and Councilwoman Pat Valva traded accusations Wednesday over the mayor's parking in a handicapped spot.

Hussa, who is not disabled, said he was driving a borrowed vehicle with a handicapped license plate when he parked in a handicapped parking space at a local church Sunday.

The mayor said he parked for only a few minutes to unload packages and charged that his political rivals were blowing the incident out of proportion to fuel a potential recall election in 2009. (Rob Jennings, The Daily Record)

The YouTube candidates of Montclair
The backgrounds are the bare white walls of an empty campaign office in Montclair. The din of rushing traffic outside can be heard as the candidates speak to a camera.

Professional and polished they are not, but the videos posted on YouTube by mayoral candidate Joyce Michaelson and her running mates might just be historic.

Michaelson's slate, Partnership Montclair, is believed to be the first in the annals of Montclair's political history to use the video sharing website as part of a local campaign.

"It is pretty cool," said Robin Schlager, who as an at-large candidate on the slate, had yet to record her own segment. "All our kids are on YouTube." (Philip Read, Star-Ledger)

Experienced hands for Dems in Somerset
Montgomery Mayor Cecilia Xie Birge and North Plainfield Councilman Douglas Singleterry last night won the endorsement of Democratic officials for two Somerset County freeholder seats.

In a spirited meeting at the Manville VFW, the county Democratic committee needed only one round to effectively decide the party's November slate. Birge and Singleterry defeated Somerville Councilman Dennis Sullivan and John Graf of Bedminster, who each pledged to support the ticket. (Joe Tyrrell, Star-Ledger)

Somerset GOP has its say Thursday
Somerset County Republicans will finally have their say tonight in the primary fight among nine candidates who are vying to succeed Rep. Mike Ferguson in the 7th Congressional District.

At stake is the coveted organization line, which at this point has three different candidates assigned, depending upon the county.

Republicans in Hunterdon County, one of the four counties with towns in the district, gave their organization line to state Sen. Leonard Lance, whose family roots run deep there. Union County Republicans gave their line to former Summit councilwoman P. Kelly Hatfield. (Gabriel H. Gluck, Star-Ledger)

The case to be prosecutor in Cumberland
Local Democrats are angling to replace Cumberland County Prosecutor Ron Casella, a Democrat whose term expires today.

Millville attorney Arnold Robinson and Casella's trial chief, Tina Kell, are potential candidates to replace Casella if the governor does not reappoint him. (Daniel Walsh, Press of Atlantic City)

Congestion pricing traffic
At least a couple of Hudson County politicians are divided on the New York-New Jersey border war over congestion pricing.

Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, D-Hoboken, also a Hoboken councilman, sent a letter to New York Gov. David Paterson yesterday, voicing his disapproval of a proposed amendment to New York's congestion pricing plan that could take an extra $4 daily out of the pockets of some New Jersey commuters.

"I am dismayed to learn of a recently proposed congestion-pricing plan that would impose an extra $3 to $4 toll on New Jersey drivers," Ramos said in the letter. "Clearly, this fee is exorbitant, especially after the recent toll hikes on crossings into New York City from New Jersey."

Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, however, supports New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan.

"I think the mayor's goal is a laudable one and the means of achieving it are reasonable," said Healy yesterday. "Three to four dollars is getting a little painful. But it's also perfectly understandable that Bloomberg wants to address the problem of congestion in his city." (Carl Baldwin, The Jersey Journal)

James isn’t talking
Former Newark mayor Sharpe James said yesterday he will not take the witness stand at his federal corruption trial as his attorneys rested their case after presenting a defense featuring just two witnesses.

At the same time, Tamika Riley, James' co-defendant, continued her counterattack on the prosecution's case, challenging two pillars of the allegations: that she "knowingly and willfully" defrauded the city and that James steered cheap, city-owned land to her because they were involved in an intimate relationship. (Jeff Whelan and Maryann Spoto, Star-Ledger)

Gingrich: It worked for me
New Jersey Republicans turned to Newt Gingrich yesterday for advice on how to shape a message that will swing voters back to their side.

The former House speaker stopped by the Statehouse yesterday morning for a closed-door meeting with about 10 Republican leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Morris). Afterward, Gingrich said they were receptive to his gospel of "dramatic," citizen-based government reform. (Claire Heininger, Star-Ledger) Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com