Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

A one-trick pony?
"He's in it to win it."

That's the supposedly catchy slogan of the U.S. Senate campaign of Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello. The mayor's supporters were enthusiastic last week at a Gannett/Monmouth University poll that revealed Cresitello was now the choice of 8 percent of Democrats; he had been at 1 percent. Yep, 8 percent is eight times better than 1 percent, but still, it's 8 percent.

No matter the spin, the mayor is a huge underdog in his primary fight against incumbent Frank Lautenberg and challenger Rob Andrews, a congressman from Camden County.

Cresitello's opposition to illegal immigration — an odd stance for a Democrat — has won him attention far beyond Morristown. After U.S. Attorney Chris Christie recently criticized him for "grandstanding," Cresitello popped up on New Jersey radio station 101.5, a popular spot for right wing rants, and was also interviewed on television by Lou Dobbs, an anti-illegal immigration fireball.

All this is fine and good for Cresitello up to a point. His immigration views are to the right of most registered Democrats, and will only go so far in a party primary.

Mindful of that, perhaps, the mayor to his credit recently presented his views on other issues. He says in a recent release he was responsible for "jumpstarting nine different stagnant redevelopment zones … (and) reinvigorated a culture of public service in Morristown Town Hall. Some have described what Cresitello has achieved in the last two years, without a property tax increase, as the 'Morristown Miracle.'" (Fred Snowflack, The Daily Record)

Does Andrews know the weak points?
It's hard to understand why a Paterson-raised tough guy like U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg is slinking away from prime-time debates with Rep. Rob Andrews.

A private, toe-to-toe bout they had nearly six years ago could be a reason. Maybe Andrews knows the rib that's tender, the nerve that's raw, or the one-two combination likely to get the 84-year-old warrior to wobble.

When Lautenberg stepped out of retirement in October 2002 to replace the troubled Democrat Bob Torricelli, Andrews served as Lautenberg's debate sparring partner. In mock debate sessions, the Camden County Democrat played the role of Republican nominee Douglas Forrester, the wonky former West Windsor mayor with a Nixonian baritone.

The task was fairly routine: Make Lautenberg sweat, stammer and stop to rehearse the right response. Irritate him with interruptions. Slyly ambush him with a negative attack. Hit him with distortions about his voting record or clauses buried in some 300-page omnibus bill. Do what you can to make him ring-ready for two debates.

Andrews' job was to throw the punches, not take them. And, according to two Democratic Party operatives who witnessed the debate prep boot camp, Andrews diligently performed his duty.

Oh, and Andrews simply asked questions off the cuff, without notes or a script.

Lautenberg shuffled note cards. (Charles Stile, The Record)

Let’s play two
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) today announced that he has accepted terms for a second debate with his two Democratic primary challengers, this time on New Jersey 101.5.

The debate will take place in the station's Mercer County studios from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, and is the first of two debates reaching a statewide audience that Sen. Lautenberg will attend. The second debate is a television face-off on NJN, scheduled for 8 p.m. on May 30. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Stand by their woman
June Fischer of Scotch Plains has been to every Democratic National Convention since 1972 and will be in Denver this August as a superdelegate. She had been supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton, but said yesterday that after Tuesday's primary results, she is "in flux."

Sen. Barack Obama had "an amazing night," while Clinton has "some serious thinking to do," Fischer said.

"A lot of soul-searching is going on today, I'm sure," said Fischer. "I've endorsed Hillary; I don't abandon lightly. I need 24 hours to absorb it."

Other New Jersey superdelegates were sticking with Clinton, including Gov. Jon Corzine.

"I think that Hillary's a fighter," Corzine said after an appearance in Princeton last night. "I know she's going to go forward and we'll see what happens when all the votes are counted on June 3," the day of the last primaries. (Robert Schwaneberg and Claire Heininger, Star-Ledger)

Union donation questioned
A state workers union leader is facing questions over a campaign donation her local made to Newark Mayor Cory Booker's campaign.

Carla Katz may have made the $20,800 donation to Booker's 2006 campaign without seeking approval from CWA Local 1034's governing board, according an internal Communications Workers of America letter obtained by The Star-Ledger of Newark.

The April 30 letter from CWA President Larry Cohen to the union's national executive board says the CWA has appointed an investigator to look into the donation, the Star-Ledger reported Wednesday.

An unauthorized campaign contribution isn't illegal, but would break the union's financial management regulations, which could result in penalties ranging from a fine to suspension or expulsion from the CWA, according to the letter. (Associated Press)

No deal
After two days of negotiations sputtered short of a resolution, the squabbling McGreeveys find themselves back where they started at the beginning of the week: Heading for a potentially messy divorce trial.

Former governor James E. McGreevey and Dina Matos McGreevey emerged from the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth yesterday evening with their lawyers, who said the couple failed to reach a settlement, and that testimony would begin this morning. (Judith Lucas and Brad Parks, Star-Ledger)

No double dipping
Three Republican state legislators stepped into the heated primary contest in the 3rd Congressional District between fellow Republicans Chris Myers and Jack Kelly.

The 8th Legislative District's contingent stood with Myers to announce that, at his request, they were drafting a bill that would ban employees of two or more taxpayer funded jobs from accepting cash payments in lieu of health coverage if one of the jobs already provides health insurance – a practice Myers referred to as "health care double dipping."

The proposal comes just days after a campaign attack Myers made on Kelly on the same topic.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Phil Haines, Assemblyman Scott Rudder and Assemblywoman Dawn Marie Addiego, is a direct response to Myers's charges that Kelly was handed a "patronage job" in the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA), from which he collected $71,000 worth of payments in exchange for opting out of the job's health care plan in favor of the one he already had as an Ocean County Freeholder. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

That’s all, folks
After months of dickering with Donald Trump, the state killed the EnCap project Wednesday, raising the specter of lengthy litigation that could cloud the fate of the Meadowlands for years to come.

The decision came at 10:15 Wednesday morning when the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission voted unanimously to end its nine-year relationship with EnCap Golf Holdings, the Florida-based developer that wanted to build golf courses and a luxury condo village atop four old landfills.

Within an hour, an angry Trump had ordered his work crews off the EnCap site and was calling reporters to complain that the Corzine administration had misled him and would now be responsible for “the historic boondoggle this project will become.” (John Brennan and Jeff Pilletts, The Record)

Is that really necessary?
Top Senate Democrats on Wednesday said they're not convinced a 45 percent toll increase is needed to widen toll roads and fix bridges on them.

Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, and Senate Majority Leader Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Gloucester, on Tuesday said the New Jersey Turnpike Authority should invoke its own power to increase tolls to widen some of the nation's busiest toll roads and fix bridges on them.

Those plans have stalled amid opposition to Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine's proposal to create an agency that would borrow money and significantly increase tolls for decades to pay state debt and fund transportation.

But as Corzine weighs alternatives, the Turnpike Authority retains power to boost tolls on the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike.

Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri has said a 45 percent toll increase is needed to widen toll roads and bridges on them. (Tom Hester Jr., Associated Press)

They have some answers
VINELAND — The members of mayoral candidate Robert Romano's City Council slate admit they don't have all the answers.

But they say they know where to find them.

"We are a council that's going to tap people who have more experience than us," said Douglas Albrecht.

Albrecht said that means the council would dig into the community to seek the opinions of residents with expertise in areas from recreation to economic development.

Albrecht is running in the May 13 municipal election with council candidates Mayra Arroyo, Edward Conrow, Louis Cresci and Peter Coccaro.

The candidates in recent interviews said they could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by reducing the number of paid consultants the city hires. (Tim Zatzariny Jr., The Daily Journal)

Take a hike
JACKSON — One hundred dollars plus lunch.

That is the price the local Republican Club is offering to pay people to walk throughout town Saturday and hang fliers on people's doors, urging votes in Tuesday's election for the slate of Township Council candidates the club is endorsing.

The price is worth paying, said Councilman Scott Martin, past president of the Ocean County Young Republican Organization, who is organizing the club's effort to recruit help. All five council members are Republicans, but with three seats up for grabs, that could change, he said.

"This is a very important election, and that's why we're doing what we're doing," said Martin, whose term does not expire until 2010. "The future of Jackson is at stake in this election."

Political parties are allowed to endorse and contribute to candidates in Jackson, even though the local government is nominally nonpartisan. Candidates are prohibited from running as Democrats or Republicans.

Still, Kathy Mallette of Knolls Drive said she was "surprised" and "disappointed" to see local Republicans paying people for what usually is volunteer work.

"It's telling me it's not about the people of Jackson," the registered Republican said.

Instead, she said, the Republicans' actions prove they care only about maintaining council control. (Fraidy Reiss, Asbury Park Press)

Need a boost?
State Sen. Ronald Rice has asked the state to audit Irvington's municipal finances, saying the town could be headed down a path toward bankruptcy.

Rice, a Democrat whose district includes Irvington, said he wanted a full-scale audit to determine what the town's real deficit is.

He said he requested the audit and investigation be coordinated with the Attorney General's Office and a written report provided to the governor and the Legislature for review.

Last year, as Irvington was facing a $6.5 million budget deficit, it asked to re-enter the state's Distressed Cities Program to get additional funding to close its gap. (Reginald Roberts, Star-Ledger)

Another Rosado wants a Paterson seat
PATERSON — Elizabeth Rosado says she is running for City Council on what she can do, not what her husband did.

Rosado, the wife of former City Council President Jerry Luis Rosado, is challenging 2nd Ward incumbent Aslon Goow Sr. But as a candidate, she will also face her husband's legacy.

"I'm running as myself," Rosado said in an interview last month. "I'm running as Elizabeth."

Jerry Luis Rosado has experience on the council, and he still has support in the city. But he also ran afoul of the law after being arrested in a hit-and-run accident and driving with a suspended license.

He pleaded guilty to the latter, and served 20 days of community service. He withstood calls for his resignation, but lost his re-election bid two years ago.

Elizabeth Rosado, who serves on the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment, said she is proud of her husband's service to the city, but insists she would be an independent councilwoman. She pledges to secure funding for parks, create more recreation for children and bring in more economic development projects. (Alexander MacInnes, Herald-News)

Does Manning have the cred?
PATERSON – Shrugged off by the incumbent as too aloof to feel the pain of the 4th Ward, Kisha Manning smiles and shakes her head.

She was born here and grew up here.

"I even get my hair done and my nails done here," she says with a laugh.

Her school record at William Paterson University and subsequent success as a revenue officer with the Internal Revenue Service don’t diminish the roots, or the lifelong street cred Councilwoman Vera Ames-Garnes claims Manning lacks to maneuver in a city that has been under state-control for 18 years. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Ames-Garnes knows the ward
PATERSON – A man on a cellphone behind the wheel of a car with New York plates turns a pair of red eyes toward the formidable-looking woman suddenly shouting at him and jabbing her index finger at him.

"Hey, home boy," bellows Councilwoman Vera Ames-Garnes. "Stay off my streets!"

The man floors it, and seconds later a Paterson patrol car streaks past in another direction.

"They’re going the wrong way," mutters Ames-Garnes, throwing her minivan in gear and tearing after the police. She pulls her vehicle up onto the sidewalk alongside the patrol car where it’s now idling in the middle of the road next to an unmarked car facing the opposite direction.

"Are you looking for that guy?" asks the councilwoman, and gives them the license plate number. The police disappear down the block in pursuit.

"If you don’t belong here, I know you don’t belong here," announces Ames-Garnes, a 23-year veteran of the city council and Paterson native who graduated from John F. Kennedy High School, and went from schoolyard activism as a parent into public life as an elected official.

"That guy was in here looking for someone to buy drugs from," she says with a frown that an instant later disappears as she catches sight of someone smiling and waving at her from the sidewalk.

"Vera!"

"Hey, how ya’ doin’, darling?" The same voice that earlier sent the man’s tires squealing now fills the street with happiness.

Although she garnered fewer than 300 voters when she tried to go citywide in the last mayoral election, Ames-Garnes can’t walk down a sidewalk here in her 4th Ward without people making contact. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Santana wants to take on 4th Ward gangs
PATERSON – Wilkin Santana turns left on Rosa Parks Boulevard and hits the gas into the heart of the 4th Ward. He sees foreclosure signs on front doors and gangs standing on sidewalks who look at him when he drives past.

"You have open drug dealing going on here," says Santana, shaking his head as he guns the engine. "You’ve got crack houses. Abandoned buildings. This is her record. I believe if you have 23 years to try to fix the neighborhood, you’ve had enough."

His reference is to Councilwoman Vera Ames-Garnes. This is her neighborhood. It’s also Santana’s ward, which is why he’s running against Ames-Garnes.

The 27-year old challenger does not believe his councilwoman has actively fought the gang’s control of these streets. She can wave to people and get on the sidewalk level and talk about how no one knows Santana, but after more than two decades in office, who wouldn’t know an elected official, he wonders. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Doubling down fails
TINTON FALLS — The Borough Council on Tuesday shot down a measure that would have doubled the term of the council president from one to two years.

Council members voted 3-2 against introducing the ordinance, which was championed and offered by Councilman Paul Ford. Council President Michael Skudera cast the second vote in favor.

Three votes are needed to force a public hearing on ordinances being considered by the council. Tuesday's vote kills the measure. (Keith Brown, Asbury Park Press)

Running on vision
Four years ago the Belleville council members representing the township's four wards swept into office on a platform of change, backed by then Mayor Jerry Digori.

On the to-do list was increased development in the Valley section of town, continuation of a planned renovation of the municipal stadium and fields, and a list of quality of life improvements.

First Ward Councilwoman Marie Strumolo Burke, 2nd Ward Councilman Steven Rovell and 4th Ward Councilman John Notari are each fighting to retain their seats. All point to experience and vision as the reason voters should give them another four-year term.

Their challengers, a mix of former town officials and political newcomers, argue the incumbents haven't earned the right to another four years and list a litany of reasons why.

On Tuesday, voters will head to the polls in the non-partisan election. (Kasi Addison, Star-Ledger)

They mean business
OCEAN CITY – Voters in the 2nd Ward will have a choice next week between three business owners for City Council.

That is fitting given that the 2nd Ward is dominated by the city's downtown and Boardwalk, the heartbeat of commerce on the island.

John Baratta, Karen Nash Bergman and Robert Doliszny are making their first bids for elected office. All three candidates support the idea of building a new parking garage downtown. (Michael Miller, Press of Atlantic City)

Changes coming to Newton
Change doesn't come often on the Newton town council, but when it does, it's usually long-lasting.

The last time a new council member was added to the five-member governing body was in 2001 with the election of Joseph Ricciardo. Before that, it was in 1998 when E. Kevin Elvidge and Thea Unhoch were elected to their first terms.

This year, Newton voters will have an opportunity a make another change, with five candidates vying for two seats.

Councilman Ray Storm, a 16-year incumbent who is running for his fifth four-year term, faces four challengers in the nonpartisan election on Tuesday.

The challengers are Kevin Phalon, John McMonagle, Kristen Becker and Helen LeFrois.

Councilman Phil Diglio, who was first elected in 1992 with Storm, decided against seeking re-election this year, making a second seat open in the race.

With five candidates running for two seats, a runoff election is expected since at least one candidate has to receive 50 percent of ballots cast, plus one more vote, for winners to be declared. (Joe Moszczynski, Star-Ledger)

No hard feelings
TRENTON — The city council meeting on Tuesday was briefly disrupted when former mayoral candidate Frank Weeden uttered an obscenity at Council President Paul M. Pintella.

West Ward Councilwoman Annette Lartigue heard the comment and asked for Weeden to be removed, but Weeden apologized and immediately left the meeting.

The incident occurred after Weeden said he wouldn't be making comments during the public- comment portion of the meeting. Pintella said he appreciated that and Weeden then cursed at Pintella. The pair have sparred in the past.

Weeden finished fourth in the 2006 mayoral election. (Trenton Times)

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com