Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

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Who is Jon Corzine?
TRENTON — You never know which Gov. Jon S. Corzine is going to show up at the State House these days.

There is the pro-labor Mr. Corzine, who seemed genuinely moved as he signed legislation earlier this month, citing the “moral necessity” of giving workers throughout the state the right to take paid leave to care for a newborn or an elderly parent. Then there is the tough-on-labor Mr. Corzine, whose proposed budget would pare 3,000 state jobs and outsource the cleanup of hazardous sites to private contractors.

There is Mr. Corzine the environmentalist, traveling to Yale for a recent global warming conference to tout New Jersey as being at the cutting edge of greenhouse gas restrictions. But then there is Mr. Corzine the bane of environmentalists, who is toying with the idea of closing state parks, weakening housing and land-use rules and pondering the feasibility of a nuclear power plant.

During his five years in the United States Senate, Mr. Corzine — a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs — compiled one of the most liberal voting records of any Democrat. But now, during the current budget season, many in Trenton say that his bleeding heart has occasionally clashed with his corporate brain. (David W. Chen, New York Times)

Five vie for Andrews’ seat
Five candidates are grasping for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews after 18 years in office.

Andrews, who represents the 1st District, decided against a re-election bid in order to run for U.S. Senate.

On the Democrat side, party leaders didn’t go far in finding a replacement, calling on his wife, Camille, to run for the seat. She is running against Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad and John Caramanna for the party’s nomination. A fourth Democrat, David Evans of Sicklerville, recently dropped out of the race.

The Republicans hope to change the status quo. They have two candidates, Dale Glading and Fernando Powers, seeking the primary win. (Pete McCarthy, Gloucester County Times)

Forget something?
Four months after a historic turnover in the New Jersey State Legislature, close to half its newest alumni have yet to fulfill their final duties as officeholders.

After the polls close and the farewell parties wind down, outgoing state lawmakers are supposed to distribute or spend the rest of their campaign funds and close out the accounts.

But about half the 29 lawmakers who left office in January failed to meet the April 15 deadline for filing the final reports on their campaign-finance accounts, according to interviews and a review of records available online through the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

State election law says that candidates are allowed to spend any money left over in the campaign accounts in one or more of six ways permitted by law, such as donating money to other campaigns and giving it to charity.

The rules are intended, in part, to prevent candidates from spending the money for personal uses unrelated to their office-holding. (Adrienne Lu, Philadelphia Inquirer)

What to look for Tuesday
ORANGE – Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) has invested his time, name and $2,600 in Eldridge Hawkins, Jr., son of his former seatmate in the Assembly, who voted in his first Orange election just last year.

Codey’s political enemies will crow if his candidate gets anything short of a first place finish, but the former governor’s pick of a 28-year old with “it factor” potential could pay political dividends in the future. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

The wages of sin
The real punishment may be the remaining life of regret, longing and debt.

Sammy Rivera, 61, may face as little as 18 months in prison when a federal judge sentences him in August for accepting a $5,000 bribe from an FBI informant. But when Rivera finishes whatever term he may receive, his troubles will be far from over if the experiences of other Passaic County mayors toppled by federal corruption charges are any indication.

Although their prison sentences stretched no longer than three years, their punishments seem to have lasted much longer.

Since emerging from their prison cells, three former Passaic County mayors — Louis V. Messercola of Wayne, Joseph Lipari of Passaic and Martin G. Barnes of Paterson — have been saddled with mountainous legal debts and fees.

But the bigger price is the loss of power and influence. While the three disgraced men all still live in or around the cities they once ruled, their presence has eroded from larger than life to practically invisible. (Ed Beeson, The Record)

A done deal?
ELIZABETH, N.J. – Former Gov. James E. McGreevey and his estranged wife, having reached a deal on custody of their child, return to court today in a bid to settle other issues as they work to dissolve their marriage.

The child-custody matters were settled after three days of closed-door negotiations last week at the Union County Courthouse, assisted by a judge who has urged the nation’s first openly gay governor and Dina Matos McGreevey to avoid a divorce trial.

While their lawyers said they hope for continued progress, Stephen P. Haller, lawyer for the former governor, acknowledges “the issues that remain are markedly different with different consequences.”

The first to be tackled will be financial matters: alimony and child support, court spokeswoman Sandra Thaler-Gerber said. After that, they could tackle Matos McGreevey’s claim of marriage fraud. (Jeffrey Gold, Associated Press)

All eyes on the attorneys
After a morning of negotiation in a difficult divorce case, the opposing lawyers — John Post for the wife, Stephen Haller for the husband — decided to take a stroll in the afternoon sunshine outside Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth.

This being the McGreevey divorce case, they did not take that walk alone on Tuesday. A photographer from one of the New York tabloids was fronting them, step for step, snapping pictures until finally Haller, who apparently couldn’t help himself, put his arm around Post and grinned.

Clip that photo and you have the essence of the men: Post, who represents Dina Matos McGreevey, standing there without smiling, the ex-Marine turned no-nonsense attorney; and Haller, who represents former governor James E. McGreevey, hamming it up for the camera, the bombastic advocate with the outsized personality.

The McGreeveys settled their custody dispute behind closed doors Thursday, and the remaining issues in their trial — money and Matos McGreevey’s claim she was defrauded into marrying her gay husband — head to open court today.

All eyes will be on the McGreeveys, and on their lawyers. (Judith Lucas and Brad Parks, Star-Ledger)

A question of semantics
LONG BEACH TOWNSHIP – Advertisements that appeared last week in local weekly publications have become a problem for Barnegat Light VFW Post 3729 and a team of candidates in Tuesday’s nonpartisan election.

The ads, which state the veterans’ organization “proudly supports” township Board of Commissioners candidates Robert Fleck, Sharon Stefanoni and incumbent Robert Palmer, have some people hot under the collar.

“Robert Palmer will do anything to win this election, and he’s sunken the lowest this time by saying the VFW endorses him, and they don’t. Everyone knows,” Holgate resident Bill Hutson said. Hutson said he got involved because he is a veteran and is upset about the advertisement.

Hutson worked for Palmer during the 2004 election, and he calls the candidates’ tactics a new low in campaigning.

Palmer says the wording in the ad is accurate. (Donna Weaver, Press of Atlantic City)

Johnson, ex-Totowa councilman and Congressional candidate, dies
Walter E. Johnson, a former Totowa councilman who twice ran for Congress, died Saturday.

The Wayne resident was 86.

Mr. Johnson, an industrial engineer, jumped into a 1969 special election necessitated by the resignation of Rep. Charles S. Joelson in the 8th District. Running as an independent, Mr. Johnson opposed two better-known candidates, the Democrat Robert A. Roe and the Republican Gene Boyle.

Mr. Johnson’s chief campaign issue was an immediate end to the Vietnam War. Clifford Johnson recalled that his father believed the U.S. was only partially committed to fighting the war and that the consequences were catastrophic. (Jay Levin, The Record)

Sunday, May 11

Loyalties challenged
WASHINGTON — It took Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) roughly a nanosecond to attack Rob Andrews, the veteran South Jersey congressman who last month mounted an unexpected June primary challenge against the incumbent.

A Lautenberg television ad quickly hit the airwaves highlighting Andrews’ early and vocal support for the Iraq war, showing unflattering photos of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and accusing the Democratic congressman of “conspiring on the worst policy blunder in American history, built on lies and arrogance.”

Lautenberg, who himself initially backed the Iraq war and now like Andrews is a critic, said he “went out early and directly” because he “could not ignore this false challenge.” He said he could not stand idly by while the congressman cast “innuendo” that he was not up to the job at age 84.

Such feistiness comes as no surprise to those who have followed Lautenberg’s career, both as a hard-nosed campaigner in four previous elections and during his tenure in the Senate. (Robert Cohen, Star-Ledger)

Freedom’s just another word for…nonsense?
Dick Zimmer celebrated “Tax Freedom Day” last week. The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate was not alone. Many other Republicans in New Jersey and doubtless across the state joined him. The day was May 7, which was last Wednesday.

What are we talking about?

Let Zimmer, a former state legislator and congressman, explain:

“(May 7) is the first time this year New Jersey residents will finally be putting money in their own pockets rather than the federal, state or local governments,” he said in a press release.

What does that mean?

Well, Zimmer points to the national Tax Foundation, which declares, “The average American works 113 days to pay federal, state and local government. New Jersey residents work 127 days; only Connecticut residents work longer to pay for their taxes.”

The notion that government taxes too much and spends too much money is hardly a unique political position. Republicans and conservative groups invented “Tax Freedom Day” to dramatize the issue.

So, you see the point. New Jersey residents spend more than four months just making enough money to pay their taxes. That means that government must be really awful. That’s what boosters of “Tax Freedom Day” want you to believe: it’s all the fault of Big Bad Government.

But the logic of all this falls apart very quickly. (Fred Snowflack, The Daily Record)

Go negative early
When Medford Mayor Chris Myers and Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly announced their respective campaigns for the Third Congressional District seat, both Republicans insisted that their contest would focus on issues and not delve into a battle between Burlington and Ocean County’s Republican parties.

But with less than a month remaining before the June 3 primary, the race between the two leading Republican candidates has grown increasingly negative with both candidates taking shots at each other’s current or former employment. (David Levinsky, Burlington County Times)

Free for all!
Primary elections in New Jersey’s 1st Congressional District tend to be sleepy affairs.

Democrats renominate the incumbent (only two people have represented the South Jersey district since 1974, Jim Florio and Rob Andrews) while Republicans search, sometimes in vain, for someone — anyone — to run. In two of the last three elections, the GOP has failed to field a candidate.

But this year the primary in the Democratic stronghold has political “junkies,” if not ordinary voters, staring in wide-eyed wonder.

Incumbent Rob Andrews has bowed out, leaving five declared candidates running for their parties’ nominations, three Democrats and two Republicans, none of whom has ever run for political office before.

Meanwhile, an unknown number of more experienced Democrats wait in the wings, eager to assume the Democratic nomination once the primary is over. (Richard Pearsall, Courier-Post)

Judge flap far from over
Despite a breakthrough on Bergen County judges last week, County Executive Dennis McNerney‘s bid to sit on a statewide municipal merger panel remains in senatorial courtesy limbo.

McNerney has embraced the cause as a municipal consolidation crusader, issuing a 112-page report this year that recommended merging 35 Bergen County towns. It would seem like a perfect starting point for the legislative panel, which has been tasked to do the same thing, but with a statewide reach.

But Sen. Lorretta Weinberg of Teaneck and Sen. Gerald Cardinale of Demarest have not “signed off” on the nomination, which Governor Corzine made last November. Cardinale said he would back the nomination if McNerney uses his clout to force a Democratic double-dipper ally to drop one of his elected posts.

And Weinberg’s block came after Sen. Paul Sarlo, the Democrat from Woodridge and McNerney associate, blocked two of her recommended appointments to other state panels.

There is no end to the six-month petty stalemate despite rumors last week that McNerney’s appointment was included in negotiations that broke a similar logjam over judicial appointments. (Charles Stile, The Record)

Who wears clogs to a 5K race?
The Auditor was shocked — shocked — when last weekend’s 5K race to raise money for breast cancer research became an occasion for partisan trash-talking.

First there was the matter of apparel: While sneakered Democrats Gov. Jon Corzine (shorts and a windbreaker) and Senate President Richard Codey (jogging suit) came dressed to sweat, the always-gentlemanly state Sen. Leonard Lance (R-Hunterdon) arrived at Newark’s muddy Branch Brook Park in slacks, a pink oxford shirt, a navy blazer and what appeared to be rubber clogs. Lance, who lives in a 1780s farmhouse, defended his footwear, saying, “I had to milk the cows.”

Codey’s “Team Codey” T- shirts also drew some ribbing from Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union), whose team lacked the Democrats’ depth — 13 people to more than 100 — and didn’t shell out for snazzy uniforms.

“We’re fiscally responsible,” Kean said. His team was trounced when it came to collecting pledges — $1,250 to Team Codey’s $10,000-plus.

But the GOP got its revenge when Codey had to duck off the course after about a quarter-mile because of a strained right hamstring. Some said he never re turned, but Codey insisted he came back and walked across the finish line with his wife, Mary Jo Codey — then played 18 holes of golf that afternoon. Rest easy In case anyone was concerned by online gossip that Corzine should return to Wall Street to work for Merrill Lynch, the governor confirmed last week he is still thoroughly enjoying the Statehouse. (The Auditor, Star-Ledger)

Looking different in Irvington
Irvington’s last municipal race in 2006 was uncontested.

Mayor Wayne Smith ran for a second term, with all the incumbent at-large council members under the slate, “Team Irvington.”

This time, however, in Tuesday’s nonpartisan election, all four incumbents are facing stiff opposition.

Although there is no “Team Irvington” ticket, Smith said those incumbents who ran under the banner in 2004 still have his backing. They include Sandra Jones of the South Ward, Council President John Sowell of the West Ward and Quinzell McKenzie of the East Ward.

The only formal alliance has been between North Ward Council David Lyons and Keith White, who is running in the West Ward against Sowell and Cedric Hunter. (Reginald Roberts, Star-Ledger)

Will there be voters?
Believe it or not, New Jersey’s traditional June primaries are less than a month away.

But without the hoopla and broad voter interest that surrounded the state’s Feb. 5 presidential primaries, the electorate may be slow to turn out for the upcoming June 3 primaries despite contests over one of New Jersey’s U.S. Senate seats, political pundits said. (Robert Stern, Trenton Times)

EnCap far from over
New Jersey may have shot down the EnCap golf and housing project in Lyndhurst and Rutherford — but a project planned by an affiliated company in nearby North Arlington is largely outside the state’s reach.

That’s because the 110-acre industrial site along Porete Avenue in North Arlington falls just beyond the jurisdiction of the state Meadowlands Commission, which pulled the plug Wednesday on the proposed EnCap project atop southern Bergen County landfills.

The commission’s action and EnCap’s petition a day later for protection from creditors under U.S. bankruptcy law left several questions unanswered, including the status of the North Arlington plan, which potentially would be more lucrative. (John Brennan and Nick Clunn, The Record)

Pascrell’s quest continues
REP. BILL PASCRELL JR.‘s crusade to have the Paterson Great Falls named a national historic park moved one step closer to reality last week when H-189 passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The federal designation would mean more funding for the area and national recognition that Founding Father Alexander Hamilton designed Paterson to be one of the industrial engines of the new nation.

The bill passed the House in October. Last month, Pascrell, a former Paterson mayor, took House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a tour of the area, which includes the second highest waterfall in the eastern United States. (Herb Jackson, The Record)

The parking ticket heard ‘round New Jersey
It may go down as the single most talked-about parking ticket in Denville history.

It was issued to Mayor Ted Hussa for illegally parking in a handicapped space, based on a complaint brought by a woman who does not live in town and who was not there on the infamous day — at the town’s senior social — when Hussa allegedly parked illegally. (Paula Saha, Star-Ledger)

Saturday, May 10

Lieberman sitting this one out
United States Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn) may have done both Frank Lautenberg and Rob Andrews a favor today by not weighing in on their Senate primary fight.

“I’ve never been involved with it. Frank Lautenberg is a good friend, and I know Rob Andrews,” said Lieberman as he was leaving a McCain press conference at Jersey City’s Liberty Science Center. “Probably I should say that I have nothing to say.”

Lieberman, who broke with Democrats over his support of the Iraq War and left the party to win reelection to his seat in 2006 after he was defeated by Ned Lamont in the primary, wouldn’t exactly be a coveted endorsement in the race. Both Democrats have distanced themselves from their own earlier support for the war, and Lieberman’s support of President Bush’s foreign policy is anathema to the liberal Democrats who tend to turn out for primaries. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Don’t know much about New Jersey
Though he had just attended a New Jersey fund-raiser that added more than $1 million to his campaign, Arizona Sen. John McCain yesterday confessed to not knowing much about state politics.

“I’m not that familiar with the political situation on the ground here,” McCain said when asked whether he would consider asking U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie to stay on if McCain becomes president.

McCain deferred when pressed on whether he was familiar with Christie – a federal prosecutor appointed by President Bush – or Christie’s work.

“I know it’s been good,” he said. “I’m certainly not familiar with the political environment here.”

Christie’s hiring of his one-time boss, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, for a multimillion-dollar oversight contract was the topic of a recent congressional hearing on deferred prosecution agreements. (Angela Delli Santi, Associated Press)

Payne’s switcheroo
U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, D-Newark, a superdelegate who had been supporting Hillary Clinton for president, has switched his allegiance to Barack Obama.

“After careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that Barack Obama can best bring about the change that our country so desperately wants and needs,” Payne, whose district includes parts of Hudson County, said Thursday. (Robert Schwaneberg, Newhouse News Service)

Rivera out, Schaer in
Passaic Mayor Samuel Rivera, credited with giving his city’s Latino majority power and visibility in local government, pleaded guilty Friday to corruption and resigned.

Passaic City Council President Gary Schaer became acting mayor, declaring that Passaic residents deserve “a municipal government that is honest and trustworthy.”

A solemn Rivera, 61, pleaded guilty to a single charge of extortion under the color of official right during a morning hearing at the U.S. District Courthouse in Trenton. (Meredith Mandell, The Record)

Sinking fortunes in Hoboken
The Chairman of the Board said it best: “Riding high in April, shot down in May.” It’s part of Hoboken Mayor David Roberts‘ new theme song.

Last month, Roberts was feeling pretty good about himself, after being by propped up by Union City Mayor and state Sen. Brian Stack for having a city that would be the envy of many elected officials. He was feeling so good that he started talking to some Hudson County Democratic Organization campaign specialists about helping in his re-election bid.

Did he build a consensus and have everyone else on board? Nah.

Roberts got Councilman Ruben Ramos – who is also a state assemblyman and should have known better – to introduce a resolution at the council session advising Councilwoman Beth Mason to drop her lawsuit against the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority in her effort to obtain documents. So what happens, the council members decide to take a slap at Roberts by rejecting the resolution, 7-2, with only Ramos and Councilwoman Terry LaBruno voting in favor of it.

Food fight! (Political Insider, Jersey Journal)

Delran GOP piles on
One slate of candidates in Delran says its campaign spending is a necessary defensive move.

Its political opponents say it’s desperation.

Whatever you call it, the three Republican-backed candidates in Delran have spent almost $61,000 targeting a township that has just 9,374 voters for Tuesday’s election.

That’s more than double what they spent at this time in the previous election, two years ago, and significantly more than they have spent at this point in any election in recent history. This year, they have the Democrat-backed slate’s spending beat 3 to 1. (Maya Raod, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Just a bit late
VINELAND – As the city’s voters prepare to cast ballots in the municipal election Tuesday, one of the mayoral candidates’ campaign-funding declarations are not yet available in a statewide database.

Nicholas Girone, who is challenging incumbent Mayor Perry Barse, had not filed his list of receipts and expenditures by the May 2 deadline, according to the state’s Electoral Law Enforcement Commission’s records.

The missing form, called an R-1, is a detailed summary of all funds received and spent at the time of filing. All candidates spending more than a threshold of $3,500 are required to file the form twice – at 29 days and 11 days before the election.

Girone said by phone Friday that the delay was because he initially tried to file his form electronically. “That got messed up,” he said. (Juliet Fletcher, Press of Atlantic City)

Watch out for flying fur
Three Democrats seeking to capture seats on the Bergen County Board of Freeholders vowed this week to “end boss control” of county government.

Three Republicans seeking those same freeholder seats have vowed to rein in spending, criticizing the freeholders’ approval of $27 million in borrowing this week as a wasteful spending spree.

The race for three freeholder seats appears to have officially begun.

And the picture painted by the six challengers is that the all-Democrat Freeholder Board is a clubby group of insiders who spend freely without debate and who have penchant for rewarding campaign contributors with generous government contracts. (Oshrat Carmiel, The Record)

The Nutley handoff
NUTLEY – At a party in his son’s campaign headquarters Thursday night, retiring Commissioner Peter Scarpelli sent the man he hopes will succeed him, Dr. Joseph Scarpelli, into the final five-day fray of the Nutley commissioners’ race.

“I can’t say more about this young guy,” said the elder Scarpelli, 70, a former mayor, who serves as his son’s campaign manager. “I’ve known him all my life. He’s probably the best candidate we’ve put forward in the Scarpelli family.”

The younger Scarpelli, 49, a former freeholder, hopes to secure one of five commissioners’ seats where incumbents Joanne Cocchiola, Mauro Tucci, Carmen Orechio and Tom Evans are vying along with Sal Olivo, Frank Turano, Al Petracco, and himself. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

What the Long Beach candidates have to say
Long Beach Township will choose all three commissioners for its governing board from a slate of seven candidates in Tuesday’s nonpartisan election.

The planned beach replenishment project and the Beach Patrol have been major issues in recent months, along with ongoing concerns about development and business.

Six of the seven candidates took part in a Press of Atlantic City survey asking them about these and other municipal concerns. (Press of Atlantic City)

Firing with both barrels
BELLEVILLE – Less than a week before Election Day, both sides open up with everything they’ve got, and the resulting facial expressions and body language indicate that some of the shots have landed.

A glossy mail piece hits the tight-knit blue-collar neighborhoods off Franklin Avenue that run up against the Parkway on the other side. The man whose face appears in unflattering photos on those mailers storms to the microphone at a rally for him and his running mates. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

With the PolitickerNJ.com Wake-Up Call e-mailed to your inbox, phone, Blackberry or PDA first thing in the morning, you can get a rundown of New Jersey’s top political headlines. Sign up to get the Wake-Up Call delivered every morning.

Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com