Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

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Where does Lautenberg live?
Rep. Rob Andrews‘ campaign yesterday questioned whether Sen. Frank Lautenberg still lives in New Jersey, pointing to a tax rebate he received for his Washington, D.C., home and the fact that his wife is registered to vote as a New York resident.

“The citizens of New Jersey have a right to know where Sen. Lautenberg is domiciled,” said Michael Murphy, chairman of Andrews’ campaign. “From what we have seen, there are some serious questions as to where he’s actually domiciled. There’s no question in my mind he owns real estate overlooking the Hudson, but does he live there?”

Lautenberg’s camp issued a quick and angry response, saying there should be no doubt where the senator lives.

“From growing up in Paterson from humble roots to building a great American business here to living in New Jersey his entire life, Frank Lautenberg is a New Jersey success story, a New Jersey pride story,” said his spokeswoman, Julie Roginsky. “Senator Lautenberg is New Jersey through and through.”

The senator’s residency emerged as a campaign issue after two political web sites posted items about it yesterday. (Josh Margolin, Star-Ledger)

Get rid of all of it, Sabrin says
CHERRY HILL — The most conservative of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate outlined a radical plan to cut the federal government in an interview Monday.

Contending that Washington is “bankrupt” of both money and ideas, Dr. Murray Sabrin said the country is in a “perfect economic storm” that demands a return to free enterprise and confines the federal government to the role outlined in the U.S. Constitution.

“There’s nothing (in the Constitution) about agriculture, housing, education, or energy,” Sabrin, an economics professor at Ramapo College, said. He proposes that the federal departments bearing those names and functions be eliminated.

Social Security would also be phased out under Sabrin’s plan, with new workers shifting their contributions to 401(k) plans.

The Defense Department would remain, but much downsized, limited to defending our own borders and security, while withdrawing from places such as Germany, South Korea and Iraq.

Sabrin spoke Monday to the editorial board of the Courier-Post, which has invited all the candidates for the U.S. Senate, to appear before the board as it considers endorsements in the primaries.

Sabrin is running for the Republican nomination against former Rep. Dick Zimmer, of Delaware Township, Hunterdon County, and state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, of Montville, Morris County.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Rob Andrews of Haddon Heights is challenging incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg of Cliffside Park, Bergen County, and Donald Cresitello of Morristown.

Sabrin calls himself “Maverick Murray” and, lacking support from the party establishment, has striven for media attention in the primary in novel ways, such as inviting people to bet on his pick in the Kentucky Derby (Cowboy Cal) and contribute the winnings to his campaign.

Cowboy Cal finished sixth, out of the money. (Richard Pearsall, Courier-Post)

Corzine slept here?
Back in 2005, when he first ran for governor, Jon Corzine was asked in a debate where he would take a long weekend if he could go anywhere in the state. His answer: the Delaware Water Gap.

Nice answer, but where was he planning to stay? The luxury hotels are on the Pennsylvania side of the river. The nearest accommodations on the Jersey side are the campsites at Worthington State Forest. And you can bet the golden boy of Goldman-Sachs wasn’t going to sleep on the ground.

Not like those Boy Scouts who showed up at High Point State Park on Saturday. Dozens of Scouts, bird watchers and other outdoorsy types gathered to protest the Corzine administration’s cutbacks in the state parks in that neck of the woods. Both High Point, which sits just north of the Water Gap, and Worthington on its south end were on the hit list as part of the governor’s “austerity” budget.

When Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa Jackson announced the closings last month, she warned that anyone planning to hike through the parks would be chased away by police. The enforcement “won’t be Gestapo-like,” Jackson told reporters in a teleconference at the time. “They’ll just tell you to move on.”

The Department of Environmental Protection has since softened on the plan and now says the parks will remain open but exactly what a visitor will be able to do re mains a question. As of yesterday a department representative would say only that the DEP is “weighing all options.”

But the plan was a poorly conceived publicity stunt from the beginning. The Appalachian Trail runs straight through the park. Under the original plan as announced by Jackson, hikers walking from Maine to Georgia would have had to make a detour around New Jersey. That would have made us a national disgrace, as one speaker noted at that weekend rally, which was held in front of the towering monument to veterans that sits at the highest point in New Jersey. (Paul Mulshine, Star-Ledger)

Here comes the dirty laundry
After failing to make headway yesterday during a full day of settlement negotiations, the McGreeveys are preparing for testimony in the second phase of their high-profile divorce trial.

Former Gov. James E. McGreevey, his estranged wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, and their attorneys began talking yesterday morning about the financial aspects of their split — child support, alimony and division of marital assets — but they could not find common ground, even after Judge Karen Cassidy interceded.

“The judge spent the better part of the afternoon trying to resolve the matter,” said Sandy Thaler-Gerber, press liaison for Superior Court in Union County.

And so, unlike the McGreeveys’ custody dispute — which settled out of court last week — this battle will be decided by a judge. (Judith Lucas and Brad Parks, Star-Ledger)

No more trials for Sharpe James
There will be no part two to the Sharpe James trial.

The federal government dropped its additional charges against former Newark Mayor Sharpe James today, saying that they would only use up additional resources for a new trial that wouldn’t likely result in any additional prison time for James.

James was convicted last month on five corruption charges, and faces 10-15 years in federal prison. But he was set to face more fraud charges in a July 8th trial relating to his use of city credit cards to pay for personal expenses, including movie tickets, pay-per-view pornographic movies and body lotions at a hotel. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

So much for the conspiracies
Shortly after shuffling into a federal courtroom in shackles last September, Passaic City Mayor Sammy Rivera went on the offensive with a tried-and-true weapon: the steadfast denial.

That alleged $5,000 bribe he took from an undercover investigator posing as an insurance company official? Complete nonsense, Rivera said, all part of a plot to put him away.

And what about those boasts about his ability to muscle the City Council into awarding the company a lucrative contract? The feds allegedly had those claims captured on tape.

“I want to see those tapes,” Rivera told a reporter. “They cut the tapes.”

Rivera cut a deal with prosecutors on Friday. No chest-pounding denial, no bravado, no B-movie conspiracy plot as he stepped out of the federal courthouse, protected by an umbrella and flanked by his family. His defense lawyer did the talking for him this time.

“You have to be a poet or psychologist to explain human nature,” said Henry Klingeman, musing on why his client took the bribe. “You succumb to temptation.” (Charles Stile, The Record)

Last-minute details in Vineland
VINELAND — Robert Romano and his slate energized supporters with an election eve campaign rally.

Nick Girone took a modern approach to last-minute campaigning: He spent Monday night sending e-mails in a final get-out-the-vote effort.

Mayor Perry Barse and his slate will continue campaigning through today at their Landis Avenue headquarters, making phone calls and offering rides to the polls.

Despite the different down-to-the-wire campaign styles, one local political pundit said all three Vineland mayoral candidates will have to play to their strengths — and their bases — to secure a win today. (Tim Zatzariny Jr., The Daily Journal)

Decision day around Burlco
Voters in four Burlington County municipalities will go to the polls today to elect commissioners and council members in nonpartisan local elections.

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. The communities participating this year are Bass River, Delran, Medford Lakes and Mount Holly.

Under the state’s nonpartisan form of government, candidates run under a slogan rather than as a Democrat or Republican. According to the League of Municipalities, voters in 87 of New Jersey’s 566 towns opted to choose their municipal officials during the May nonpartisan elections.

Ostensibly, it opens up the election process to candidates who may not be part of the mainstream parties. This does not mean, however, that some candidates may not be backed by either the Democrats or Republicans. (Courier-Post)

Watching from the sidelines
PATERSON – Ward races will dominate the polling places tomorrow on Election Day, and one person who will watch the results come in but does not expect any surprises is At-Large Councilman Jeffrey Jones.

Jones already has his sights on 2010, and whatever happens Tuesday Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres will not interfere with his plans.

“I have every intention of running for mayor,” says Jones, a 50-year old native Patersonian who was first elected to the council in 1996.

The rise of the Dominican American Organization of New Jersey, including its outright repudiation of Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’s fellow Puerto Rican candidates in wards 2 and 5, has the longer term potential of weakening Paterson’s Latino alliance.

Although that dynamic threatens Torres and plays to the advantage of Jones, an African-American, the councilman refuses to acknowledge Dominican victories over Puerto Ricans on Tuesday as victories of consequence.

If Tavarez beats incumbent Councilman Juan Torres in the 5th ward, for example, he will still need to prove himself on the council for Jones to determine whether his presence on the governing body is good for Paterson. (Max Pizarro, PolitickerNJ.com)

Keep it in the family
DENVILLE — The controversy surrounding Mayor Ted Hussa‘s alleged misuse of handicapped parking is sparking a discussion about what council members should and should not say in public.

Hussa is due in Dover municipal court today on a citizen complaint filed by Jeannemarie Ahrens accusing the mayor of illegally parking in a handicapped zone.

Councilwoman Deborah Smith, who criticized former Councilwoman Pat Valva for publicly raising the Hussa allegation last month, is seeking a discussion of council “do’s and don’ts” when the council meets tonight — seven hours after Hussa is due in court. (Rob Jennings, The Daily Record)

Could Pfund be on the way out in Ridgewood?
Ridgewood Mayor David Pfund isn’t up for reelection tomorrow, but he may not keep the mayoral seat much longer.

The town’s five member council, governed under the Faulkner Act, chooses one of its own every two years to become mayor. Pfund has been mayor for four years, and his council seat is not up for reelection until 2010. But with five candidates vying for three seats on the body in tomorrow’s election, Pfund may either step down and allow someone else to take the helm. Or he could try to hold on for reelection at the council’s July 1st reorganization meeting.

As of right now, Pfund isn’t letting on what he’s going to do, though some local insiders have suggested that he’s getting ready to step down. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

A measured response to Trump
Donald Trump lashed out at the Corzine administration Monday, describing last week’s termination of the EnCap project as an example of Trenton’s ineptitude.

“The State of New Jersey is being ridiculed by other competing states as totally dysfunctional — I now understand why,” Trump wrote in a three page letter.

The letter was addressed to key Corzine aide Gary Rose — who went to Manhattan last week to personally deliver the news that Trump’s bid to rescue the wayward EnCap Golf project would be cut short.

“The reason the Governor did not tell me personally of the State’s intentions after all of the hard work I had done, but rather sent you as the messenger, is that he knew what he was doing was unfair and wrong,” Trump wrote to Rose.

Trump added that Corzine should be “ashamed” for his actions. But Corzine didn’t accept that premise.

“We strongly disagree with the characterizations and positions asserted in Mr. Trump’s letter,” said Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton. “The administration is not interested in name-calling or theatrics, but only in protecting the taxpayers and the environment.”

Trump predicted doom for the state’s hopes both for a cleanup of the Rutherford and Lyndhurst landfills and for turning the site into an economic engine. (John Brennan, The Record)

A modest proposal
TRENTON — While advocates push for a bigger, better Clean Elections program in 2009, Gov. Jon S. Corzine still has no plans to fund the publicly funded elections in next year’s Assembly primaries.

Following pilot programs to test publicly funded elections that have had mixed results, advocates announced a new coalition Monday to fund and expand the program at a time when legislators debate a budget filled with cuts.

Among their demands are common gripes good-government types have had with how the program was established in 2005 and 2007: give equal funding to third-party candidates, sufficiently fund the program’s promotion and enforcement and include primaries, where the real competition occurs in many districts.

For primaries to be included, they would have to be funded in the budget that’s due by July 1. Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s proposal has no such funding. Corzine’s spokesman Jim Gardner said the governor is proceeding as if the 2009 experiment won’t apply to primaries until the Legislature has a proposal. (Gregory J. Volpe, Gannett)

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