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Former congressman Dick Zimmer, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, said yesterday he wants to move America away from reliance on employer-provided health care and toward a more individualized approach.

During a meeting with the editorial board of The Star-Ledger, Zimmer described a vision of health care that broadly resembles the one outlined late last month by Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

Under McCain's plan, $3.6 trillion of tax breaks that would have gone to businesses over a decade for coverage of their employees would be redirected to individuals. McCain said he wants to put families "back in charge" by giving them a $5,000 tax credit to buy insurance that is tailored to their needs and is not tied to a particular job.

Zimmer said, "The objective has got to be to make insurance more affordable, more accessible and more portable." He said that American health care, "at its best," is the best in the world but that not everyone has access and the system suffers from "huge inefficiencies." (Robert Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)

A pointless war?
The Democrats need to end the war.

The war against the suburbs, I mean. It's getting out of hand.

"We're discouraging jobs in this economy," says state Sen. Ray Lesniak. "It's dumb. Stupid, stupid, stupid."

Lesniak, who is a Democrat, was talking about the latest affordable-housing scheme. The Corzine administration recently signed off on new Council on Affordable Housing regulations that call for more than 100,000 new housing units to be shoehorned into the suburbs. Worse, the plan lists parks, schoolyards and even the Garden State Parkway right-of-way as available for development. And even worse than that, the Democrats plan to send the bill for much of this construction to anyone who wants to build a new business in the state.

That's what set Lesniak off. Though he himself is a city-dwelling Democrat — he lives in Elizabeth — Lesniak realizes that the COAH plan amounts to nothing less than a declaration of war on new business. His "stupid, stupid, stupid" comment was directed at the part of the plan that would make any new business moving into the state responsible for paying to build housing proportional to the number of new employees. (Paul Mulshine, Star-Ledger)

Reasonable facsimiles
Generally in agreement on the major issues facing voters in the sprawling Third Congressional District, the leading Republican candidates have turned the race into a contest of geography, personality and money.

Chris Myers, the mayor of Medford and a Lockheed Martin executive from Burlington County, and Jack Kelly, an Ocean County freeholder, share similarly conservative positions on such issues as Iraq, illegal immigration and abortion. They make similar free-market arguments about the economy and health-care insurance and environmental protection.

Both cast themselves as best-suited to replace Rep. Jim Saxton, who is retiring after 24 years representing a district that stretches from Cherry Hill to the Atlantic Ocean.

With so much in common, Myers and Kelly are focusing on personal attacks and on efforts to get the most voters out of his base county. Each is spending about $500,000 in the run-up to the June 3 primary.

A third GOP candidate, with little funding or name recognition, is Justin Murphy, a business consultant and lawyer from Tabernacle, Burlington County. (Paul Nussbaum, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Family feud
State workers' leader Carla Katz filed a federal lawsuit this week against her own union, the Communications Workers of America, and many of its national and local leaders, claiming they are investigating her in retaliation for opposing last year's contract settlement with the state.

Filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Trenton, the lawsuit follows revelations CWA is investigating a $20,800 donation made at Katz's direction to the 2006 campaign of Newark Mayor Cory Booker. The CWA's national president, Larry Cohen, has raised questions about Katz's "close personal relationship" with Booker and initiated an investigation into the management and finances of CWA Local 1034, where Katz serves as president. (Josh Margolin, Star-Ledger)

What next for Joe Vas?
Joe Vas's stunning, lopsided defeat last night in Perth Amboy took most Middlesex Democrats by surprise. Most political observers hadn't anticipated even a competitive campaign against political neophyte Wilda Diaz, let alone a route of Vas, who's held the seat since 1990, and his two council running mates.

Now, the question amongst political insiders is whether Vas, having lost handily in the town that accounts for his biggest voting base and still bruised from an unsuccessful primary challenge to Rep. Albio Sires in 2006, has the political clout to hold on to his assembly seat. (Matt Friedman,

Financial ruin for McGreevey
ELIZABETH, N.J. – Saying his infamous resignation and marital split have ruined his potential to earn a living, former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey tried to persuade a Union County divorce judge yesterday that he is too poor to pay alimony to his estranged wife.

McGreevey, the nation's first openly gay governor, testified that he has limited income, few assets and significant debts. The gay sex scandal that toppled his administration and the publicity surrounding his messy divorce have left him all but unemployable, he said.

"Because of this case, I have been financially crippled," said McGreevey, now an Episcopal seminary student. (Angela Delli Santi, Associated Press)

Now on the chopping block
TRENTON — A day after Gov. Jon S. Corzine agreed to ease some of the most controversial cuts in his proposed state budget, Assembly lawmakers said there is more work to do to help hospitals and a popular college scholarship program.

Lawmakers are also targeting proposed co-pays for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor.

Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald, D-Camden, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, said any changes would have to fit within the framework Corzine laid out, that any new spending be matched by revenues or offset by equal cuts elsewhere. (Jonathan Tamari, Gannett)

Russo sees an opening
BELLEVILLE – A day after P.J. Mac Donald beat one of Freeholder Ralph Caputo’s three vanquished candidates to fill a vacated 3rd Ward seat, Mac Donald campaign signs on his Washington Avenue headquarters came down.

In their place now stand Bob Russo for Freeholder signs.

"Ralph Caputo’s school board candidates got wiped out, and now his council candidates got blown out," said Russo campaign manager Gary Iacobacci. "What happened last night means Bob can actually win Belleville. It’s a dire situation for the incumbent."

A defiant Caputo said the Russo people are mistaken if they believe Elvin Pereira’s 70-vote margin loss to Mac Donald in the 3rd Ward demonstrates Caputo’s weakness in the 5th district, which includes Belleville, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Montclair and Nutley. (Max Pizarro,

Change will come fast
VINELAND — The top vote-getter in Tuesday's City Council election said the way the city does business will change immediately when he and four other new council members are sworn into office July 1.

Douglas Albrecht and his running mates — Mayra Arroyo, Edward Conrow, Louis Cresci and Pete Coccaro — swept into office Tuesday with Mayor-elect Robert Romano, a Vineland police lieutenant.

Romano defeated incumbent Mayor Perry Barse, who sought a third term.

Albrecht said one of the new council's first tasks will be implementing a long-term plan for the aging Vineland Municipal Electric Utility.

Albrecht said the new council would likely cast aside seven proposals submitted last month by companies interested in redeveloping the utility. (Tim Zatzariny Jr., The Daily Journal)

The freedom to think big
CAPE MAY – Ed Mahaney will return to a mayor's office that has a much different function than when he last held the post in 1996, and that's just fine by him.

The city then had a government in which the mayor ran day-to-day operations. The form of government is different now, with a city manager in charge of administrative duties.

Mahaney, who defeated Mayor Jerry Inderwies in Tuesday's election and will take office July 1, said he looks forward to leading council to solve much bigger issues than day-to-day operations, including construction of a new convention facility. (Richard Degener, Press of Atlantic City)

Overtime in Sparta
Sparta's nonpartisan township council election featuring contests for two seats produced no winners, and now there will be a four-way runoff election on June 10, officials said.

Meanwhile, Newton's nonpartisan council election, which also had five candidates running for two terms, was won by a pair of newcomers, Kristen Becker and Helen LeFrois, who ran as a team and defeated longtime Councilman Ray Storm and two others.

"I think Newton voters really saw the need for change. It was just time for a fresh start," Becker said.

Each town had a pair of four- year terms available on a five-member council in Tuesday's elections. With large fields of candidates in both races, the possibility of a runoff was not unexpected. That's be cause in nonpartisan Faulkner forms of councils, at least one candidate has to receive 50 percent of ballots cast, plus one more vote, for winners to be declared, officials said. (Jim Lockwood, Star-Ledger)

Bad for business
JACKSON — Mayor Mark A. Seda's mechanical piping company is going through an insolvency proceeding, similar to a bankruptcy proceeding.

Gryphon Mechanical LLC, which Seda opened four years ago, no longer is operating. Its assets have been transferred to an independent assignee charged with liquidating the assets, trying to collect monies owed to Gryphon and distributing all proceeds to Gryphon's creditors.

"I put my heart and soul into" the company, Seda said Wednesday. "That hurts, but . . . personally, it's something I have to deal with." (Fraidy Reiss, Press of Atlantic City)

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