Today’s news from 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.

A road win for Andrews
U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews is scheduled to invade Lautenberg turf today to pick up his first Passaic County endorsement for his Democratic U.S. Senate nomination bid.

Freeholder Terry Duffy said he was set to welcome Andrews to his restaurant at 885 River St. in Paterson at 11 a.m. today to offer his support of the Haddon Heights resident’s candidacy. The move runs contrary to the Passaic County Democratic Committee’s March 1 endorsement of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Paterson native, for the party primary nomination on June 3.

“I’m not crossing party lines. I’m supporting Rob Andrews for Senate,” Duffy said Thursday. “Senator Lautenberg has done a great job. Now it’s time for him to enjoy the fruits of his labors.” (Paul Brubaker, The Record)

Reasons to smile
As 3rd Congressional District Republican congressional candidates Jack Kelly and Chris Myers hurl accusations of patronage and pay-to-play at each other, unopposed Democrat John Adler has been practicing uncontroversial retail politics: going door-to-door, standing with a veterans group and accepting an environmental endorsement.

While a crowded field of Republican candidates fights tooth and nail for that party’s nomination in the 7th Congressional District – with the two highest profile candidates spending a good amount of time arguing over negative advertising – unopposed Democrat Linda Stender has been shoring up support at local Democratic events.

Both Democrats are running for open congressional seats that have been in Republican hands for years. During this particularly eventful Republican primary season, Adler and Stender have been able to sit on growing piles of cash as their GOP counterparts conduct opposition research that the Democrats could be able to use in the run up to the November general election – especially in the 3rd District. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Dominicans learning the game
Leading up to Tuesday’s elections, Kathy Polanco made about a dozen calls daily to fellow Dominicans in Paterson, urging them to get out and back three compatriots running for City Council.

One of the candidates, political newcomer Julio Tavarez, won big – beating a two-term incumbent by a 2-1 ratio.

But Polanco, of Garfield, and other North Jersey Dominicans who worked feverishly for Tavarez have not had time to celebrate. They’ve been working around the clock on the main bout: today’s election for president of the Dominican Republic.

“This is where I live, so I have a vested interest in getting involved in community events here — especially political activities with Dominicans who are running and who know our community’s issues,” Polanco said. “I have no plans to return to the Dominican Republic to live, but I still care about it; you leave your loved ones there. The way I can help from here is to build up support for the best candidate to lead the Dominican Republic. Every day I call mi gente [my people] to urge them to vote.”

Dominicans illustrate the increasingly common New Jersey — indeed, American — immigrant practice of transnational politics. As more and more nations allow their expatriates to vote in elections from overseas and allow dual citizenship, hyphenated Americans are exercising political muscle, in both their adopted and birth countries.

Dominicans are gaining fame for mastering the art. This year, they’re both running in local races and campaigning in presidential elections in the United States and their native land. (Elizabeth Llorente, The Record)

Tighten urban aid controls
Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Barbara Buono yesterday said she wants to tighten oversight of a $153 million state program intended to temporarily assist cities in financial straits after a state auditor’s report criticized the way it is run.

“The law needs to be strengthened considerably,” said Buono (D- Middlesex). “Program integrity is lacking.”

A state audit requested by Buono urges tighter scrutiny of the Special Municipal Aid program. It found the program’s costs have soared in recent years and it benefits the same cities year after year even though it is supposed to deliver only short-term relief. In addition, the program this year has either approved or projected $25 million more in aid to the cities than the state budget calls for.

When asked if lawmakers will approve that extra $25 million, Buono said: “We’ll see about that.” (Joe Donohue, Star-Ledger)

A toxic environment
ELIZABETH, N.J. – When it comes to finding work, Jim McGreevey is “radioactive,” an employment expert testified yesterday during the former New Jersey governor’s divorce trial.

The witness, Donna Kolsky, said the gay sex scandal that toppled McGreevey’s administration in 2004 and his messy divorce had made him so toxic that potential employers gasped when his name was mentioned.

The testimony in state Superior Court in Union County came during the second phase of McGreevey’s divorce trial, when the judge will decide on alimony, child support, and how the former governor and Dina Matos McGreevey should divide their assets and liabilities. The couple have agreed on custody of their only child, 6-year-old Jacqueline.

McGreevey, who is taking classes at an Episcopal seminary, is trying to convince Judge Karen M. Cassidy he is too poor to pay alimony. His estranged wife says the payments should be based in part on his “marital conduct,” including an alleged gay affair. (Angela Delli Santi, Associated Press)

The great purge
VINELAND — Mayor-elect Robert Romano promised change at City Hall, and he won’t waste any time cleaning house.

Romano said in an interview Thursday that he’ll let go three people in key city positions as soon as he takes office July 1.

Business Administrator Paul Trivellini; City Solicitor Rick Tonetta; and Paul Yatcko, executive director of the Vineland Municipal Electric Utility, will not stay on under the new administration, Romano said.

The three men are appointees of Mayor Perry Barse, whom Romano defeated in Tuesday’s municipal election. (Tim Zatzariny Jr., The Daily Journal)

Finding the right tone
Jerry Fried
ran as Montclair’s “change candidate” to win the mayoral seat in Montclair.

In hindsight, that wasn’t a bad idea in a presidential election year when another “change” candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, had captured 65 percent of the town’s Democratic vote in the New Jersey primary.

From the start, Fried’s campaign cast itself as the liberal camp with environmental credentials in a community ranked as one of New Jersey’s most left-leaning communities by ePodunk, a New York-based demographic numbers-cruncher that analyzes political contributions and election results to come up with its rankings.

Just a couple hours after learning of his victory, he was repeating the theme.

“It really is a mandate,” Fried said. “It is a mandate that Montclair really needs activist, progressive government.” (Philip Read, Star-Ledger)

Towing the line on conflicts of interest
Stephen Antonelli‘s business has towed cars for Rockaway Township police since 1995.

In 2005, Antonelli was elected to the township council.

He remains one of four towing operators police call when they need to get a car off the road. And as a councilman, Antonelli, who says he’s an expert in his field, has given his colleagues advice whenever the municipal towing ordinance is updated, as is being done now.

Things had been going along very smoothly in this regard until criticism was raised at last week’s council meeting that Antonelli’s dual status as towing vendor and councilman was a conflict. The discussion prompted the council to table its scheduled adoption of a revised towing ordinance.

What does Mayor Lou Sceusci think of the flap?

“Quite frankly, nothing,” he said.

The mayor’s sentiments aside, this is an issue worth discussing. (Fred Snowflack, The Daily Record)

She can explain
Hudson County Freeholder candidate Mary Jane Desmond said yesterday she hasn’t used her now-padlocked storefront office at 196 Broadway in Bayonne since she kicked off her campaign last October.

A city constable padlocked the storefront on May 7 for nonpayment of rent, according to court records.

Desmond’s brother, Patrick, said he was responsible for paying the rent. (Ronald Leir, Jersey Journal)

Get him out
MOUNT HOLLY — Democrats on Thursday called for the resignation of Burlington County Bridge Commission chairman John B. Comegno II, following his plea to driving under the influence.

During a Wednesday hearing before Municipal Court presiding Judge Bonnie Goldman, Comegno pleaded guilty to that charge and to reckless driving.

“This egregious lapse in judgment is exactly what the scandal-ridden Bridge Commission does not need,” Rick Perr, chairman of the county Democratic committee said in a written statement. “If this agency is ever going to regain the public trust it must have a leader who understands how to exercise the best possible judgment. Clearly, Mr. Comegno does not meet that standard and it is time for him to step down.”

Comegno, of the 100 block of Murray Road, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol on Jan. 24 after Moorestown police found his car straddling a curb and two mailboxes damaged on Brooks Road.

The 35-year-old attorney was also charged with refusal to take a breath test to determine alcohol content in the blood, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to report an accident.

Those charges were dropped because they were difficult to prove, Moorestown Municipal Prosecutor Dean Buono said. (Lavinia DeCastro, Courier-Post)

Not ready to turn the page
ORANGE – Two days after Election Day, At Large Councilman Donald Page said he has not yet conceded victory to West Orange Patrolman Eldridge Hawkins in their Orange mayoral contest.

Hawkins beat Page on Tuesday night by a margin of 30-27%, but Page said he’s not so sure.

“We have some questions about what happened on Election Day,” said the candidate, who huddled today with lawyers to examine the results. (Max 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