Wake-Up Call: Thursday, May 29, 2008

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.

Big fish hooked?
One of the state’s top Democratic power brokers is under federal criminal investigation over consulting contracts awarded by municipalities to a company he controlled.

An attorney for Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero yesterday confirmed the probe, after subpoenas were sent to at least eight towns and a county agency seeking information about payments to a politically connected lawyer with ties to Ferriero. (Josh Margolin and Ted Sherman, Star-Ledger)

A witch hunt?
Bergen County Democratic Organization Chairman Joe Ferriero has a top defense lawyer doing the talking for him now.

But nervous pro-Ferriero allies privately began spinning a pro-Ferriero defense even before news broke Wednesday that Ferriero is now part of a federal probe. (Charles Stile, The Record)

Better late than never
Ever since he announced eight weeks ago that he was running for U.S. Senate, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1st Dist.) has been clamoring to debate the incumbent, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

Andrews will finally get that opportunity, tonight and tomorrow night, in a pair of debates that political observers consider the 50-year-old congressman’s best chance of defeating the 84-year-old senator. (Robert Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)

Differences on immigration
TRENTON — The debate over illegal immigration, to some degree, divides the three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, who each possesses close ties to the actual immigrant experience.

Ramapo College economics professor Murray Sabrin came to the United States as a 3-year-old from the ruins of World War II Germany. State Sen. Joseph Pennacchio of Morris County, a dentist, is a first-generation American after his parents emigrated to Brooklyn from Italy. And former Rep. Dick Zimmer‘s grandparents sailed to U.S. shores in 1889 and 1907 from a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire that is now in Ukraine. (Tom Baldwin, Gannett)

The soft underbelly is exposed
Morris County and Mississippi. They’re not always mentioned in the same breath, but the three Democrats seeking the party’s congressional nomination who debated Tuesday night should be dreaming about the Magnolia State. In Mississippi earlier this month, voters picked a Democrat to represent them in Congress in what had been a Republican district, one that President Bush had carried by 25 points. (Fred Snowflack, The Daily Record)

The giant slayers
They face an uphill battle in a Republican-dominated district, but three Democrats said this week they relish the chance to run for Congress in the 11th District, hoping to be giant slayers against entrenched incumbent Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.). (Lawrence Ragonese, Star-Ledger)

The fight in Newark
NEWARK- Oscar James II doesn’t know if he can win this primary fight here in Newark’s South Ward, but if he can hold U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg to a stand-off, and other ground-level U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews allies in northern New Jersey can do the same, maybe South Jersey can deliver big for the underdog.

That’s the plan anyway. (Max Pizarro, PolitikerNJ.com)

And the fight in Atlantic City
ATLANTIC CITY – With less than a week to go before the city’s Democratic mayoral primary, campaigners are not pulling any last-minute punches.

Marcus Wilson, a campaign worker for former Mayor Lorenzo Langford‘s campaign, claimed Wednesday that he was assaulted by a supporter of Mayor Scott Evans. (Michael Clark, Press of Atlantic City)

Langford bridges the gap
ATLANTIC CITY – Former Mayor Lorenzo Langford rebounded from a lackluster fundraising effort to cut his finance deficit compared to Mayor Scott Evans by $10,000, according to campaign finance reports released Wednesday. (Clark, Press of Atlantic City)

Knowns versus unknowns in Camden
Louis Cappelli Jr., a two-term Camden County freeholder and current freeholder-director, said he knows nothing about the candidates trying to unseat him and his five-term colleague, Riletta L. Cream.

But several of the five challengers had plenty to say this month about the two Democratic incumbents on the county board of freeholders. (Adam Smeltz, Courier-Post)

At the voters’ mercy
The rare scenario of an unendorsed incumbent fighting to stay in office will play out in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the Mercer County freeholder board.

Four-term Freeholder Tony Mack is running for re-election despite a vote at the county Democratic convention in March giving endorsements to newcomer John Cimino and incumbent Freeholder Chairwoman Lucy Walter, who has been on the board for 10 years. (Meir Rinde and Robert Stern, Trenton Times)

Her turn
Having maintained a steadfast silence through her increasingly brutal divorce proceedings, brushing past throngs of reporters each day with a terse “no comment,” Dina Matos McGreevey finally took to the witness stand yesterday, making her voice heard in public for the first time during this trial.

Saying she now prefers to be addressed as “Ms. Matos,” the estranged wife of former Gov. James E. McGreevey portrayed herself as a political operative in her own right who helped the mayor of Woodbridge rise to the state’s highest office. (Judith Lucas and Brad Parks, Star-Ledger)

Chain reaction
Jersey City resident Shelley Skinner, a close ally of Downtown Councilman Steve Fulop and founder of the parent group Jersey City Families for Better Schools, announced via e-mail yesterday that she’s running next year for Fulop’s Ward E council seat.

The announcement seemed to indicate that Fulop, a mayoral aspirant, had made up his mind to run for the city’s top job. (Ken Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)

Party-backed slate has big money advantage
WASHINGTON TWP. The endorsed Democrats for mayor and council brought in about $28,000 in campaign donations in the past three weeks doubling the funds in their war chest and leaving them with twice the amount as their challengers in next week’s primary. (Jessica Beym, Gloucester County Times)

Begging to borrow
NEWARK — Standing outside a 19th-century elementary school, Gov. Jon S. Corzine began a push Wednesday for legislation enabling the state to borrow $2.5 billion to build schools in the state’s poorest districts.

Corzine wants the Legislature to approve the borrowing by June 30. (Gregory J. Volpe, Courier-Post)

Off to work for Mac
State Sen. Kevin O’Toole’s chief-of-staff, Dominick Fiorilli, is leaving that position to become John McCain’s Deputy Northeast Regional Campaign Manager. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

LoBiondo meets leaders not after his job
VINELAND – When Sal Olaya shared his ideas for fuel-economy policy with U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, the 17-year-old Vineland student got more than a vote of confidence.

Instead, hearing how Olaya wished for incentives to lure buyers to energy-efficient vehicles and appliances, LoBiondo high-fived him. (Juliet Fletcher, Press of Atlantic City)

Just a simple computer glitch
TOMS RIVER — A 2006 election night computer bug that switched 72 votes for U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., from Barnegat to Lakewood was caused by reporting software in Ocean County’s election system, though officials for the county Board of Elections never did learn exactly why the malfunction happened, a former executive supervisor for the board testified Wednesday in court. (Kirk Moore, Asbury Park Press)

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.

Wake-Up Call: Thursday, May 29, 2008