Morning News Digest: October 14, 2009

Quinnipiac poll shows race for governor in a dead heat

Republican Christopher Christie leads Gov. Jon Corzine 41%-40% — a statistical dead heat – and independent Christopher Daggett is at 14%, according to a poll released this morning by Quinnipiac University. The race for governor has become tighter in recent weeks; a September 30 Quinnipiac poll had Christie ahead 43%-39% with 12% for Daggett, numbers that were just outside the margin of error. Corzine's job approval remains upside-down, 39%-56%. Among independents, his approvals are at 34%-62%. (Editor, PolitickerNJ)

In seeking good news on job creation, Corzine urges cabinet to stretch their creativity

Gov. Jon Corzine has the advantage of incumbency and he's not afraid to use it. He's enlisting the help of his cabinet to make his case for re-election. An email last sent last week by Corzine Deputy Chief of Staff Mark Matzen to 14 state department heads asks them to come up with "one or two or three" events to demonstrate private sector job growth to show that "the economic policies of Governor Corzine are working. I know that it might be a stretch for some of you, but please be creative," wrote Matzen. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

GOP NJ governor candidate's spending questioned

Republican candidate for New Jersey governor, who has campaigned on a platform of ethical integrity and cutting government waste, regularly spent beyond federal guidelines on business travel while U.S. attorney, records show. The newly released travel records show that Chris Christie occasionally billed taxpayers more than $400 a night for stays in luxury hotels and exceeded the government's hotel allowance on 14 of 16 business trips he took in 2008. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)

When it comes to politics, Esposito says he’s no beginner

Independent lieutenant governor candidate Frank Esposito says there's an idea out there about him that's just not accurate."The illusion that was reflected in one of the questions at the debate – that I'm this kind of ivory tower academic who knows nothing about politics – is a false perception that has deliberately been created," he said. Esposito, 68, is a history professor at Kean University and a former interim president there. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Christie: ‘I should be dead now’ after Corzine assault

Slash taxes. Cut spending.That was the double barrel message from GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie this afternoon when he addressed an approving crowd of senior citizens in this Bergen County blue collar river town where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-1. "New Jersey has the highest unemployment and the highest property taxes in America," said Christie, who's challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in a dead heat race with three weeks until Election Day. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

NJ labor unions’ support helps Governor Corzine on Election Day

Turn on a television these days, and you can see that Jon Corzine’s personal wealth tilts the field his way in this election. But dig a little deeper, and you will find another huge advantage that draws much less attention — his overwhelming support from labor unions. They are throwing money at this race on direct mail, on advertising, and in contributions to local Democratic organizations. More important, they are mustering an army of volunteers that could tip a close election the governor’s way. (Moran, Star Ledger)

NJ Port Authority officer arrested in fraud scheme

A police detective who has investigated major crimes for the last 11 years as part of an FBI task force in New Jersey has been charged with using a cooperating witness in a fraud scheme. (AP)

Christie, Daggett debate with empty chair between them

The two men trying to unseat Governor Corzine faced off without him Tuesday in a forum that featured sharp exchanges over taxes and sincerity. Republican Chris Christie and independent Chris Daggett fielded questions from editors of Gannett New Jersey newspapers in a live forum shown online. Corzine, citing scheduling conflicts, declined to appear. With an empty chair meant to represent Corzine between them, Christie and Daggett both criticized the Democratic governor's record on the economy, higher education and other areas. But the most heat came when they tore into one another's financial prescriptions for the state — illustrating the headache Daggett has become for Christie, whose comfortable lead over Corzine has evaporated as Daggett claimed more support. (Heininger, The Record)

Christie, Daggett answer questions; Corzine runs

If you want to watch independent Chris Daggett and Republican Chris Christie answer questions about the issues important to New Jerseyans on both side of an empty chair with Cozine’s name in front of it, here it is. But don’t stop there. (Ingle, Gannett)

Former Bear Sterns hedge fund managers’ trial near starts

A New Jersey man and former Bear Stearns hedge fund manager goes on trial today in a case that caused two hedge funds to collapse, costing investors $1.4 billion, according to a report in The Record. The report said Ralph Cioffi , of Tenafly, and Matthew Tannin, of New York, are accused of hiding concealing losses of the funds and providing false reports to investors to deter them from withdrawing their money. The pair could face 20 years in prison. (Star Ledger)

Environment takes back seat to economy in gov’s race

Each candidate for governor has offered plans to bring green jobs to a state that is already at the forefront of renewable energy. But the environment has mostly taken a back seat to the economy this year, despite New Jersey having the most toxic Superfund sites, air that continually fails federal standards and a shrinking pool of open space. (Fallon, The Record)

Lonegan says he’ll work to defeat open space ballot question

Steve Lonegan, whose epithets include conservative Republican, former gubernatorial candidate and former Bogota mayor, is waging a new campaign against his arch enemy — taxes — on new grounds. Those new grounds are open space, particularly the ones surrounding Question One on the Nov. 3 ballot. Under the banner of his Americans for Prosperity group, Lonegan held a press conference at the State House Tuesday to start his effort to get voters to defeat the open-space question. (Ackermann, The Record)

Guilty plea in AC messenger ballot fraud case

A worker for a losing candidate in Atlantic City's Democratic mayoral primary pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy in an absentee ballot fraud case. Ronald Harris of Atlantic City could get probation as a result of his plea agreement. He was among 13 people charged with engaging in ballot fraud on behalf of City Councilman Marty Small's mayoral campaign, including Small himself. (AP) Morning News Digest: October 14, 2009