Morning News Digest: October 20, 2009

Poll: Corzine and Christie tied

The gubernatorial race is tied, according to a new Monmouth University/Gannett poll. The poll shows Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie each getting 39%, while independent Christopher Daggett gets 14%. A Monmouth poll from the beginning of this month showed Christie ahead of Corzine by three points – 43% to 40% — with Daggett taking 8% of the vote. Today's poll found that once reluctant Democrats are sticking with Corzine, but there may be some base trouble for Christie with the Republican base. Christie had 86% of Republicans' support in the poll released early in the month and has 81% of the base in todays. Corzine, who in July had 71% of Democrats' support, now has 76%. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

New York Times: Michele Brown may have aided Christie candidacy

The New York Times reports that former First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Brown may have “used her position in two significant and possibly improper ways to try to aid Mr. Christie in his run for governor.” The paper, citing three federal law enforcement officials, reports that Brown wanted to move up the date of the federal corruption busts to July 1 to ensure Christie, and not his successor – Paul Fishman – got credit for it; and that Brown took a more active role than previously disclosed in filling Freedom of Information Act requests made by the Corzine campaign. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Christie may have gotten inproper aid

When news broke in August that the former United States attorney, Christopher J. Christie, had lent $46,000 to a top aide in the federal prosecutor’s office, he said he was merely helping a friend in need. He also said the aide, Michele Brown, had done nothing to help his gubernatorial campaign. But interviews with federal law enforcement officials suggest that Ms. Brown used her position in two significant and possibly improper ways to try to aid Mr. Christie in his run for governor.(Halbfinger, New York Times)

Weinberg shoots from the lip

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg thinks having a sheriff on the ticket is great — as long as the law is on her side. Weinberg, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, gave an inadvertent nod Monday to her Republican rival, Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno, while campaigning at a Newark senior center. "Nothing like having a sheriff on your ticket," Weinberg said, referring to Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, who also was at the event. Weinberg paused — then she bailed herself out. (Fleisher, Star Ledger)

Daggett: People know the difference between humor and attack ads

Independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett acknowledges that his campaign is working on its next television ad for the closing days of his campaign. His first ad, depicting Gov. Jon Corzine and Chris Christie lookalikes on a stalled elevator, gave the independent candidate some traction, by his own admission, when it began running in early September. At the candidates' final television debate on Friday night, Daggett condemned his rival campaigns' negative ads, and specifically those campaigns' tactics of wheeling money into the two major parties' governors' associations for use in attack advertising. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Solomon Dwek, central witness in NJ corruption probe, is expected to plead guilty to bank fraud charges

Solomon Dwek, the key witness in the massive federal corruption and money laundering sting that rocked the state’s political landscape, is expected to plead guilty today to charges in connection with a $50 million bank fraud in 2006 that first brought him to the attention of authorities. Dwek, 36, is to appear first in federal court. Later in the day, he is expected to be in Superior Court in Monmouth County to plead to similar state charges, according to a person familiar with the investigation who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the matter. (Margolin, Star Ledger)

Kyrillos steps up call for Corzine disclosure of foundation donations

A Star-Ledger report that Gov. Jon Corzine contributed $87,000 to Rev. Reginald Jackson's church is more evidence that the governor is trying to buy endorsements, said State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Middletown), the chairman of Republican Christopher Christie's campaign. "For the past ten years, Jon Corzine has used his personal wealth to influence elections and voters across our state and, now, it appears he is using contributions from his charitable foundation to continue this excessive influence," Kyrillos said. "It is improper for Governor Corzine to contribute such large sums to organizations with a vested interest in the governor's race and with significant political sway during an election year."(Editor, PolitickerNJ)

Mulshine: Is Christie's campaign the worst-run in New Jersey history?

Back in June, when Chris Christie looked to be a lock for governor, the New York Times carried an analysis of the Christie campaign strategy.The article quoted top strategist Michael DuHaime as saying, "You’ll know if we won on election night not by how much we win Ocean and Sussex by, but how much do we lose Hudson, Essex and Camden by.’’ I think it’s safe to say we now know how much Christie will lose Hudson, Essex and Camden by: A lot.

Christie downplays effect of Obama for Corzine

Chris Christie played it low key today, holding a living room sit-down with middle-class family just after Vice President Joe Biden stumped for Governor Jon Corzine a few miles away. After he answered half-an-hour's worth of friendly questions from hosts Allison and Dan Brown and their guests, Christie parried media questions that started by noting the Democratic heavy hitters coming to New Jersey this week, starting with Biden today, Bill Clinton tomorrow and President Obama on Wednesday. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Former President Clinton to stump for Corzine

Former President Bill Clinton is taking the stage TODAY as the latest in a series of star campaigners appearing with Gov. Jon Corzine. Vice President Joe Biden rallied for the Democratic incumbent on Monday and President Obama will campaign for Corzine on Wednesday. Clinton is to speak at Corzine campaign events here and New Brunswick.Corzine is running neck-and-neck with Republican Chris Christie in an election that also features an independent candidate Chris Daggett. (AP)

Corzine gave money to minister who endorsed him

Last week the Rev. Reginald Jackson endorsed Corzine’s re-election although Jackson has been critical of the administration’s foot dragging on charter schools and vouchers which Jackson supports as way of educating urban school kids. Turns out Corzine gave Jackson $87,000 in donations last year. (Ingle, Gannett)

VP Joe Biden tells Jerseyans Corzine will work for healthcare and the economy

With the governor’s race entering its final two weeks, Vice President Joe Biden stumped for Gov. Jon Corzine today in Edison, the first in an assembly line of top Democrats visiting this week. Biden, speaking to a cheering crowd of hundreds in a gymnasium at Middlesex County College, said the governor will fight for better health care and a stronger economy. "We need folks like Jon today," he said. "We need smart, honest, serious and tough politicians who get it." (Megerian, Star Ledger)

Candidates won't gamble on Meadows

None of the three main candidates for governor is touting any proposal to bring additional gambling options to the Meadowlands Sports Complex — even though the fate of the Meadowlands Racetrack is uncertain, Yonkers Raceway is luring North Jersey slots players across the Hudson River, and the state faces a multibillion-dollar budget deficit. Governor Corzine has flatly ruled out adding video lottery terminals (similar to slot machines) to the racetrack to create a “racino” that could augment racing purses. He added that if his resistance to taking state gambling beyond Atlantic City ever changed, “I would try to recommend broader — I’d do a real casino, if you’re going to go to that direction.” (Brennan, The Record)

Ferriero painted as innocent victim

A once-powerful northern New Jersey political boss was an opportunist who saw a way to illegally cash in on his political connections, or he was a legitimate businessman whose honest intentions were sideswiped by a crooked partner.Jurors in Joseph Ferriero's federal corruption trial were asked to choose between those competing versions Monday as attorneys made their closing arguments. The panel was to begin deliberations Tuesday morning. Arguing for the government, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachael Honig called the consulting business Ferriero owned with attorney Dennis Oury "their dirty little secret" because both men admitted on the witness stand that their plan was to not disclose their co-ownership as they used their political contacts to solicit towns in Bergen County. (Porter, AP)

Kean should keep district in mind during Senate president negotiations

The news last week that Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., R-Westfield, is a contender for the Senate presidency could have benefits for Westfield and the region. The Senate is currently the center of statewide political intrigue, as insiders speculate about who will lead the chamberfor a two-year termstarting in January. With the Senate not up for election this year and Democrats safely in control of the chamber till 2012, logic would dictate another term for Senate President Dick Codey, D-West Orange, the popular former governor.(Celock, Westfield Patch) Morning News Digest: October 20, 2009