Morning News Digest: October 30, 2009

FDU: Corzine 41%, Christie 39%, Daggett 14%

A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released today shows Republican Christopher Christie leading Gov. Jon Corzine 41%-39% — a statistical dead heat – with independent Christopher Daggett at 14%. "At this point, anyone who says their vote doesn't count is mistaken," said FDU political scientist and poll director Peter Woolley. . "And no one knows that better than the campaigns." The horse race numbers for Corzine and Christie are exactly the same as in an FDU poll released on October 6.(Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

A rivalry as strained as New Jersey finances

In the final leg of New Jersey’s unpredictable governor’s race, both candidates are casting about for ways to save the state from financial doom as they confront the economic reality that will severely restrict the winner of Tuesday’s voting. The Democratic governor, Jon S. Corzine, says he may revisit his plan to lease the New Jersey Turnpike to raise cash — a proposal that he abandoned last year in the face of intense opposition from lawmakers and voters. His Republican challenger, Christopher J. Christie, retreating from a key campaign promise, says he can no longer fully restore property tax breaks for homeowners, given the uncertainty of the state’s finances. In separate interviews in recent days with The New York Times, the two rivals made no apologies for the ugly tone of the campaign, offered markedly different visions for how to shape the state’s highest court, complained about their depictions in each other’s commercials, and made it clear that they shared little mutual respect or admiration. (Halbfinger/Kocieniewski, New York Times)

Conversations with Christie and Corzine

Two reporters for The New York Times, David M. Halbfinger and David Kocieniewski, conducted wide-ranging interviews with the major-party candidates for governorof New Jersey, Jon S. Corzine, the Democratic incumbent, and Christopher J. Christie, his Republican challenger. Following are some edited excerpts. (Halbfinger/Kocieniewski, New York Times)

Independent candidate Chris Daggett says Republicans tried to make him quit

Independent candidate for governor Chris Daggett today said state Republicans asked him in July to drop out and queried what kind of position he would want in a Christie administration. He said he's still getting e-mails from voters telling him to drop out. Daggett would not name the people making the offers, but he said he's not interested. After months of campaigning, without the backbone of a party organization, Daggett is still struggling to reach the state's voters. Speaking at a Rotary club lunch in Jersey City, he said he was seeing the campaign through. "I've had volunteers invest thousands of hours of their time," he said. "I've had people invest money in my campaign. It would be wrong on every count to step away from this at this point." Daggett also said he had a call and e-mail from a Republican candidate for Massachusetts governor who asked him to "do the honorable thing" and drop out. (Fleisher, Star Ledger)

NJ students re-elect Corzine in mock election

A bellwether for New Jersey politics or merely a classroom civics lesson? Either way, the state’s mock student election has correctly predicted the outcome of the last two gubernatorial races. And today, Gov. Jon Corzine won re-election by a vote of New Jersey’s students — most of whom are too young to cast ballots Tuesday when the election counts for real. Corzine captured 47.1 percent of the votes, topping Republican candidate Chris Christie’s 31.7 percent. Independent candidate Chris Daggett received 13.5 percent. Seven other independent candidates split 7.5 percent of the vote. "We're honored that New Jersey students recognize that Gov. Corzine is fighting for what matters to New Jersey families," Corzine campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said. Christie campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella said: "I'll let Corzine claim victory for winning the students. We're confident we'll be successful on election day on Nov. 3." Meanwhile, further south, a different mock election resulted in a Republican victory. Bob McDonnell won with 55.2 percent, beating Democrat Creigh Deeds, who received 44.8 percent. (Megerian, Star Ledger)

Mainor: running mate Chiappone inncocent until proven guilty

The cover of today’s Jersey Journal has a picture of Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne) next to the words “I’ll win.” Chiappone, indicted along with his wife in August by the State Attorney General’s Office for allegedly cashing staffers’ checks for his personal and campaign bank accounts and subsequently stripped of his legislative committee assignments, expects to be re-elected on Tuesday. And the conventional wisdom is that he’s probably right. He’s running in the Democratic column in a district where his party outnumbers Republicans eight-to-one. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Essex Corzine allies rely on Obama, labor, and ward by ward coordination

After months of mostly unobservable underground movements and five days in front of President Barack Obama's appearance at the Rock, there isevidence ofeffort on behalf of Gov. Jon Corzinein a city the governor needs to win amply in order to land another four years in office. Of course, Democratsare leaning heavilyon Corzine-Obama linkage. In 2005, Corzine defeated Republican challenger Doug Forrester in Newark, 39,573 to 3,336, while carrying Essex County overall, 131,312 to 45,789 on his way to statewide victory. By comparison, Obamapunished Republican Sen. John McCain in Newark by a vote of 77,112 to 5,957 last year,as hecarried Essex County, 240,127 to 73,975, recording a larger number of votes here than in any other county onhis way towinningNew Jersey bya 15% margin. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

In New Jersey, public officials vote, then go to jail

If Joe Ferriero wants a little payback before he heads off to prison, he can do it on Tuesday by voting against Chris Christie. New Jersey state law allows convicted felons to vote up until the time of their sentencing. Ferriero is among a long list of political leaders who have either been convicted or pleaded guilty but have not yet been sentenced. Ferriero, the former Bergen County Democratic Chairman, was convicted last week on one count of extortion and two counts of mail fraud that were brought against him last year by federal prosecutors while Christie was serving as U.S. Attorney. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Josephson asks secretary of state to stop rejecting absentee ballots based on signatures

A lawyer for the state Democratic Party wants county clerks to stop rejecting applications for mail-in ballots solely on the basis of signature mismatches. Instead, Democratic State Committee General Counsel Paul Josephson thinks county clerks should send those applicants provisional ballots — a position that troubles Republican State Chairman Jay Webber. “To date more than 2,300 persons have been denied VBM ballots based on signature comparison alone,” wrote Josephson in a letter dated yesterday to Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells. “Allowing these people to cast provisional ballots most efficiently provides a fail safe mechanism whereby their electoral choices can be timely submitted and evaluated.” Josephson said that many more Democratic and unaffiliated voters’ ballots had been rejected based on their signatures than those of Republicans’. He also said that the disparity in rejection rates between counties indicates that all clerks are not applying a uniform standard.

A Corzine gaffe on tolls

I just left the Chris Christie campaign event at a firehouse in Hamilton Township, just outside Trenton. Christie was quite a bit more animated than I've seen and did a good job of getting the crowd worked up. He finally seems to have a new stump speech. The old one was a bit wooden, if you will pardon the pun. Anyway, he accusedGov.Corzine of makinga major gaffe on the toll issue. And it sure looks that way. The New York Times reports that in an interview Corzine raised the prospect of reviving that infamous toll plan of his. Here is the passage in question: "The Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, says he may revisit his plan to lease the New Jersey Turnpike to raise cash — a proposal that he abandoned last year in the face of intense opposition from lawmakers and voters." As gaffes go, that's a huge one. Christie exploited it nicely by telling the assembled Hamiltonians they might face the prospect of tolls being imposed on interstates 195 and 195, both of which serve the town. (Mulshine, Star Ledger)

Key Obama adviser became key Corzine campaign adviser

<!–Saxotech Paragraph Count: 2
–>A key political adviser to President Barack Obama has become the key strategist in Gov. Jon S. Corzine's re-election campaign, according to an article on the Web site Thursday. However, the adviser, Joel Benenson, rejected speculation the White House had taken over the campaign, according to the article. "The national Democrats have always been helpful," Sean Darcy, communications director for the Corzine campaign, told the Asbury Park Press. "Many components of that story are untrue. Gov. Corzine's momentum is continuing to build and we look forward to Election Day." Benenson is president of the Benenson Strategy Group, which has offices in New York, Washington and Denver, according to the company's Web site. He was the lead pollster and a senior strategist for Obama during the 2008 election campaign and retains that role, the Web site says. (Bates/Larsen, APP)

Why Obama has a lot riding on Corzine

The web site Politico is reporting today what followers of the Corzine campaign have known since the summer — the Obama administration sent in a pollster/campaign adviser to turn things around for Corzine. Word was the Corzine campaign checked in with the White House every day, although no one would confirm it on the record. Here’s what The New York Times said in September: “Every TV ad that Mr. Corzine puts on the air is being screened by the president’s team. The governor’s aides are giving daily briefings to the White House. Mr. Obama’s pollsters have taken over for Mr. Corzine’s polling team, and White House operatives are on the ground for everything from internal strategy sessions to obscure pep rallies with Latino supporters.” (Ingle, Gannett)

New governor's race poll: too close to call

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind Poll out today shows a tight race with Corzine getting 44 percent of likely voters and Christie getting 43. That’s statistically insignificant. They’re in a dead heat. Daggett is getting 6 percent and 4 percent are undecided. Peter Woolley, director of the poll, summed it up like this: “At this point, anyone who says their vote doesn’t count is mistaken. And no one knows that better than the campaigns.” (Ingle, Gannett)

Corzine: 'I am proud to be accountable'

Jon S. Corzine, along with all other New Jerseyans, is at an election year crossroads. A native son of Illinois farm country, he came east after serving as a U.S. Marine to seek fame and fortune, a common American story. Corzine, 62, not so commonly found both. He worked his way to the top at global finance powerhouse Goldman Sachs, becoming co-chairman of the company. When Goldman went public after his departure from the firm, Corzine pocketed a reported $400 million. Corzine then decided to play a new numbers game that some see akin to liar’s poker: politics. Using his well-earned Wall Street millions, Corzine self-financed two successful statewide campaigns, for U.S. Senator in 2000 and Governor in 2005, enjoying a distinct funding advantage in a campaign finance landscape that is bracketed at both ends by the expensive New York and Philadelphia television media markets. (Bonamo, Hackensack Chronicle)

Camden's choices for mayor

Camden residents will pick a new mayor Tuesday, but the most powerful person in the city won't change: the overseer sent from Trenton under a 2002 state takeover law. State control, which is set to expire in 2012, has been one of the signature issues of the race. Dana Redd, a state senator and city councilwoman, said she expects the state Legislature to soon restore power to the mayor's office and transition control away from a chief operating officer."The mayor has to be a decision-making position if I'm going to facilitate all the programs that I talked about during this campaign," she said. Angel Cordero said he has been an opponent of the takeover since its inception. "This has been a debacle for the residents of Camden," he said. "The takeover must end now." Mujiba Salaam Parker, who worked for the state agency that distributed $175 million to Camden as part of the takeover, said she "wouldn't mind the state being in control as it is until 2012." (Spolar, Inquirer)

Bergen County a key factor in governor's race

The leading gubernatorial candidates have spent a lot of time in South Jersey, but the race probably will be decided in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge. With 530,000 registered voters, Bergen County has more voters than any county in the state, and is a must-win for a Republican statewide candidate. A Democrat can finish second there, as Gov. Corzine did in his 2000 U.S. Senate run, and still win the state – but it has to be a narrow margin. "There is no other county in the state with that kind of concentration of voters, let alone that concentration of Democratic voters," said Mike Kasparian, Bergen County Democratic chairman. Carl Golden, who worked for both recently successful Republican governors, Thomas H. Kean and Christie Whitman, said, "Republicans have to win it [Bergen] to offset the kinds of pluralities Democrats roll up in places like Hudson and Essex Counties, and throw Camden in on top of it." The county's GOP chairman, Robert Yudin, said flatly, "Christie can't win unless he takes Bergen." (Burton, Inquirer)

NJ residents still have chance to vote by mail for governor

It’s a predicament that arises for some registered New Jersey voters every year: They didn’t cast their ballot because a last-minute scheduling problem prevented them from getting to the polls, so they just didn’t vote. For those registered voters who recently realized they won’t be near their usual voting booth on Tuesday — or may not want to go out Tuesday — your votes in this gubernatorial election still can be counted through the state’s new vote-by-mail system. Registered voters have until 3 p.m. Monday to apply for a mail-in ballot. The catch is, those ballots have to find their way to their county’s board of elections office by the time polls close Tuesday at 8 p.m. (Spoto, Star Ledger)

  Morning News Digest: October 30, 2009