Morning News Digest: November 2, 2009

Gov. Jon Corzine's bankroll; Frank Esposito finally opens his wallet; Clueless robocalls for Corzine

Both as a candidate for the U.S. Senate and governor, Jon Corzine smashed all sorts of records by spending tens of millions of own fortune to fund his campaigns. When he ran for the Senate in 2000, he spent $60 million. Four years ago, he spent more than $40 million in his bid to be governor. This time, he’s already spent more than $20 million. Corzine is well-aware of his own campaign spending — and is sensitive to the way it looks. That’s why, as a senator, he was a sponsor of the so-called Millionaires Amendment that, among other things, placed new limits on candidates who pay for their own campaigns. Corzine has even acknowledged that some called it the "Corzine Amendment." Among other things, the amendment limits how much a candidate can bring in through fund-raising to reimburse himself after loaning massive sums to a campaign. (Star Ledger)

Obama delivering more than inspiration to Corzine cause in Newark

The crowd spilled out onto the pavement following the rally with President Barack Obama and just in case there was any doubt about whyhe was in town, a TV truck broadcasting flatscreen images of Gov. Jon Corzine in action started circling the arena blasting out the message, "Corzine, Corzine, Corzine." The crowd, of course,was still talking about Obama. "Awesome," said Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Newark), who was positioned on the floor in front of the stage where the president spoke at the Prudential Center said in response to a question. "There is a humility to him- unmistakable. It's easy to see that he worked his way up the hard way." "I'm writing a book called 'Obama Chicks,'" said Pam Jasper, a certified pilot, wearing a hat with "Obama Chicks" printed on it in pink letters. But withless than 40hours to go before Election Day,the presidentis delivering more than inspirational presence to Newark. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Obama comes in by air, where mechanical problems hardly ideal on the ground

As inspirational as President Barack Obama remains in Newark, politics in this city still hinges on local mechanics – and there are undeniably several factors contributing to a lack of good structural pre-conditions for this governor's race. Take the Central Ward. Last year at this time the city was blanketed with foot soldiers selling the local candidacies of Eddie Osborne and Charles Bell. Each campaign had octopus arms around the presidential candidacy of Obama who, by the way, was on the ballot – for real. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Democrats strive to hold governor posts in two states

President Obama swept into New Jersey on Sunday, pleading with his supporters to summon up the enthusiasm they poured into his election last November and deliver a victory for Gov. Jon S. Corzine. Christopher J. Christie, a former federal prosecutor, greeting supporters of his gubernatorial campaign at a diner in East Rutherford, N.J. Virginia voters will choose between Robert F. McDonnell, above, a former attorney general, and his Democratic opponent, R. Creigh Deeds, a state senator. “He’s one of the best partners I have in the White House. We work together,” Mr. Obama said. “We know our work is far from over.” Mr. Obama’s appearances in Camden and Newark underscored the White House’s determination to stave off defeat for Mr. Corzine, the only Democratic incumbent up for re-election this year, who is facing an aggressive challenge from Christopher J. Christie, a Republican. The race is one of several likely to be viewed as a barometer of the president’s popularity. (Chen/Halbfinger, New York Times)

Obama spends Sunday in New Jersey for Corzine

On a campaign swing through New Jersey to help the re-election bid of Gov. Jon S. Corzine, President Obama on Sunday blamed Republicans for the state’s economic crisis and urged the crowd in Camden to convince their friends and relatives to vote on Tuesday. “For the past four years, you’ve had an honorable man at the helm of this state,” Mr. Obama said to the crowd of more than 3,500 people. “It wasn’t a consequence of Obama’s policies or Corzine’s policies that we went into this hole. There seems to be some selective memory going on here.”The New Jersey race is one of two gubernatorial elections being held on Tuesday, the other in Virginia. On Tuesday, Mr. Obama campaigned with R. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for governor, who is striving to overcome a deficit in money and momentum in the closing days of his campaign against Robert F. McDonnell. The president urged his supporters to stand behind Mr. Deeds and keep a Democrat in the governor’s office. (Berger, New York Times)

Corzine courts Obama-backers in all out push

In the final hours of this intensely fought campaign, supporters of Gov. Jon S. Corzine are knocking on doors here with a message for people who voted for Barack Obama: Your president needs you. In an effort they are calling “Yes We Can 2.0,” Corzine campaign officials are devoting millions of dollars and thousands of volunteers to try to bring back to the polls those 442,000 New Jersey residents who had never voted before Mr. Obama’s election last November. They are flooding them with phone calls, mail and text messages, hoping to contact each of them at least eight times before Tuesday. With the president significantly more popular than Mr. Corzine in New Jersey, the governor has lashed himself to Mr. Obama, and will appear beside him Sunday on the president’s third visit to the state to campaign on Mr. Corzine’s behalf. Whether the first-time Obama voters turn out could make a crucial difference in this race, with most polls showing Mr. Corzine and his Republican opponent, Christopher J. Christie, still running neck and neck two days before the election. (Kocieniewski, New York Times)

Kennedy slams Christie, GOP

First came Caroline Kennedy, then Patrick Kennedy, and tonight at the Portuguese Social Club, Bobby Kennedy, Jr. appeared in support of Gov. Jon Corzine. Heedless of specific state issues, Kennedy went right for the jugular. “We cannot reward Republicans for what they did to this country during the eight years prior to Barack Obama," said the son of the late Attorney General and 1968 candidate for president. "How can Chris Christie come over and seriously run for governor? It's time for them (Republicans) to sit down and let someone else run the state." More than one thumb and forefinger blew a shrill and long whistle of approval into the big room amid resounding hand claps. In the back, while co-headliner U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida) ginned up the mostly female crowd with a mammogram rip snorter, state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) ordered a Coke and said, "The public has seen it," speaking of Christie's temperament, "and that's part of the reason why Jon's going to win."

NJ candidates for governor campaign in last weekend before election

From Newark to Camden, Morristown to Middletown, and even the parking lot at Giants Stadium, New Jersey took on the carnival-like feel of a political convention today as the candidates for governor continued their sprint across the state and toward tomorrow’s election. One candidate for lieutenant governor was so exhausted she kept tripping over her own speech. Aides and campaign staffers were flat-out tired. And the question asked over and over was about who would win the race, though no one had an answer more precise than "too close to call." The focus was clearly on Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, whose effort was boosted by dual rallies with President Obama, imploring adoring urban audiences to "do the same thing you did last year." (Margolin/Heininger, Star Ledger)

NJ Republicans, Democrats dispute source of automated calls for independent Daggett

Republicans today accused the state Democratic Party of trying to trick GOP voters into casting their ballots for the independent candidate in an effort to aid Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who is seeking re-election Tuesday. Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth), the chairman of Republican Chris Christie's campaign, told a Monmouth County crowd that "Jon Corzine's Democratic State Committee" has been making automated calls to people urging them to vote against Christie and go for the independent, "that guy Daggett or whatever his name is." Chris Daggett, a Republican turned independent, has won a lot of attention during the campaign and is perceived by experts to be more dangerous to Christie's chances than Corzine's. (Heininger, Star Ledger)

Republican Rep. Joe Wilson promotes Chris Christie in Morristown

Two months ago, he shouted "You lie!" as President Obama addressed Congress. This afternoon, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) took Obama's lead and came to the Garden State for some last-minute campaigning and to talk up the gubernatorial campaign of his party's standard-bearer. Wilson, though, never crossed paths with Obama. And his choice in Tuesday's election — unlike the president's — is Republican Chris Christie. GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie at a Star-Ledger editorial board meeting in Newark."Tuesday's an important day," Wilson told about 150 people at a gathering of conservatives in Morristown. Then he stole Obama's trademark words that helped him ride into the White House. "I'm confident you can change — change and hope — in New Jersey." Wilson spoke at a rally and fund-raiser sponsored by NJTeaParty. The event began a short while before Obama touched down in New Jersey for the first of two rallies to boost Gov. Jon Corzine's campaign. (Margolin, Star Ledger)

Editorial: Daggett for governor

Several weeks ago, we endorsed independent candidate Chris Daggett for governor. Having watched the campaign evolve in the days that followed, we renew that endorsement today with even greater conviction. Only by electing Daggett on Tuesday can the voters of this ill-served state effectively vent long-standing, pent-up demand for radical change in Trenton. And that means treating taxpayers, including public employees, as rational adults able to handle the harsh truth about the state’s dire financial condition and the need for belt-tightening by all. As former Gov. Brendan Byrne says, if New Jersey were a business, it would be bankrupt. Unfortunately, only Daggett has treated voters and taxpayers to this truth. His recipe for dealing with the looming $8 billion budget hole is far from complete. But he alone among the three major candidates avoided promises that can’t be kept. And he alone has offered anything like a coherent plan to curb the runaway rise in local property tax rates that generates so much of the anger and cynicism about politics, politicians and state government. (Star Ledger)

Payne on county executive endorsement: too soon

Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo just introduced U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark), who stands at the podium in the Prudential Center now. "Joe DiVincenzo's done a great job in Essex County, putting Essex County first," Payne tells the crowd. "I'm fired up and ready to go." Moments earlier, Payne wouldn't commit to DiVincenzo's re-election when asked by "It's a little early for that, isn't it," he said. At issue is DiVincenzo's participation in shoving Senate President Richard Codey (D-Roseland) out the door earlier this fall, offering thee argument that Codey didn't have the votes to withstand Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford). Buzz started in political circles that Codey – nursing revenge – would run a county executive candidate against DiVincenzo next year. But insiders say Codey won't go there unless he – or the candidate he backs – can land the support of Payne, whose support in countywide elections is critical for any challenger to the popular DiVincenzo's throne. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Former Assemblyman John Kelley dies

Former Assemblyman John V. Kelly, a Nutley Republican who served in the State Assembly from 1982 to 1984, and again from 1986 to 2002, passed away last night. Kelly also served as Mayor of Nutley, and lost State Senate bids in 2001 and 2003. He was 83. Kelly first went to the Assembly in 1981 after five-term Assemblyman Carl Orechio (R-Nutley) retired. He lost his seat after two years to a young political scientist with a political pedigree, 25-year-old Stephen Adubato, Jr. Kelly and Marion Crecco, the wife of the Mayor of Bloomfield, came back to win both Assembly seat in 1985. (Editor, PolitickerNJ)

McCarhy: Magic-8-Ball provides insight into

If you’ve been reading this column long enough, you know it’s coming. That’s right. Once again we are relying on the most “scientific” method for making predictions on the upcoming election — a Magic 8-ball. Does Republican freeholder candidate Chris Del Borrello turn his two months on the campaign trail into a victory? Most likely. Are you sure? Outlook good. Will Republican 5th District Assembly candidate Stepfanie Velez-Gentry be making a victory speech at the end of the night? Don’t count on it. Can recently elected county GOP Chairman Bill Fey follow through on his promise and regain control of any more municipalities? Reply hazy. Try again. (McCarthy, Newhouse)

Ingle: candidates had their day, now voters have their say

Now comes the only election poll that really matters — the voters deciding on Tuesday who they want to run the state for the next four years. It's not brain surgery, all it calls for is logic and unemotional thinking. Forget the labels, look at the candidates: Jon Corzine: If you liked the past four years, if you think you're better off now than you were before, you'll love the next four if the governor wins another term. He has not given any indication he would do anything different. In fact, he will take a victory as a signal you want more of the same. The New York Times says Corzine told it he may revive parts of his plan to lease the Turnpike to raise cash. Chris Daggett: He is very much like Corzine, "Corzine Light" some people call him. He wants to extend the sales tax to services not covered. Things like haircuts and laundry. Shades of Jim Florio, who wanted to tax toilet paper. People are suspicious of Daggett, largely unknown until he showed up and got enough contributions to be in the ELEC debates. (Ingle, Gannett)

Ingle: election so close now, turnout is key to victory

Today’s Monmouth University/Gannett Poll has Christie leading Corzine 43-42, which is statistically insignificant. It’s a tie. Daggett is getting 8 percent among likely voters. “This election will be defined by turnout like few others before it. Many Democrats are sitting on the sidelines and not considered to be likely voters at this point. They may be unenthusiastic about their governor, but can they be prodded to the polls for other reasons? If not, Christie may eke out the win,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University/Gannett Poll. In other words, this is one time you’d better make the effort. Independent voters are going to Christie. He has 51 percent of their vote. “Independent voters are simply unhappy with the job Governor Corzine has done over the past four years. After a brief flirtation with Daggett’s candidacy, many seem to have returned to Christie as their best chance for change,” said Murray. (Ingle, Gannett)

GOP get-out-the-vote effort for Morris County native Chris Christie could be problem for Democrats

A big-time Republican get-out-the-vote effort for home county gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie could be a problem for Morris County Democrats on all levels on Election Day, according to political observers. A rally is taking place on the Morristown Green today at noon for Christie and more than 1,000 students will flood the county in a last minute door-to-door effort on his behalf to try to get him a major plurality in Tuesday’s vote, said county Republican Chairman John Sette. It’s an attempt to recreate the same huge GOP vote in Morris County believed to have twice put Gov. Christie Whitman over the top, narrowly winning elections in 1993 and 1997. (Ragonese, Star Ledger)

Why the race to lead NJ is so tight

New Jersey's gubernatorial race, winding down to Tuesday's election after a consistently brutal campaign, is a dead heat between Democratic Gov. Corzine and Republican Christopher J. Christie, in a state where no Republican has won a statewide race in a dozen years. "This should have been a race where no Republican in his right mind would have taken [Corzine] on," said Joseph Marbach, a political scientist at Seton Hall University. Corzine has the advantages of incumbency and vast personal wealth; he might pump in $30 million before the campaign is over. He also enjoys an almost 2-1 Democratic registration edge over Republicans. But Christie has given Corzine a vigorous challenge, fighting him in urban, Democratic strongholds and at kitchen tables in middle-class suburbia. The gubernatorial race has drawn national attention because it is one of only two this year, and some see it as a referendum on President Obama and his Democratic Party. And looming over it all has been a sour economy. (Burton, Inquirer)

Candidates in 23rd District focus on jobs

The race for the two Assembly seats in the 23rd District, which is composed of all of Hunterdon County and part of Warren County, centers on the issues of job development and aid for senior citizens. One thing the candidates have in common is an aversion to expanding the budget. Republican John DiMaio, a former Warren County freeholder and owner of a construction company, was appointed to his seat in the Assembly in February when Marcia Karrow was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Leonard Lance, who was elected to Congress. Republican John DiMaio, a former Warren County freeholder and owner of a construction company, was appointed to his seat in the Assembly in February when Marcia Karrow was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Leonard Lance, who was elected to Congress. DiMaio and running mate Erik Peterson are competing with Democrats William Courtney, a Flemington attorney, and Tammy Smith, a veteran insurance executive of Knowlton Township in Warren County. (Yeske, Newhouse)

Candidates barnstorm state in final days before gubernatorial election

Less than 72 hours before voters go to the polls, Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican Chris Christie barnstormed the state on Saturday, each claiming to have momentum going into Election Day and trying to reach for every possible vote. The major-party candidates hammered home their already familiar themes and repeated their lines of attack as they were joined by key supporters and political celebrities on the campaign trail. At the same time, independent Chris Daggett campaigned in the southern half of New Jersey, hoping to post a strong showing Tuesday despite his recent decline in public-opinion surveys. And throughout New Jersey, the Republican and Democratic vote-turnout machines were in full gear in an effort to use their so-called "ground games" to win a race that, according to the polls, has become a statistical dead heat. "We literally have hours left. None of us can take any one of those hours for granted," Christie told 150 people in Edison, as he was flanked by former Gov. Tom Kean and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. "If you’re ready to fight over the next 72 hours, we’re ready to fight." (Heininger/Margolin, Star Ledger)

Christie: governor race is about turnout

Less than 36 hours before the polls open, Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie asked party faithful in Republican-heavy Ocean County to vote , and to remind their friends and neighbors to do the same. Christie spoke Sunday evening at the Holiday Inn in Toms River in one of his last pre-election rallies in his neck-and-neck campaign to unseat Democratic incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine. "It all comes down to turnout now," he told an exuberant crowd of some 400 during a half-hour speech. "It comes down to who wants it more.", who's more." His supporters chanted Christie's name and booed when he mentioned Corzine. As he has done in past campaigns, Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs chairman, has spent millions of his own fortune , more than $22 million as of Oct. 23 , on his own campaign. "Jon Corzine is running $30 million worth of TV ads trying to make you scared of what a Christie administration might look like," Christie said after reeling off a number of areas where some studies have shown New Jersey to be worst in the nation, including for property taxes and business climate. "How much worse can I do?" The crowd roared approval.(Mulvihill, AP)

Former Hamilton mayor uses web to spin new career

Since leaving office after losing a high-profile mayoral election in 2007, former mayor Glen Gilmore has accrued quite a few followers. Try 56,000. The polarizing ex-mayor, whose name still has the capacity to elicit strong reactions in certain circles, has reinvented himself as a social-media guru, a man who has 56,000 followers on Twitter and tours the country as an independent consultant in the ever-emerging field of social media. Social media is all about presence, Gilmore explains, and he's got plenty of that. A two-term mayor who lost his third-term re-election bid in 2007 to current Republican Mayor John Bencivengo, Gilmore's name is a familiar one at council meetings and around town. He has been accused of racking up a huge municipal deficit, and yet his supporters contend he's not the villain his detractors have made him out to be. (Duffy, Newhouse)

Daggett: political playing field favors the two parties

As the independent candidate in New Jersey's race for governor, Chris Daggett says he's discovered how tough it is for third-party candidates to compete in an entrenched two-party political system. Democratic and Republican candidates get preferential ballot placement, for example, while the others are randomly assigned a ballot spot by each county. Far more absurd are the rules on candidate slogans. Daggett says the major-party candidates are permitted to pick a slogan of up to six words — "John Doe, the people's choice," for example — while the independent candidates are limited to just three words. (AP)

Morristown council president accused of assaulting cop

Town council President John Cryan was charged with aggravated assault after allegedly attacking a police officer who had taken him to the Morristown Memorial Hospital emergency room early Saturday morning, after police picked him up outside a bar where they say he was "highly intoxicated." Detective Lt. Steven Sarinelli said in a press release that police took Cryan to the hospital "for treatment and evaluation" after being called to Tavern Off The Green on Morris Street where three men allegedly tried to stop Cryan from getting into his car. Cryan, who also was charged with disorderly conduct, did not respond to phone messages Saturday. He is not up for re-election in Tuesday's election after losing in the June Democratic primary. More than three years ago, Cryan had been charged with assault after punching a friend at another bar in January 2006. He pleaded guilty in municipal court in that case to a lesser charge of fighting and was fined $750. He also received 20 hours of community service, and was told to continue attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. (Koloff, Gannett)

Newcomer challenges Labertville mayor

David DelVecchio, who has served as mayor for six terms and at times has run unopposed, faces a challenge in this election from a retired state trooper who is making his first run for public office. DelVecchio, who has tapped state and federal resources to bring millions of dollars for major projects in the city, is seeking his seventh three-year term as mayor. Daniel E. Marley is a private investigator who is seeking office for the first time. Despite the incumbent Democrat having 18 years of experience of being in office, Republican Marley believes he could be an effective mayor. "I've been interested in politics all of my life and especially local issues. I've lived in Lambertville for 20 years, and being the father of five children, I have a vested interest in the city's future," said Marley. (Yeske, Newhouse) Morning News Digest: November 2, 2009