Morning News Digest: November 6, 2009

GOP leaders rejoice at Christie’s ability to unify, Democrats are still skeptical Leaders of a once fractured minority party –

GOP leaders rejoice at Christie’s ability to unify, Democrats are still skeptical

Leaders of a once fractured minority party – over the last years seemingly constantly at the verge of splitting farther apart – see unity in Gov.-elect Chris Christie. During the campaign, Christie regularly invoked the example of former Gov. Tom Kean, a moderate, then publicly embraced movement conservative Steve Lonegan in the closing days of the general election campaign to solidify his Republican base. Kean's son, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) said he believes Christie's leadership abilities are expansive enough to include both the conservative wing and moderate wing of the GOP, in addition to independents and Democrats. Not unlike his own father's skills in that regard. "My father worked with a Democratic legislature in both of his terms as governor," Kean said of former Gov. Kean. "Chris also has the ability to work in a bipartisan way." (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Gusciora blasts bosses for not focusing more intently on Corzine reelection

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton) today blamed party bosses for deal-making when they should have been focused on re-electing Gov. Jon Corzine. "Party leaders undermined the governor by having a party leadership fight," said Gusciora. "They reinforced the message that if Corzine won, the reins of power would be handed over to special interests." Asked on Election Day morning about the intra-party deal cultivated by South Jersey Democratic Party leader George Norcross III and Newark North Ward Democratic Party boss Steve Adubato, Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts (D-Camden) dismissed its larger-scale impact on voter production. "It's inside baseball and affected very few people beyond Trenton," said Roberts of a North-South deal that would oust Senate President Richard Codey (D-Roseland) in exchange for Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), and launch Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) into the lower house leadership chair being vacated by Roberts. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Next GOP target: McNerney

It was literally minutes after Bergen County Republicans won two freeholder seats that they started eyeing another prize. "Now for the big one: county executive," said one Republican operative who often works in Bergen County from the Chris Christie Election Night victory party in Parsippany. Two days after winning two freeholder seats in Bergen County – a prayed for shot in the arm for a county party that has spent the last several years on the brink of irrelevance- the talk in Bergen County Republican circles is who the party will run for the top office in 2010. "A number of people have expressed interest. I'm hearing a lot of it informally. No one has officially come to me," said Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin, whose party could stand to receive a cash infusion now that donors see that they can win elections. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Unlucky and aloof, Corzine fell short of Trenton goals

His concession speech on Tuesday sounded almost like a sigh of relief. Considering the career trajectory of Gov. Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey, a man who spent more than $130 million of his fortune on three campaigns but never seemed comfortable operating in the spotlight most politicians relish, it was not surprising, his supporters say, that one of Mr. Corzine’s most eloquent speeches came as he accepted his humiliating defeat. Mr. Corzine, whose liberal politics made him a misfit on Wall Street, made a brash and expensive debut to elective office by capturing a United States Senate seat in 2000, then five years later seizing the chance to capture the throne of the state’s politics, the governor’s office. Yet he seemed equally miscast in Trenton, where allies and adversaries considered him too aloof to fully engage in the daily tussle of governing. Mr. Corzine suffered setbacks that were not entirely of his own making. A car crash almost killed him halfway through his term, and forced him to spend months recuperating. Soon afterward, the worst financial climate since the Depression swept the state, forcing him to make unpopular choices. (Kocieniewski, New York Times)

Chris Christie Confidential

I am in Chris Christie campaign headquarters on election night. Broadcasters are about to call the race. Pollsters in the room huddle and whisper numbers. The air crackles with words like “victory” and “change.” But I’m lost in a bearhug with Chris, my childhood friend, and now the next governor of New Jersey. If you’ve seen Chris, you can probably imagine that he can bearhug with the best of them. This one lasts an especially long time, and corny to say, I relish it. Suddenly I flash back to the Meadowbook Little League ball field. I am 10 years old again and scared. Because of a bout with rheumatic fever, I’ve missed the first half of the season. This is my first game back, and I’m standing there in my baggy green and white uniform, not sure what to do. A roly-poly kid in catcher’s gear sees my hesitation. He hurries over with a big smile, calls me by my name, tells me how excited he is that I’m finally ready to play. He introduces himself. His name is Chris Christie and he, this remarkable 10-year-old boy, spends the rest of the day going out of his way to make me feel welcome. Being the cynical one in this relationship, I wonder if he’s for real. I will wonder that a lot over the years, but the answer will always be yes. (Coben, New York Times)

Governor-elect Christie preparing to head state

During the long and brutal campaign, they called him hypocritical, hot-tempered, dishonest, too fat. Now they’ll call him governor. But Chris Christie says he’s not wasting time on an enemies list. "Please. I wouldn’t have enough paper. So let’s not even bother writing one," Christie told The Star-Ledger in his first detailed interview since defeating Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine on Tuesday. "This is now about governing. I won. The one thing I could never understand about people in politics was winners who are sore winners." Instead, the Republican governor-elect is going out of his way to mend fences with Democrats, from a pleasant phone conversation with President Obama to a downtown tour today of Democratic-leaning Woodbridge. Christie said that with an $8 billion budget deficit, the nation’s highest property taxes and countless other obstacles in his path, "the problems are too big in this state to say there’s only Republican answers and Democratic answers.” (Heininger, Star Ledger)

Christie: ‘my win is not a loss for Obama’

Gov.-elect Chris Christie disagrees with political pundits who've suggested his win Tuesday night was a backlash against President Obama, who made three visits to the Garden State in support of Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine. "It's not a repudiation of the president. In fact, I said the exact opposite during the campaign,'' the Republican said Thursday during a visit to the township. Playing off Obama's presidential campaign, which promised "hope'' and "change,'' one of Christie's tag lines during the race was "Change Starts by Changing Governors.'' Early television ads for the Republican also featured images of Obama, who won in New Jersey last year. Conservative commentators have pointed to Republican gubernatorial wins in New Jersey and Virginia as indicating the president's popularity is wearing out with moderate voters. But Christie, apparently, is saying otherwise. "As far as reaching out, the president has already reached out to me. I had a 5-minute phone conversation with President Obama yesterday. He called and asked to speak to me. We talked about the things we have in common. We talked about merit pay for teachers and more charter schools,'' Christie said. (Bichao, Gannett)

Editorial: Sen. Richard Codey jockeying for position

Richard Codey, soon to be kicked to the curb as Senate president, wants the world to know: He’s still got plenty of juice. Just ask the White House. The day after the election, Codey said that Gov. Jon Corzine, so despondent about dismal approval ratings and a car-wreck of a campaign he couldn’t pull from a ditch, almost quit the race in July. Corzine denies it, but here’s Codey’s version (corroborated by others in the Democratic party): After the White House heard about Corzine’s second thoughts, it conducted an internal poll, which revealed Codey would be leading Republican challenger Chris Christie by 16 points. White House political director Patrick Gaspard wanted Codey to convince Corzine to bow out, then step in and, like a Democratic superhero, beat Christie and save the day. Instead, Codey said he met with Corzine, explained the White House’s wishes and allowed Corzine to decide whether to continue running. The conflicted Corzine stayed in the race and was thumped by Christie. (Star Ledger)

Stile: Corzine never mastered art of wooing voters

Governor Corzine, the erstwhile Wall Street titan, never stopped thinking like a long-term investor. A massive toll hike, for example, might tick off the motorist of today, but think of the dividends it will yield down the road — less debt, more money for schools, a balance sheet with a positive cash flow. Won’t Standard & Poor’s be impressed? His enemies, however, could never stop thinking like politicians with a short-term plan — seizing power. “Governor Corzine is planning to raise your tolls by 800 percent,” the anonymous automated voice warned Bergen County voters on the last weekend of the campaign. The Republican Party blitzed voters across the state with the same message, Jay Webber, the state party chairman, said Tuesday. And in the GOP’s South Bergen headquarters in Rutherford last week, a woman volunteer, her voice laced with disgust, told a listener that another four years of Corzine “will be a disaster.” For all his smarts, ambition and, of course, his money — some $130 million spent on his three campaigns for public office, for those keeping score — Corzine never mastered the art of politics. He plunged into the Jersey political shark pool in 1999, fresh from his Goldman Sachs buyout, as a political amateur, and nine years later, he still remained ambivalent about his transfer from the board room to the political clubhouse. (Stile, The Record)

Ex-Trenton lobbyist alleges 3-year affair with NJ Democratic Chairman, denies stalking

A former Trenton lobbyist, ordered by a court to avoid contact with state Democratic chairman and Assemblyman Joseph Cryan and his family, wants her guilty plea in that case withdrawn, because she claims she was not a stalker but rather had a three-year-long affair with Cryan. Karen Golding, 40, of West Orange, whose sentencing is pending in the case, also claims Cryan (D-Union) used his influence to get stalking, an indictable offense, charged against her, as opposed to a lesser harassment charge, according to a legal motion filed Oct. 29 in Superior Court in Morristown by her attorney, Roy Greenman. The motion, which is scheduled to be heard Nov. 20, contains salacious allegations of a sexual relationship between Cryan and Golding that lasted from 2003-06, including that he impregnated her and she had an abortion in 2004, and that he cheated on her with other women. Cryan, who could not be reached for comment, "has denied that any relationship existed and has portrayed her to the investigating authorities as some sort of crazed individual living in a fantasy world," the motion states. (Lockwood, Star Ledger)

Colors of this election show on map, on faces

Republican Christie J. Christie turned Blue New Jersey red-faced – the first GOP gubernatorial triumph since Christine Todd Whitman prevailed in 1993 and 1997. The former U.S. attorney survived a strong home stretch drive by Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine, of Hoboken, and staved off the vote-draining independent Christopher Daggett on Tuesday. Christie, who achieved a 131-0 prosecutorial record in public corruption cases, was double-teamed by the big-spending Corzine and Daggett, who hurt him among GOP and independent voters. Democrats mounted a late surge. Christie led by 14 points in June and Corzine was stuck with consistently bad disapproval ratings; it was still 54-37 percent in the Oct. 28 Quinnipiac University Poll. It is Democrats who are red-faced today suffering the voting booth blues. (Albright, Jersey Journal)

Morning News Digest: November 6, 2009