Morning News Digest: January 18, 2010

Christie-Corzine nomination battle continues; Inaugural speech intervention; Replacing Sen. Richard Codey, again

Buried deep within this season of partisan tensions and rocky transitions,The Auditor has unearthed what may be the most outrageous nomination battle of them all. The fight focused on Gov. Jon Corzine’s nomination of Vincent Giordano of Jersey City to the Civil Service Commission. Republicans calculated that seating Giordano — executive director of the powerful New Jersey Education Association that spent millions trying to beat Gov.-elect Chris Christie last year — could keep Christie from having a single commission spot to fill for most, if not all of his term. Christie and company convinced Sen. Brian Stack (D-Hudson) to block Giordano’s nomination. An enraged Corzine then threatened to block $11 million in special aid for Union City, where Stack is mayor. Stack held firm as Christie vowed he’d restore any aid cut by Corzine. Then Corzine told the Senate he would instead nominate former NJEA president Joyce Powell. Christie, at home in Mendham, phoned incoming Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and implored him to block Powell as a sign of good faith. Standing in the Judiciary Committee hearing room in Trenton, Sweeney, who has long battled with NJEA, agreed. In the end, none of this was necessary because Republicans discovered one of their own was actually keeping them from having another spot to fill on the commission. It seems Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Somerset) was blocking the nomination of Civil Service Commission Chairwoman Hope Cooper to the Parole Board because he’d been feuding with Corzine. At Christie’s request, Bateman allowed Cooper to go to the Parole Board, opening up a GOP spot on the commission. Then everyone approved Giordano. I’ll have three drafts, please Christie has built his career on extemporaneous remarks and an outright refusal to work from written text. But The Auditor has learned Christie’s aides performed an intervention concerning his inaugural address. They insisted Tuesday’s speech would be a critical governing document and must be committed to writing in advance. He agreed, but told the three — Bob Grady, Maria Comella and Russ Schriefer — to each write him a speech. He said he’d write a final address from their three versions and his own ideas. (Star Ledger)

McNerney to seek re-election as Bergen County Executive  

With the support of key Democratic leaders, Bergen County Executive Dennis C. McNerney announced today that he will seek re-election to a third term. “Over the past eight years, we have accomplished many positives, including cutting the county workforce by 13%, reducing the waiting list for Meals-on-Wheels, creating the Bergen County SAVVERS and Wellness Programs, preserving hundreds of acres open space, maintaining our AAA bond rating, stabilizing county property taxes, and working with dozens of towns to save money through shared services,” McNerney wrote in a letter to Democratic committee members. McNerney was elected in 2002 with 52% of the vote against State Sen. Henry McNamara (R-Wyckoff), after three-term Republican William “Pat” Schuber retired. He won 61% in his 2006 re-election campaign against former Freeholder Todd Caliguire. On Tuesday, Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan announced her candidacy for the GOP nomination. She appears to have united different factions of the county Republican organization behind her bid to unseat McNerney. McNerney says he has the support of Democratic County Chairman Michael Kasparian, U.S. Rep. Steven Rothman (D-Fair Lawn), State Sens. Robert Gordon (D-Fair Lawn) and Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), all five Democratic Freeholders, 25 Democratic mayors, and 40 of the 70 Democratic municipal chairs. (Editor, PolitickerNJ)

Sipprelle starts campaign with $250k, pledges to match first $1 million with his own money

 Republican 12th District Congressional candidate Scott Sipprelle announced today that he has contributed $250,000 of his own money to his campaign account and will match “at least” the first $1 million in donations he receives. “I am not in this campaign simply to compete and put up a good fight, I am in it to win in November and send Rush Holt back to private life,” said Sipprelle, a venture capitalist and former hedge fund manager. “I believe so strongly in my core message of economic renewal and fiscal responsibility, and in my ability to carry that message to every corner of this district, that I am announcing today my plan to match at least the first $1,000,000 in donations received from supporters who agree with me that the time has come to make American work again.” Sipprelle wants to run against U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-Princeton), but first has to get by Republican Fair Haven Mayor Michael Halfacre in the GOP primary. Halfacre has little money (he had raised only about $60,000 as of September 30), but started campaigning almost a year ago and has won a significant amount of establishment party support. Sipprelle, a Princeton resident, kicked off his campaign Wednesday night at the Princeton Regency Hyatt. Without specifically noting Halfacre’s anemic fundraising, Sipprelle nevertheless drew attention to it. “A message that cannot be heard is a message that will fail,” he said. “The stakes are too high to go mute on the critical issues affecting our communities and our nation. I look forward to holding Rush Holt accountable for his failures in Congress and forcing him to engage in a contest of ideas that he cannot and will not win.” (Friedman, PolitickerNJ) Christie: ‘I feel like I’m ready’ Gov.-elect Chris Christie will deliver an inaugural address tomorrow that will talk broadly about how he wants to save a state government in crisis — and follow that up with quick action on ethics, higher education, taxes and state regulations. In an interview with The Star-Ledger, Christie said he will lobby the Obama White House to bail out New Jersey’s unemployment fund, stand firm on a politically risky tax cut for the wealthy, and freeze a host of regulations within 24 hours of taking the oath of office. He said he will streamline the state’s numerous but weak ethics regulators, improve its higher education system and devise a sweeping solution for its cashpoor sports authority. Add that to closing a $9.5 billion budget deficit, and Christie says he is in for a breakneck first year. “I feel like I’m ready. If you ask me, ‘Ready for what?’ I don’t think I get to fill in the blank, history fills in the blank,” Christie said. “Everyone is going to have to, myself included, step up to the plate on things we don’t like, but that’s the crisis we’re in.” Christie vowed to restore some property tax rebates in his first budget but would not reveal specifics. “Rebates are a short-term solution toward the course of getting real property tax reform,” he said. His plans to eliminate or streamline agencies — including consolidating the functions of the comptroller, public advocate, auditor and other watchdogs — also will be part of his budget address March 16. Within 24 hours of his swearing-in, Christie said he will issue his first executive order to fulfill a campaign promise to halt unfunded mandates and freeze new regulations. Christie said it was a call from President Obama that started his transition from victorious candidate to governor-in-waiting. Obama had traveled to New Jersey repeatedly to stump for Gov. Jon Corzine, but he and Christie agreed the campaign was behind them. “He said, ‘I am ready to help you, and I am ready to help the people of New Jersey,’” Christie said. The next governor may have to cash in on that support sooner than later. The state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, raided by lawmakers for years for other purposes, is running dry and is set to trigger an automatic tax hike in July that could force businesses to pay from $300 to $1,100 more per worker. (Heininger, Star Ledger)

N.J. Gov.-elect Chris Christie ready to take charge

Chris Christie was wrestling a pine tree, getting a shower of brittle needles as he yanked it through a doorway from his living room into the snow. He triumphantly dumped the oversized trunk in the yard — “Killed it,” he declared — but realized he’d gone out the wrong door, one that was warped and wouldn’t close. Unfazed, Christie shoved it into submission. Watch out, New Jersey. This man’s about to be your governor. This is not a story about how he feels about property taxes, pension reforms or immigration. This is about the kind of person we will all be dealing with the next four years. We’ve had the patrician governor (Whitman), the stern governor (Florio), the gay governor (McGreevey), the accidental governor (Codey), the gazillionaire governor (Corzine). Now get ready for something we haven’t seen before. We don’t even know what to call him yet. Maybe the pugnacious-irreverent-funny-Don’t-BS-Me governor. Maybe the bulldozer governor, who — after a blistering campaign and stormy transition — intends to conquer, then rescue, his beleaguered native state. Or have a good time trying. “It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” Christie said in an interview. “But I don’t feel the least bit overwhelmed by it.” The soon-to-be 55th governor of New Jersey is 47, with laughing eyes and a biting wit that constantly shifts targets, which include himself. He sleeps five or six hours a night, rising for a workout as he tries to trim the frame that — along with his fundraising prowess — led George W. Bush to nickname him “Big Boy.” Christie is less a workaholic than a guy who is always plugged in — addicted to his cell phone, news coverage and professional sports, especially the New York Mets. On big days during the campaign, he wore an orange and blue tie to keep things in perspective. He is a student of policy, but prefers the limelight over the weeds. He is a born lawyer: decisive, articulate and a master of hyperbole. While Gov. Jon Corzine hesitated to use the word “I,” Christie’s brand of leadership is sheer force of personality. Foes call it overdone swagger and arrogance. Christie calls it everyman outrage. Plus he just can’t help himself. “I’ve had a lot of people, when I’ve been out, come up and say, ‘Give ’em hell,’ ‘Let ’em have it,’ that kind of stuff. I think it’s what people are expecting of me,” he said. “People are going to have to get used to my style.” (Heininger, Star Ledger)

Donald Norcross picked for state Senate seat

Camden and Gloucester County Democrats unanimously selected labor leader Donald Norcross to be Camden’s next state senator in a convention yesterday. “Our number-one priority in Trenton is to get our economy going and make sure we have good, quality jobs,” Norcross said before about 300 Democrats at the American Legion post in Brooklawn. “We will be fighting like hell for it.” Norcross won a Fifth District Assembly seat in November and was sworn in Tuesday. Also at yesterday’s convention, Democrats selected his Assembly successor, Camden Councilman Gilbert “Whip” Wilson, a former Camden police officer and an Air Force Ranger in the Vietnam War. Norcross is set to be sworn into the Senate on Tuesday, capping one of the shortest Assembly careers in state history. In the Senate he would replace Dana Redd, who was sworn in as Camden’s mayor Jan. 1. Norcross said in an interview that on the campaign trail for the Assembly seat “there was not a door I knocked on where people didn’t want to talk about the economy, what average men and women are doing to make ends meet.” He said he would concentrate on job creation, economic development, and property taxes. Norcross said he would work with Republican Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie on areas of common interest, such as the economy and schools. But he said, “When we disagree, we will fight like hell to make sure our issues – issues of Democrats – are going to be there. I give you that promise today that we will not do anything that will hurt our constituents – the working men and women of the Fifth District.” It was an extraordinary day for South Jersey Democrats. The convention chairman was 10-term U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D., N.J.), who in 2008 was renominated to his House seat at a similar convention after losing his primary battle against U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.). During that race, Andrews had promised not to seek renomination to his seat, and his wife, Camille, won the House primary. Andrews famously had a change of heart. There also was new Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney (D., Gloucester). He was suffering from a numb lip because he had kept a promise to friends that if he became Senate president, he would shave his mustache for the first time in 32 years. Sweeney is a strong ally of Camden County Democrats and a childhood friend of the Norcross family. Because Gov. Corzine was out of the state yesterday, Sweeney was acting governor – probably the last Senate president to fill that role. In November, New Jersey elected its first lieutenant governor to serve if the governor cannot. The Senate president will be third in the line of succession. (Burton, Inquirer)

N.J. shift precedes Christie

Christopher J. Christie will officially replace Jon Corzine as governor Tuesday. But even before the Republican, who campaigned as a fiscal conservative, replaces a Democrat who favored progressive social programs, it has become clear the state’s political winds have shifted. In traditionally liberal New Jersey, where lawmakers in recent years have barred the death penalty, taken steps toward universal health coverage, and approved a paid family-leave program, the recent failure of bills that would have allowed same-sex marriage and provided in-state tuition for illegal immigrants marked a sharp change. Members of both parties attributed the results to the November election, which sent a resounding message of rising anxiety over New Jersey’s economy and taxes. The election gave Republicans a statewide winner, and singular party voice, for the first time in a decade. Democrats, Christie said in an interview Friday, expected to win. When they lost, “I think that makes everyone sit up and take notice.” Added Republican state chairman Jay Webber, an assemblyman from Morris County, “People realize that we had gone way too far to the left on many of our fiscal and social policies, and the election in November was in part a recognition that we need to correct that and give Republicans an opportunity to lead for a while.” Democrats dispute the idea that voters want GOP leadership, noting that every Democrat in the Assembly won reelection, but they don’t argue with the notion that the economy and taxes trump all other issues as Christie enters office. “The message for us is: If we aren’t talking about the economy, we aren’t talking about the right thing,” said Democratic state chairman Joseph Cryan, who became Assembly majority leader, the No. 2 spot in that chamber. Added Cryan, of Union County, “When you’re worried about keeping your job, or getting one, nothing else matters.” Rutgers University political science professor Ingrid Reed said the changing attitudes in New Jersey reflected a national trend. Early in 2009, she said, independent voters identified far more strongly with Democrats than with Republicans. But as the economic recovery moved slowly and partisan bickering in Washington continued, the gap nearly evened. Reed said that shift could be seen even in a traditionally blue state like New Jersey. “The world really had changed by the time we got to having an election in New Jersey in terms of the way people are leaning,” said Reed, director of the New Jersey Project at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics. (Tamari, The Inquirer)

Christie’s ‘to do’ list looks familiar

Chris Christie becomes New Jersey’s newest governor Tuesday, promising to lead the state forward with a firm hand. He’ll immediately face many of the same problems that vexed his predecessors. Here is a rundown of some of the major issues Christie will confront and what he has said about them. State finances Christie is inheriting a state fiscal situation that will be challenging to manage on several fronts. The state budget will have a structural deficit of at least $8 billion during Christie’s first year in office thanks to revenue losses tied to the bad economy and spending decisions made by prior administrations. Christie’s own budget team estimates the deficit could be closer to $10 billion. As governor, Christie will also have to come up with the steep spending cuts he called for on the campaign trail. That could force tough decisions on state aid such as school funding, and he’ll also have to decide what to do with property tax rebates. Christie also inherits a record $34 billion debt, an amount that equates to $3,600 for every man, woman and child living in New Jersey. He is promising to take a hard look at any new borrowing that was planned by the Corzine administration, which means school construction and transportation issues will face new scrutiny. The heavy debt burden also puts a stress on Christie’s first budget because he cannot avoid paying that bill even though he didn’t run it up. The state pension system is also a major problem thanks to an unfunded liability of at least $30 billion. Christie has to find $2.5 billion to pay what actuaries say is needed for him to begin restoring the pension system. Property taxes: The issue that many believe put Christie in office may also be his biggest challenge: property taxes. Average property tax bills have risen to a record $7,045. And the burden in North Jersey is $8,500 on average. Municipal governments and school boards will face new pressure from Christie to reduce spending. He has pledged to enact hard spending caps that would not include the waivers towns and school boards were able to use under Corzine. Christie is promising to aggressively audit school districts to find savings that could lower property taxes. The governor-elect is also calling for different levels of government to seriously consider sharing redundant services as an opportunity for property tax relief. (The Record)

Congressman Pallone top recipient of health care industry cash

A Central Jersey congressman who played a key role in writing the House health care reform bill has received $321,000 in campaign contributions during the past year from the same industry the legislation is designed to overhaul. That makes Rep. Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch, the top House recipient of donations from the health care industry in the 2010 election cycle as of Sept. 30, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. Pallone hasn’t violated any laws or ethics guidelines, and his supporters say they aren’t bothered by the contributions because Pallone isn’t shy about defying the industry. Still, the contributions underscore a political reality: In their constant quest for campaign cash, members of Congress receive money from the very industries, labor unions and other interest groups they oversee, a practice that invites conflicts of interest and even criminal corruption. “What this shows is that (Pallone) has an intimately close financial relationship with the very folks who care the most about how this legislation plays out,” said Dave Levinthal, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington that tracks money in politics. “Whether that is unseemly or not is a question best answered by his constituents.” Pallone has received an especially large amount of campaign cash from the health care industry since January 2009 because he’s chairman of the health subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Lawmakers who head committees and subcommittees typically attract a wealth of contributions from industries and interests they oversee, campaign finance experts say. Pallone’s spokesman, Richard McGrath, said the industry’s hefty donations haven’t won it any special concessions from the congressman. “The contribution reports confirm that campaign donations do not influence or affect Congressman Pallone’s policy positions because they show no cause and effect between contributions and policies,” McGrath wrote in an e-mail. “Everyone involved in the health care debate will tell you that the congressman follows his principles, not the wishes of the health care industry.” (Chebium, Gannett)

Christie to N.J.: Get ready for the pain

Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie believes the public is hungering for clear and decisive leadership — even if it hurts. “I think people are ready for the pain,” Christie said during an interview with The Record on Friday. “It doesn’t mean they are going to like it, but I think they’re ready for it.” Christie, the 46-year-old Newark native set to become New Jersey’s 55th governor Tuesday, said he will use the Newark-focused inauguration ceremonies as a statement of the Catholic-rooted principles and values that shape his blunt Jersey-guy style of leadership. “We are an argumentative type of people, I think,” Christie said at the West Orange offices of David Samson, the Republican lawyer heading up his transition. “What they want you to do is take a stand, they want you to fight for what you believe in. That’s what they’re going to get out of me.” Already Christie has showcased his combative style during the 2 1/2-month transition period. He tangled with outgoing Governor Corzine in a public spat over appointments, vowed to break the political grip of the New Jersey Education Association, the powerful state teachers union, and has warned lawmakers that deep cuts in services and aid will be needed to close a potential $10 billion budget deficit. “I think they know we can’t continue this way any longer,” he said. Changing Trenton in a way that solves the state’s massive fiscal challenges and fixing the other major problems, including high property taxes, is no easy task and Christie concedes he may not be able to change everyone in government. “My fear is that if people are unwilling to listen because they’re so in cement on the traditional positions and the partisan divide, and all the rest of that, that we won’t be as successful as we should be,” he said. And he understands the dismissive cynicism of the people who come up to him on the street saying, “Do what you said you were going to do.” “The only way to defeat that kind of cynicism is to confound their expectations,” he said. “Their expectations are that you are going to be just like the rest of them and if you confound them, even in a small way in the beginning, I think you get a disproportionate amount of credit from [everyday] folks.” (Reitmeyer/Stile, The Record)

Gov.-elect Chris Christie keeps two Corzine appointees, names banking regulator

Gov.-elect Chris Christie today announced his choices for three new cabinet spots and said he would hire a former deputy who was the center of a campaign controversy as a staff lawyer. Christie said he wants keep Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Adjutant General Glenn Rieth in their current jobs when he takes over next week. He tapped MetLife lawyer Tom Considine for commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance. Christie still has a handful of nominations to make, and he would not say whether there will be any more holdovers. The governor-elect also said he would hire Michele Brown, his former deputy at the U.S. Attorney’s office, as a staff lawyer to help him vet appointments. Brown was part of the biggest controversy of Christie’s campaign when it was revealed that Christie had lent her $46,000 and was earning interest from her payments — but the governor-elect had not reported any of it on his tax returns or financial disclosure reports. Brown’s job at the time, as the No. 2 official in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, also led to Democratic complaints that the federal prosecutor’s operation was conspiring with the Christie campaign, something the office and Christie denied. Brown quit and went into private practice. There are still a handful of positions open, and Christie would not say whether he would ask any other officials to stay. By naming two Corzine administration holdovers and Considine, a Democrat, Christie said political affiliation is not his prime concern. “I’m trying to bring the best people that I possibly can to bear on these enormous problems that the state now has,” Christie said at the Morris County Administration Building in Morristown. “And I don’t care whether they’re Republicans or Democrats.” Christie said he will keep the departments of Human Services and Children of Families separate, a structure created by outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine in 2006 as part of a federally monitored overhaul of the child welfare system. In addition to Brown, Christie said he will hire Lou Goetting as Cabinet Secretary. Goetting earned a lucrative severance package for leaving his position as the vice president for administration at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. That came to light a few days after then-U.S. Attorney Christie said his office would prosecute the university for Medicare fraud if it didn’t submit to federal oversight and monitoring. Goetting was not implicated in the UMDNJ scandal. (Fleisher, Star Ledger)

Pete McCarthy: Sweeney supporters pack the house

When Stephen Sweeney was sworn in as New Jersey’s next Senate president, it was in front of a packed house. His family was by his side to take part in the special occasion. There were current and former legislators present. Past, present and future governors were there as well. Gov.-elect Chris Christie made an appearance with Lt. Gov-elect Kim Guadagno. Also present was a large group from Gloucester County. Top Democrats such as Chairman Michael Angelini and freeholders Robert Damminger, Joe Chila, Warren Wallace and Jean DuBois came out to support their guy. There were also quite a few county employees. Surrogate Helene Reed, Sheriff Carmel Morina and Clerk James Hogan attended. Others, like county Administrator Chad Bruner and Board of Elections Superintendent Stephanie Salvatore also made the trip to Trenton. County spokeswoman Debra Sellitto assured that any county employee who drove up for the swearing in was not on the clock. They all took the day off, she said. Taking a stand. It was a big day for Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who now becomes the top Democrat in New Jersey government. As a leader, he has learned it is important that he take a stand on every issue. Sweeney has taken some heat for not voting either way on the state’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage. The bill, which was ultimately defeated in the Senate, required plenty of deep thought, Sweeney conceded this week. “I should have just voted for it,” Sweeney said in an interview after being sworn in as Senate president. “Leaders don’t takes passes. I have never done it in my life.” Sweeney acknowledged he “made a mistake” by deciding to abstain from voting. Originally, Sweeney said he was against the bill, but after hearing testimony from dozens of advocates, he had changed his mind. “I was struggling with it, but it would have been a ‘Yes’ vote,” said Sweeney. Moving in. Assemblyman Domenick DiCicco said he is inching closer to opening an office in the 4th District. The lone Republican representing Gloucester County residents in Trenton, DiCicco said after being sworn in this week that he is ready to make himself available to all constituents – both Republican and Democrat. Some issues have to still be ironed out. DiCicco said his office, which will be separate from the one for fellow Assemblyman Paul Moriarty and Sen. Fred Madden – both Democrats – will be in Washington Township. Stay tuned for more details when it becomes official. (McCarthy, Newhouse)

Ingle: Pallone took big donations from health care industry

 A New Jersey Congress had his hand out to special interests while writing the House care reform bill. My colleague Raju Chebium in Washington reports Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. received $321,000 in campaign contributions over the past year from the same industry the legislation he was writing was supposed to overhaul. The Center for Response Politics says Pallone is top House recipient of donations from the health care industry in the 2010 election cycle as of Sept. 30. He didn’t violate any law or ethics guidelines. Dave Levinthal of the Center said, “What this shows is (Pallone of Long Branch) has an intimately close financial relationship with the very folks who care the most about how this legislation plays out.”Over this 20-year House career, the Center reports that Pallone has received more than $2.5 million from the health care industry. His district, parts of Monmouth and Middlesex counties, is home to Johnson&Johnson, Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Pallone has more campaign cash than any other member of the New Jersey congressional delegation — $4 million as of Sept. 30. (Ingle, Gannett)

Ingle: Corzine needed help to remember accomplishments

Gov. Corzine’s last State of the State was lackluster; he’s not sharp at speech-giving even when the speech is a good one, and this wasn’t, but it did offer a glimpse of what could have been had he the political know-how and staff to pull it off and the economy had been better. Strangely, his talk made it sound like until recently even Corzine himself had trouble identifying accomplishments. He said he went to NJN TV to tape a show and “Michael Aron, our distinguished dean of the Statehouse press corps, began the interview by reading a lengthy list of my administration’s accomplishments.” A few lines later, “When when Michael finished reading his list, something really clicked … we had accomplished a great deal together.” In a news conference the next day, Aron asked Gov.-elect Chris Christie a question starting, “The new school funding formula is often presented as Governor Corzine’s crowning achievement …” “By you, I think, actually, Dean Aron,” Christie shot back. Reporters broke up. Christie likes the give and take with reporters, he can talk on a subject without looking at notes, he’s comfortable with himself, a really funny guy. Corzine is none of those things. Corzine did, in fact, start the ball rolling on some new projects even if he didn’t, as he frankly admits, finish. He started a new rail tunnel to Manhattan which, as critics point out, ends closer to Macy’s basement than Penn Station where the other trains are. He expanded preschool education for more than 50,000 kids, doubled the number of community health centers, implemented family leave, expanded education aid, added money to the revamped schools construction program and launched a plan to reduce climate-change emissions. I didn’t see Aron’s list, but it’s clear if Corzine were governor in better times and had stood up to the political bosses he would have come closer to his goal of making New Jersey more progressive and less corrupt. Extras are good if you can afford them but not when the state is on the verge of bankruptcy and unemployment is historically high. (Ingle, Gannett)

Stile: Backing a foe could pay off for GOP

Negotiations that led Bergen County Republican Organization Chairman Bob Yudin to endorse intraparty foe Kathleen Donovan for county executive last week hinged, in part, on filling county jobs if Donovan wins the election in November, sources with knowledge of the discussions said. Yudin sought — and got — assurances that Donovan would give consideration to job candidates that Yudin recommended. Yudin confirmed that account on Saturday. “I clearly understand that as the chief executive officer in Bergen County, Kathe will make the final decisions on who fills positions,” he said. “We have agreed in the postelection era, that we would work together to find the most qualified people.” Yudin and Donovan officials also clarified how the fall campaign will be conducted. Donovan will manage her own campaign, and Yudin and the BCRO will manage the campaign for freeholders and county sheriff, source said. Yudin said that was simply a reaffirmation of the traditional division of political labor during a campaign season. But it was a point that probably needed some clarifying: a Superior Court judge settled an internal spat between Yudin and Donovan allies last spring over the awarding of the BCRO endorsement in a Franklin Lakes council race. Yudin saw the challenge as a direct assault on the chairman’s traditional role in awarding the line in local contests. If Donovan, who has been county clerk since 1988, wins the party’s nomination in March and the primary in June, as expected, she is likely to face Democratic incumbent Dennis McNerney, who recently wrote to Bergen County Democratic Organization members, confirming his plans to seek a third term. Christie’s presence felt: Governor-elect Chris Christie was, by all accounts, not directly involved in the Yudin-Donovan Unity Talks, but one of his chief lieutenants, Bill Stepien, did attend one of the last negotiation sessions before Yudin announced his endorsement to The Record. Stepien was there primarily as Christie’s monitor. Stepien, 31, who was Christie’s campaign manager, will begin his duties as deputy chief of staff next week. Stepien, who served as a regional campaign manager for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008, is no stranger to North Jersey Republican politics — he began his political career on Anthony Bucco’s 1997 state Senate campaign and on former Rep. Bob Franks’ 2000 U.S. Senate race. Stepien also worked on Donovan’s failed bid to win the BCRO line for the county executive race in 2002. Former Wyckoff Sen. Henry McNamara won the party’s backing and the primary that June, but lost to McNerney in the general election. (Stile, The Record)

Mulshine: Strange bedfellows – Romneycare may sink Coakley and revive Romney

As you can see from the YouTube clip above, Mitt Romney was the most prominent politician behind the rise of the worst “progressive” idea of the century – mandatory health insurance. Listen as he intones “no more free rides” when he really means “no more free market” in health insurance. Romney is also responsible for introducing the most idiotic analogy of this debate: “We insist that everybody who drives a car has insurance. And cars are a lot less expensive than people.” Read this paper by Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute for an in-depth dissection of just where Romneycare went wrong. Romney’s been backpedaling ever since it became clear that the individual health insurance mandate is the lever the Democrats wish to use to force every American into a nationalized health-care system. I showed this dynamic at work in this post with quotes from the other Michael who is a health-care expert at Cato, Michael Cannon. That dynamic was clear to anyone who was paying attention even back in 2006 when Romney was pushing the plan. Here’s what I wrote back then: Romneycare was a disaster, an entirely predictable one. And it’s become a key issue in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy, who had been the biggest proponent of socialized medicine in the Senate. Andrew Clark at Politics Daily reports that Massachusetts voters are rising up against the national Democratic plan, now in conference committee. That plan, which is supported by Democratic contender Martha Coakley, ended up looking a lot like Romneycare. And Massachusetts voters don’t like that Massachusetts plan: “Only 26 percent said in a June 2009 Rasmussen poll that the state’s health care reform effort has been effective. This is because the costs of insurance premiums are still skyrocketing with a predicted 10 percent increase in 2010.” Meanwhile the Republican in the race, Scott Brown, has built his campaign around a pledge that he will become the swing vote in the U.S. Senate to stop the Democrats from imposing Romneycare on the nation at large. The truly ironic aspect is that by running against Romneycare, Brown may end up saving Romney’s career. If the individual mandate dies a well-deserved death, then it will be a non-issue in the 2012 presidential campaign, when Romney is expected to run as the mainstream GOP candidate. And on issues other than health care, Romney is not a bad candidate. But if the focus is on health care, he’s doomed. (Mulshine, Star Ledger)  Morning News Digest: January 18, 2010