Morning News Digest: February 22, 2010

Baroni to leave Senate for Port Authority post 

Gov. Christopher Christie has tapped State Sen. Bill Baroni (R-Hamilton) as the new Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, setting up a November 2010 special election for the politically competitive 14th district Senate seat. 

Baroni, a 38-year-old Mercer County Republican, will replace Susan Bass Levin, a former state Community Affairs Commissioner and Cherry Hill Mayor, who resigned in January to join Cooper Union Hospital. The post is the top staff position for New Jersey at the bi-state agency, which operates the nation’s busiest airport systems, as well as the PATH rail transit system, six interstate tunnels and bridges, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, marine terminals and ports, and the World Trade Center. The Port Authority has a $6.3 billion annual budget and has over 7,000 employees. (Editor, PolitickerNJ)

Hsueh backs Greenstein for senate seat 

Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh said tonight he intends to back Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein (D-Plainsboro) for state senate. “If Linda Greenstein is running, I will definitely support her,” Hsueh told “Linda and I go back years. She is a very serious person and we have worked together very well on issues impacting the residents of West Windsor.” Two Mercer County towns are situated in the 14th District. Republican Mayor John Bencivengo serves the bigger anchor town of Hamilton. Hsueh is the lone Democratic mayor in the other town, West Windsor. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ) 

Leo: don’t forget Middlesex County 

So far, the talk of potential Republican interim replacements for state Sen. Bill Baroni has focused on a few Republicans from Hamilton, in Mercer County. 

But Middlesex County Republican Chairman Joseph Leo says not to count Republicans from his own county, which, with five towns in the 14th Legislative District, makes up a slightly smaller portion of it than Mercer. 

Leo said that nobody had reached out to him yet to express interest because most people were just waking up to the news that Baroni is leaving the senate to become a high ranking Port Authority official. 

”There undoubtedly will be people. There have been people have expressed interest before for legislative seats,” he said. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ) 

Christie taps Sen. Baroni for top Port Authority post 

A Republican state senator will now have one of the top leadership positions of the Port Authority. Sen. Bill Baroni, R-Hamilton, was appointed deputy executive director of the bi-state agency, which manages local airports, the Hudson River road crossings, the PATH train system and local ports. Baroni, an attorney, will leave his Senate seat to be “a very, very zealous advocate for the interests of this administration and the interests of the people of the state of New Jersey,” said Governor Christie, who appointed him. “I am an honored and humbled to be here,” said Baroni, who appeared with Christie in Trenton for the announcement. “I understand the enormity of the task before me.” (Davis, The Record) 

NJ Gov. Chris Christie’s brash talk attracting national attention from Republicans 

Chris Christie ran for governor as a Jersey guy, an unapologetic native son who oozed with homegrown attitude. He said his opponent, Jon Corzine, would rather be anywhere else, and Christie wanted nothing more than to restore his state’s shine. But just a few weeks into the job, Christie is already building a profile beyond New Jersey’s borders. He attends his first meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington today as a hot political commodity, admired by fellow Republicans and fawned over by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh for his brash talk and strict spending freeze. (Heininger, The Record)

Governors brace for more economic turmoil

On the recession’s front lines, governors are struggling to chart the road ahead for states staggered by unrelenting joblessness and cut-to-the-bone budgets even as Washington reports signs of economic growth. “The worst probably is yet to come,” warned Gov. Jim Douglas, R-Vt., chairman of the National Governors Association, at the group’s meeting Saturday. He called the situation “fairly poor” in most states, adding that it “doesn’t look too good.” Such uncertainty weighed heavily over the governors’ weekend meeting even though health care — and how states can address skyrocketing costs — was their intended focus. That’s recognized as one of the biggest issues affecting states’ long-term solvency. (AP) 

NJ Sports Authority hires former acting US Attorney 

Former acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra Jr. has landed a top job at the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority. Marra was named senior vice president for legal and governmental affairs on Thursday by the Sports Authority board. The appointment was first reported by The Star-Ledger of Newark. As acting U.S. Attorney, Marra faced an internal ethics investigation over public comments that may have helped Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign for governor. Before running for office, Christie was the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, and Marra was his top deputy. (AP) 

US Sen. Frank Lautenberg says first chemo treatment capped ‘a week from hell’ 

Sen. Frank Lautenberg said having his first chemotherapy treatment for a cancerous tumor in his stomach on Friday capped “a week from hell,” but he is confident he’ll be able to keep working on his priorities in Washington. “I feel terrific,” the 86-year-old Democrat said during a brief telephone interview from New York City’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he’s been since Monday. “A situation like this, you can’t treat any part of it lightly. On the other hand, curability is a terrific goal and I’m confident of that with the medical help that we’ve got. These are physicians I know very well, over a lot of years,” he said. Lautenberg said he felt fine after returning from a congressional trip to Haiti last weekend, but on Monday became nauseated while in his Cliffside Park condo and lost strength in his legs. (Jackson/Layton, The Record) 

Stile: Rival controls Web domain with county clerk’s name 

Four years ago, right-wing political consultant Rick Shaftan made an investment in Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan’s political future. That might strike some North Jersey political junkies a bit odd, given that Shaftan — and his most prominent and steady client, two-time gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan — despise Donovan as a ruinous liberal RINO (Republican In Name Only). But Shaftan purchased the Web site domain in November 2006, hoping it “might come in handy someday.” That day may have arrived. Donovan is making her third bid for county executive this year, and Shaftan has not ruled out the possibility of using it as a clearinghouse of anti-Donovan material. “Just might, you never know,” the cagey Shaftan said Friday night. “We are certainly not going to make it a fan site, let’s put it that way.” (Stile, The Record) 

Ingle: Christie has media communications problem 

This is how fast politics move: I was gone for three weeks and came back to find the media honeymoon with Gov. Christie had ended. This is a serious problem, one that Christie needs to get fixed. Reporters were told that after the joint speech to the Legislature in which Christie talked about his plans for filling the $2.2 billion hole in the current budget there would be a briefing to supply more details. When the briefing invitation arrived it was “pen and pad ONLY”. That caused problems for the electronic media, which works with microphones and cameras, but also for print folk who use recorders to back up notes. Having a recording helps when you can’t read your own writing, a problem I have more frequently now. Once at a book signing, a physician asked me to translate what I had written for him, then advised, “You should have been a doctor.” (Ingle, Gannett) 

Ingle: Moriarity – Tweet this, Governor 

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty is asking why Gov. Christie is paying a New Yorker $60,000 “whose main job will be to post on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.” That’s a question a lot of people are asking since my colleague Rob Jennings of The Record disclosed that Patrick Jones, 25, was brought on board to handle special media by Communications Director Maria Comella. Jones and Comella both worked on Christie’s campaign. “It takes just a few seconds to post on Twitter or Facebook. New Jerseyans do it all the time without paying someone $60,000 with taxpayer money. This is unnecessary, especially in these difficult economic times,” said Moriarty. (Ingle, Gannett) Morning News Digest: February 22, 2010