Winners and Losers: Week of April 11th


Jim Whelan

OK, this could backfire – but by selecting former Olympian Carl Lewis as its candidate in the 8th Legislative District, a Burlington County Dem Organization perilously close to expiring revived itself long enough to generate headlines other than its own perpetual obit. Certainly the Lewis option could be little more than a desperation hail mary that Bill Layton and the Bulco GOP will run back for yet another endzone dance. But even if it is, Lewis provides a good, glamorous burst of cover fire for state Sen. Jim Whelan, (D-2), of Atlantic City, who everyone knows is in a blue-collar dogfight down south. Four years ago, the Dems let 8th District state Senate candidate Fran Bodine run around no man’s land long enough to get the GOP to entrench up there in Burlington in a defensive engagement. This year, Lewis is on Bodine duty, and the obvious beneficiary is – again – the battle-ready Whelan.  

Jack Ciatterelli

The good news is the affable Somerset County Republican freeholder received the nod from the Somerset County Republican Organization. The bad news is he will have to run as a write-in candidate in the GOP Primary. Hey, it worked for Lisa Murkowski in a general last year – and she had an opponent.

Giancarlo D’Orazio

Rerouted out of the 4th Legislative District into the 3rd, Assemblyman Domenick DiCicco’s loss is D’Orazio’s gain. The colorful Washington Township councilman – gelato maker and distributor, drummer and winemaker – is the Republican Party’s late substitution to run against incumbent state Sen. Fred Madden, (D-4), of Washington Township.

Sam Raia and the GOP

All right, so we take it back, the guy actually is doing something. And this little nugget came at just the right time for the GOP, too. The AP this morning reported that the Republican Party said it had raised $941,000 during the first quarter of the year, or “nearly eight times what the party has raised on average during the same period in the last decade. By comparison, during the first quarter of 2007 — the last time the entire Legislature was up for election, as they are this year — Republicans raised $24,600 to Democrats’ $214,300.” Gov. Chris Christie tapped Raia to be state party chair earlier this year precisely because of his fundraising prowess. The GOP will need cash to make up for a map that may simply suck up that cash and flush it into another sizeable Democratic Party majority come November, but the numbers don’t lie.

The state employees at the Division of Elections

We know it’s not fashionable to salute these bureaucratic lower lifeforms who think punching in to “work” in Trenton constitutes a real job, but they managed to get through yet another trying season without throwing a computer out of the fifth story window on filing day. Imagine if it had been the Tea Party up there trying to process all those elected officials packed into the same cramped space at once. 

Mark Smith

The Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) chairman received credit for crafting an uneasy peace with state Sen. Brian P. Stack, (D-33), of Union City to avert a countywide civil war. Smith gave Stack column A and in exchange, the organization provided Stack with Police Detective Sean Connors as a second Assembly candidate on the 33rd District ticket.

John McCormac

The Woodbridge mayor negotiated a temporary cease fire between Edison Mayor Toni Ricigliano and the Edison Council, protecting a key Democratic Party stronghold from devolving into civil war. 



Chris Christie

The Republican governor demanded that the media take out a bat on state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), of Teaneck because she collects both pension and legislative salary. We get it, governor, the Sopranos fan in the midwest somewhere who dreams of coming east someday to visit Ray Liotta’s birthplace and Neil Cavuto think you’re a tough guy. But the sound bite and the fury act is getting old, and the belligerent, bellicose rhetoric is simply out of control. Having said that, we wouldn’t mind a steel cage match between Christie and Weinberg, the feisty Jewish grandmother who’s repeatedly proved she doesn’t need anyone’s help in a street fight.

Denise Coyle

After vowing to serve despite the fact that her hometown was redistricted out of the 16th District, the Assemblywoman acknowledged this week that she realistically can’t move to remain in the 16th and declared that she would retire from the Assembly at the end of her current term. The popular Coyle’s departure comes as a blow not only to her constituents, but to colleagues – on both sides of the aisle. “The retirement of Assemblywoman Coyle will be felt,” said Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, (D-29), of Newark. “Her input and participation on the Assembly Finance and Insurance Committee was always spirited and informing. While we did not agree on everything, we did agree that being in the New Jersey Assembly was a privilege and we cherished  the opportunity to serve the people of New Jersey. Denise was not just a colleague, she is a friend.”

Somerset County

Not only did the Central Jersey Republican stronghold lose Coyle in the Assembly, but former Somerset County Freeholder, women’s mentor and community leader Rose C. McConnell of North Plainfield died this week at age 87.

Joe Vas

The former Perth Amboy mayor and assemblyman this week received six and a half years in a federal prison and a restitution fine of $90,000. Vas and his aide, Melvin Ramos, were convicted last fall of two counts of mail fraud stemming from the 2006 apartment building sale. Vas was charged with misusing state affordable-housing funds and making false statements to federal agents.

Dennis Gonzalez

Edison Mayor Toni Ricigliano gave BA Gonzalez the heave ho following talks with the council brokered by Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac.


Gov. Chris Christie this week delivered education reform bills to the Legislature that include tenure reform, teacher evaluations, changes in salary structure to include performance-based rewards and the elimination of the  “last in first out” nature of teacher layoffs. Among the major changes called for in Christie’s plan would be a multi-faceted evaluation of educators that would include standardized test scores and in-room evalutations – all dagger points that directly impact – surprise – the New Jersey Education Association.

Winners and Losers: Week of April 11th