Morning News Digest: September 27, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Lonegan says he plans to support Doherty if Doherty pursues U.S. Senate bid
Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan said if state Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23) runs for the U.S. Senate, Doherty could depend on his support.
“If he runs he’s got to get in the race soon,” said Lonegan, New Jersey’s executive director of Americans for Prosperity.
Explaining his absence from today’s Doherty-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX.) endorsement rally, the movement conservative leader said he has narrowed his presidential choices down to Paul and U.S. Rep. Michele Bahmann (R-MN.). (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
East Brunswick Mayor Stahl endorses Republican Assembly candidate in LD 18
It’s about the person, not the party, insists East Brunswick Democratic Mayor David Stahl, who today formally endorsed attorney Marcia Silva, a Republican Assembly candidate, in the 18th Legislative District.
“Simply put, I think some career politicians in Washington and Trenton just don’t get it. This election year, however, I believe there is a candidate for the Assembly who actually gets it, and that’s why I am supporting Marcia Silva for the Assembly in the 18th District,” Stahl said. “Marcia has all the characteristics that we want in the people we elect to represent us.”
Despite Stahl’s insistence that he has no intention of changing parties – “I’m a Democrat – this is not an endorsement of the Republican Party platform” – Democratic sources immediately badmouthed Stahl’s selection, citing the mayor’s and Silva’s co-ownership of a building that houses their separate law practices. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
LD 23 Dem challenger says Doherty too extreme for New Jersey
The long-shot Democratic challenger of state Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23), Oxford, slapped at the incumbent Republican today from the sidelines of a Ron Paul rally outside the Statehouse Annex.
Democrat John Graf said that in endorsing a candidate for president who said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) shouldn’t exist, Doherty is out of touch with a flood-ravaged district.
“That’s too extreme for New Jersey and it’s too extreme for the 23rd District,” said the former Republican from Bedminster, who attended the Doherty-Paul rally with his running mate, Bound Brook Democratic Party Chair Karen Carroll.
Graf also questioned Doherty’s endorsement of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX.). (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Former Gov. Kean re-ignites flame of speculation that Christie will run for president
Speculation that Gov. Chris Christie is considering a run for president got a boost of legitimacy yesterday from one of his political mentors, fueling an already frenzied guessing game.
“He’s giving it a lot of thought,” former Gov. Tom Kean told the National Review. “I think the odds are a lot better now than they were a couple weeks ago.”
Kean hinted that dissatisfaction with the current field of Republican presidential candidates has played a role in Christie’s thinking.
“More and more people are talking to him,” Kean said. “He’s getting appeals from major figures around the country.”
The former governor’s comments are the first on-the-record remarks in which a member of Christie’s circle says the governor may be rethinking his earlier denials. Those remarks carried extra weight because of Kean’s closeness to Christie and they came on the eve of Christie’s highly anticipated speech tonight at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, a requisite pit stop for conservatives with national aspirations. (Megerian and Gibson, The Star-Ledger)
Poll: Gov. Chris Christie’s approval rating increased drastically since May
Gov. Chris Christie’s approval rating has increased dramatically since he signed the pension and health benefit overhaul for public workers and publicly led the state through Hurricane Irene.
A Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released this morning shows 54 percent of New Jersey voters approve of Christie’s performance, while 36 percent disapprove. That’s up from a 44 percent even split in May.
The number is the highest approval rating Christie has gotten in a Fairleigh Dickinson poll, although his disapproval ratings were lower early in his term, when many many voters had not formed an opinion.
“The spring budget battles at every level – municipal, county, and state – hurt the governor,” said poll director Peter Woolley. “But he got a big win on pension and benefits reform in June, and weathered Hurricane Irene in August.”
Eighteen percent of voters rated Christie’s job performance excellent, 28 percent good, 29 percent “only fair” and 24 percent poor. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Christie hits campaign trail for GOP
Former Gov. Tom Kean says Governor Christie is seriously thinking about running for president. The lieutenant governor says he’s not running. Close aides say there are no plans for a campaign.
Christie himself, however, is heading to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Tuesday to deliver a speech titled “Real American Exceptionalism.”
Christie’s fundraising trip this week and his speech Tuesday continues to fuel speculation that he himself will run for president, despite denials from him and his advisers.
The state’s lieutenant governor dismissed Christie for president talk – just after she signed a new law that moves New Jersey’s presidential primary back to June. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno was pressed by reporters after the bill signing to say what she knows about the rumors that her out-of-town boss may be considering running for president.
“I think the governor is doing a great job here,” she said. “The governor is not running for president.” (Fletcher, The Record)
Christie to chide candidates from Republican shrine as run urged
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has urged Republican presidential candidates to take a harder line on spending and debt, will seek to extend his influence in his party with a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.
The governor joined prominent conservatives such as former President George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly who have appeared at the forum. His speech today, titled “Real American Exceptionalism,” is part of the library’s Perspectives in Leadership series,
While Christie, 49, has denied interest in a 2012 White House run, party leaders have intensified calls for him to join the race, according to a Republican close to the governor who declined to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak for him. At the least, Christie may affect the party’s choice, said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University in Lawrenceville. (Dopp, Bloomberg)
Iowa’s draft-Christie crew says they’ve heard nothing from the NJ governor
The Iowans most likely to get a telephone call from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s team – if he were thinking about a possible presidential bid – would be the seven businessmen who tried to draft him to run.
But the phones aren’t ringing.
“I’m not hearing anything,” said Bruce Rastetter, an ethanol entrepreneur from Hardin County, who acted as point person for the draft-Christie mission in late May. “Just watching the field and waiting to see what happens.”
The last time Christie was in Iowa – for an education summit in late July – he brought along his wife, two of his four children and his brother, Todd. Iowa Republicans got the feeling the Christies were trying to get a sense for Iowa, a critical swing state and the home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Since then, Iowa Republican leaders said they haven’t heard anything about polling on Christie’s popularity here, or about anyone from the Christie team checking in with Republican opinion leaders to measure opportunity in Iowa. (Jacobs, Des Moines Register)
Christie on sham-paign trail
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — besieged by Republican insiders to enter the presidential race since Rick Perry’s GOP debate meltdown — takes the national stage tonight as feature speaker at the presidential library of party icon Ronald Reagan.
Christie is on a four-day political trip that will take him to California, Missouri and Louisiana and that aides say was scheduled well in advance of the latest push to get him to run for the White House.
But the first-term Garden State governor was bombarded with get-in-the-race phone calls from GOP opinion makers and moneymen during the live broadcast of last Thursday’s GOP debate — while front-runner Perry was underwhelming the party faithful.
Among the prominent former party leaders now pushing hardest for Christie to jump into the crowded presidential field are former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Bush family, sources said. (Margolin, New York Post)
The Westfield Five: A course of politics with a side of laughter
Forget Mendham Township. The Republican epicenter in New Jersey is Westfield.
Mendham may boast the state’s top Republican in Gov. Chris Christie, but Westfield features a deeper bench of five prominent Republicans on the state and national level: Rich Bagger, Tom Kean Jr., Jon Bramnick, Bill Palatucci and Mike DuHaime.
But jammed into a booth at a favorite hangout, the Westfield Diner, the group attracts none of the attention you’d expect of Republican near-royalty sitting down to cups of coffee; only “Mr. Kean” receives hugs from the staff, and he’s the lone member to have his photo on the wall of important people.
Dressed in business casual attire, the Westfield Five met Sept. 18 at the North Avenue diner to discuss the town they call home and how they interact with each other there.
They may talk individually each week, but it’s difficult to put the whole group together, they said; Palatucci said he and DuHaime, in particular, travel a lot. (Waters, NJBIZ)
Christie ‘grenades’ $420,000 tax credit for ‘Jersey Shore’
It’s enough to make The Situation, Snooki and Pauly D scream and yell.
Gov. Chris Christie Monday vetoed the state Economic Development Authority’s award of $420,000 in film tax credits to “Jersey Shore,” the MTV television program he believes is an embarrassment to New Jersey.
The governor cited the state government’s difficult fiscal climate and the need to direct limited state resources to programs and projects that actually benefit the state.
In his veto letter to the EDA, Christie noted his long held, serious concerns about the limited value and return on the cost of the state Film Tax Credit Transfer Program, which was the basis for his veto of legislation earlier this year to “grossly expand” the program.
“We must ensure that our limited taxpayer dollars are spent on programs and projects that best benefit the State of New Jersey,” the governor said. “I have no interest in policing the content of such projects; however, as chief executive I am duty-bound to ensure that taxpayers are not footing a $420,000 bill for a project which does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens.” (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Lewis vacancy fill-in unlikely
The Burlington County Democratic Committee shows no signs it intends to fill the vacancy left by former Senate candidate Carl Lewis, even as ballots are being printed.
But experts say a better question than will they or won’t they may be: Does it even matter?
“The 8th District is — based on all historic trends — a Republican district,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.
“It does not appear, at least according to the numbers, there are enough Democratic voters there to sweep a Democrat to victory, outside of something extraordinary happening.”
That “something extraordinary” was originally believed to be Lewis’ entrance into the race. The Olympic legend’s surprise candidacy, announced in April, threatened to complicate what otherwise would have been Republican Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego’s likely re-election to the State House. A volley of court filings and hearings culminated in Lewis, a Willingboro native, ending his bid Friday. (Roh, Gannett)
Andrews: No funds for dredging project
Unlucky in the courts so far, Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews are determined to stop the Delaware River channel deepening project by impeding the flow of federal money.
“This project should be deprived of federal money and it will,” Andrews, D-N.J., said repeatedly Monday in a teleconference with Bob Martin, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The Democratic congressman from Haddon Heights and Martin, the Republican governor’s environmental leader, agree deepening the channel is wasteful and potentially harmful to the region’s air and water.
“This project will not get the federal money it needs,” Andrews vowed.
Deepening the 103-mile channel between Camden and Cape May is budgeted at $305 million, with the Pennsylvania Regional Port Authority paying about one-third as the local sponsor. The Philadelphia division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects to pay the rest. (Stilwell, Gannett)
First responder radios would improve under bill, Rep. Rothman says
Rep. Steve Rothman unveiled bipartisan legislation to fund radio and communications equipment upgrades for first responders during a press conference Monday outside Teaneck Police Headquarters.
The Fair Lawn Democrat said the legislation — which he has been working on with Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee — came as a direct response to an “unfunded federal mandate” imposed by the Federal Communications Commission in 2004 that was first suggested in the 9/11 Commission’s final report.
Known as the Narrowband Mandate, the law requires municipalities upgrade their communications systems by 2013. But initial funding allocated for these upgrades was cut, Rothman said.
Rothman’s Help Emergency Responders Operate Emergency Systems, or the HEROES Act, which was introduced last week —would ensure that first responders have the communications equipment necessary for doing their jobs safely, the congressman said. (Harris, The Record)
NJ senate passes jobs legislation, including tax cuts, exemptions
A package of tax cuts, credits and exemptions designed to encourage job growth in New Jersey were passed by the state Senate Monday.
The 13 bills would cost the state treasury more than $100 million in tax revenue a year, if they become law.
Another bill in the package could accelerate the use of up to $200 million in tax credits already on the books for developments near urban transit hubs.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, whose caucus has made job growth its election-season focus, called the bills a good start. The bills include measures, such as tax credits for investments in technology startups, that Gov. Chris Christie vetoed last winter.
“We have a lot of work to do. The economy can’t wait any longer,” Sweeney said. “It was wrong when he vetoed the first package of bills. The economy didn’t get better since then. A lot of these are tax credits or incentives. If we create jobs from this and don’t collect as much revenue but we’re putting people to work, that’s a win.” (Symons, Gannett)
Legislature passes charter bill, but advocates and critics want more changes
One change to New Jersey’s charter school law passed the legislature yesterday, while talk mounts that a broader rewrite of the state’s 15-year-old statute governing the semi-autonomous schools may be in the offing.
The state Senate passed a bill that would allow certain parochial and private schools to convert to charters. Few think that the proposal will lead to many such conversions, but may send a lifeline to at least a few closing Catholic schools.
The measure, which passed 25-13, is the only one of a half-dozen proposed reforms to New Jersey’s charter school law that has now passed both the Senate and the Assembly. It goes next to Gov. Chris Christie for his expected signature.
But while other charter proposals have languished, leading Democratic legislators said there is momentum gaining for a more comprehensive overhaul of the 1996 charter law that could loosen some restrictions and add others. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
NJ presidential primary date moves back to June
Even if New Jersey residents have a chance to vote for Gov. Chris Christie in a presidential primary next year, it won’t be until June.
That’s because Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno — who is acting governor while Christie is out of state — signed a law Monday that moves the New Jersey presidential primary back to its traditional month, to be held with the other political primaries for local and state offices.
Going back to a single primary is estimated to save New Jersey $12 million by avoiding the costs of hiring poll workers and counting ballots for another election.
New Jersey had moved the 2008 primary to Feb. 26, putting it in a “Super Tuesday” with other earlier primary states, in an effort to give the Garden State more clout during the presidential election.
When even more states joined in, New Jersey moved the date up again, to Feb. 5.
Guadagno said Monday that the change had been a failed experiment. “It didn’t have the impact we thought it would have,” she said, since New Jersey gained no extra political clout or appearances by political candidates. (Method, Gannett)
Fast action pledged on sports betting
If a referendum on sports betting is approved by New Jersey voters on Nov. 8, state lawmakers plan to begin work the next day on enabling legislation and rules in anticipation that a federal ban is lifted or overturned in the courts.
Nevada and three other states currently have exemptions from the prohibition on sports wagering.
State Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, head of the Senate State Government and Wagering Committee, said the referendum approval coupled with legislation “that protects the public’s interest’’ will put New Jersey next in line to cash in on sports wagering if the ban is lifted or overturned in the courts.
“My goal is if the referendum passes Nov. 8, we start crafting the legislation Nov. 9,” Whelan told other senators when the committee met Monday.
Polls show wide support for the constitutional amendment that would authorize the Legislature to allow wagering on sports events through bets placed with Atlantic City casinos and horse racetracks. (Jordan, Gannett)
Bill looks at all developmental centers, not just Vineland
Let’s look at all developmental centers in the state.
The state Senate on Monday approved, yet again, a bill that could save the east campus of the Vineland Developmental Center — or, at the very least, delay its closing by a vote of 38-0.
Both the Senate and the Assembly passed a similar bill back in June.
However, the difference this time is a trio of changes to the legislation requested by Gov. Chris Christie.
The governor in August sent the bill back to the Senate with a conditional veto, pending the legislators’ decision on the changes.
The Senate approved the changes later that month, and voted to approve a new version on the bill Monday.
Next, the Assembly will have to vote to approve the changes, as well as an updated bill before the legislation once again is placed on the governor’s desk. (Laday, The News of Cumberland County)
Survey: Teen driver decals must go
Results of an online survey conducted by a northern New Jersey assemblyman about the controversial teen driver decal will be forwarded to the state attorney general, who is expected to conclude her report on the issue on Oct. 7.
The survey conducted by Assemblyman Robert Schroeder, R-Bergen, found that 86 percent of those who responded believe the decal requirement known as “Kyleigh’s Law” should be removed.
The survey, conducted from June to August, found that most people surveyed supported the other provisions of the state’s graduated driver’s license, which require a teen driving curfew and limit the number of adolescent passengers whom a driver with a graduated driver’s license can legally transport. Opponents of the decal have argued the stickers could work as magnets for sexual predators. (Higgs, Gannett)
Jersey Central Power & Light faces tough questions over power outages
To many residents and elected officials in Monmouth County, one word describes the response of Jersey Central Power & Light to Hurricane Irene: lacking. The utility was lacking in communication, lacking in resources, and lacking in preparation.
Those complaints arose time and time again yesterday as the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) began a series of hearings into the state’s four electric utilities’ efforts in restoring power to 1.87 million customers across the state, many of whom struggled without electricity for as long as a week.
The hearings, ordered by Gov. Chris Christie in the wake of widespread anger about how long it took utilities to bring the lights back on could lead to regulatory changes and recommendations to adopt so-called standardized best practices that prevent the same problems from occurring during future storms. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Rep. Frelinghuysen is a teacher for a day
At Sparta Middle School, seventh-graders were not bashful in asking Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11, about everything from President Barack Obama’s millionaire’s tax to the likelihood of Gov. Chris Christie running for Obama’s seat.
Frelinghuysen met with 30 seventh-graders in Sparta and the eighth-grade at Hopatcong Middle School on Monday morning on his day off from the House of Representatives, which is not in session due to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
“I try to visit the 56 towns that I represent so they see that members of Congress exist,” Frelinghuysen said about his municipalities in all of Morris and some of Sussex, Somerset, Passaic and Essex counties.
Before students could even get seated, a seventh-grader wanted to know if Frelinghuysen had met Obama; to which he replied that he had, and said the president and first lady are taller than him. From there, students were free to ask him anything after a brief civics lesson on the requirements for various political seats. (Masulli, New Jersey Herald)
Latest from State Street Wire
ELEC seeks to intervene in Morris County case
The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has filed a motion to intervene in a case in which a judge recently nullified the results of a Morris County Freeholder election based in part on alleged campaign finance violations. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Prescription program enrollment bill signed
Legislation to help boost enrollment in New Jersey’s Senior Gold prescription drug program was signed into law today.
A2632, sponsored by Assemblyman Wayne P. DeAngelo, (D-14), Hamilton, requires the Department of the Treasury to prominently display eligibility qualifications for and benefits available under the Senior Gold program in the income tax instructions it makes available annually to taxpayers. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Senate OKs greater penalties for domestic violence offenders
The Senate passed unanimously bill A1491, which aims to prevent future acts of domestic violence by imposing more stringent bail restrictions for anyone charged with contempt of a domestic violence restraining order. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Et tu T.K.?
The buzz is quickly becoming a roar as the Christie for President rumors careen around the internet. Monday afternoon, a familiar voice weighed in on reports that Christie was reconsidering his decision, stoking the already blazing inferno. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Presidential rumors help spread the wealth
The Christie for President boomlet is a boon for the cash-hungry state GOP.
As long as the spotlight — and internal GOP pressure — bears down on Governor Christie, the cash will continue tumbling into the New Jersey Republican State Committee from around the country. The higher-office-hype is simply too valuable a fund-raising tool for Christie and his cadre of supporters to permanently, categorically snuff it out once and for all.
As long as the spotlight — and internal GOP pressure — bears down on Governor Christie, the cash will continue tumbling into the New Jersey Republican State Committee from around the country. The higher-office-hype is simply too valuable a fund-raising tool for Christie and his cadre of supporters to permanently, categorically snuff it out once and for all. (Stile, The Record)
Simplicity of message key to leadership
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who visited New Jersey last week for a “public conversation” with Gov. Chris Christie at Rider University, told the audience there about his successful effort to lease his state’s toll roads to raise money.
With the urging of Christie, his fellow Republican, Daniels juxtaposed that effort against similar, aborted initiative by Christie’s predecessor, Jon Corzine.
“I remember talking to Gov. Corzine briefly about it. He was reluctant to go the full lease route, and I know he came up with something more complicated, which I don’t recall the details of,” Daniels said.
“Nobody else does, either,” Christie joked. (Schoonejongen, Gannett)
Ron Paul comes to Chris Christie’s house
Lindsey Graham wants to start a war with Pakistan. And they say I’m nuts?’
That was the gist of a conversation I had yesterday with Ron Paul in the back of his car as he was returning to the Trenton-Mercer Airport following a campaign rally at the Statehouse.
The reason I had to cram in that interview during the ride to and from the airport is that the Texas congressman is a busy man these days. He was in and out of the Trenton airport in two hours, off to New York for an afternoon appearance. He’s in Iowa today.
You can’t do that flying commercial. But thanks to the fervor and the fund-raising of his youthful supporters, Paul can lease a private jet and travel in the more efficient manner usually reserved for the Beltway elite. That means more funding and more momentum for a campaign calculated to drive the party leaders crazy. (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)