Morning News Digest: September 29, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Sweeney leads in 3rd
Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney leads his opponent in the 3rd District Senate race by 19 points, according to a Richard Stockton College/Zogby Poll.
A poll of likely voters gives Sweeney a 48 percent to 29 percent edge over Republican challenger Michael Mulligan. With a little over a month to go, 21 percent remain undecided.
“Senate President Steve Sweeney may get his bumps and bruises in Trenton, but voters tell him ‘there’s no place like home’ in the 3rd Legislative District,” said Daniel J. Douglas, Director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, which commissioned the poll. (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Poll: LD 2 Senate contest dead heat at 40%; GOP Assembly candidate handily beating Dems by double digits
The competitive 2nd Legislative District State Senate contest is too close to call right now, according to a poll issued today by the Richard Stockton College/Zogby Poll commissioned by the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy.
State Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2) and challenger Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-2) are in a “virtual tie” with likely voters by posting a 40.0% preference for Whelan over Polistina (40.6%).
The difference is within the margin of error of +/- 4.1 %.
“The 2nd Legislative District race was touted as the most competitive race in New Jersey. It can’t get any closer than this,” said Daniel J. Douglas, director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Not all buy Christie’s assertions of bipartisanship
If he runs for president, Chris Christie might highlight the themes he mentioned on Tuesday night in his speech at the Reagan Presidential Library, promising a new era of bipartisanship and compromise like the one he largely takes credit for achieving as governor of New Jersey.
“Our bipartisan accomplishments in New Jersey have helped to set a tone that has taken hold across many other states,” Mr. Christie told a rapt audience in Simi Valley, Calif. “This is the only effective way to lead in America during these times.”
Except that is not exactly how everyone sees it.
Despite the legislative accomplishments that his office frequently promotes, Mr. Christie’s brief tenure at the helm of New Jersey’s government in Trenton has been marked by as much acrimony as there has been agreement. (Shear and Pérez-Peña, The New York Times)
‘Divided government’ may not be working as well as Christie indicates
Governor Christie’s talk of “divided government that is working in New Jersey” is playing well nationally right now as Washington, D.C. is stuck in partisan gridlock and Republicans struggle to find consensus on a 2012 presidential candidate.
The governor delivered his message of “leadership and compromise” during a nationally televised speech Tuesday at the Reagan Presidential Library in California, one that stoked talk of a possible Christie bid for president even more.
“We identified the problems. We proposed specific means to fix them,” Christie told the audience in Simi Valley. “We educated the public on the dire consequences of inaction and we compromised on a bipartisan basis to get results.” (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Is Christie ready to be president?
It was about this time five years ago when political strategist David Axelrod sat down and wrote a memo to then-Sen. Barack Obama, who was seriously considering whether to run for president after months and months of saying he would not.
“History is replete with potential candidates for presidency who waited too long rather than examples of people who ran too soon. . . . You will never be hotter than you are right now. . . . In short, there are many reasons to believe that if you are ever to run for presidency this is the time.”
Those words could easily be included in a memo that one of Chris Christie’s advisers might be sending to the New Jersey governor now, for many of the same elements that led Axelrod to encourage Obama to run in 2008 apply to Christie at this moment. (Balz, The Washington Post)
Christie’s Jersey stories play well out West
Facing greater national scrutiny than ever by national conservatives, Governor Christie drew attention Tuesday night by peppering his centerpiece speech in California with trademarks of his Jersey guy act.
New Jersey residents might have found the speech familiar: Many of the stories he told were parlayed word for word from his frequent town hall addresses.
But to the crop of West Coasters in the auditorium, Christie’s simplified “Jersey” style, alternating blunt talk and humor, sounded like a new voice in politics.
First it was the tough talk and swagger: Loosening up after the formal introduction at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where he praised Reagan’s stand against labor unions in 1981, he described working with state Democrats to balance the state budget and reform public-worker benefits. (Fletcher, The Record)
Former Gov. Thomas Kean and a high profile speech revive speculation Christie may run for President
A high-profile speech by Gov. Chris Christie and comments by a former Republican governor have raised speculation about a Christie presidential bid to new levels.
On Monday, the day before Christie spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., former Gov. Thomas Kean told the National Review that Christie is seriously thinking about seeking the GOP nomination.
Christie has frequently denied he will run in 2012. At the Reagan Library, he referred supporters to a video loop of his denials posted on the politico.com website.
But Kean’s comments were the first public confirmation by someone within Christie’s inner circle that the governor may be rethinking his options. No one in the current crop of Republican candidates has caught fire in the polls (Froonjian, Press of Atlantic City)
Insider: Gov not running in 2012
A top Republican said Wednesday that Gov. Chris Christie really is not running for president, even as political commentators began to use sexual imagery to discuss Christie flirting with the possibility.
Lawrence E. Bathgate II of Lakewood, who has led fundraising for three presidents and a presidential nominee, said that after a series of high-level telephone calls, he is convinced that Christie is not headed into the GOP primaries for president.
“I heard him say that he wasn’t running last night. Everything I know, and everyone I’ve talked to — and it doesn’t get much closer than the people on the plane with him — say he’s not running,” Bathgate said in an interview.
Christie appeared to say so himself during his much watched speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California and during a question-and-answer session afterward. Nonetheless, some media commentators interpreted his “no” as less than firm, leading to yet more national attention. (Method, Gannett)
Christie, GOP leaders name no one to the quorumless salary review panel
Gov. Chris Christie and the two Republican leaders in the state Legislature said Wednesday they won’t make any appointments to the commission that’s supposed to meet this fall to recommend whether high-level government officials should have their salaries raised.
The move leaves the seven-member Public Officers Salary Review Commission without a quorum, guaranteeing it can’t meet and can’t recommend pay hikes.
Even if it had met and did recommend raises, salaries wouldn’t have increased without the approval of the Legislature and Christie.
“As job creation and economic growth begin to take hold, too many New Jerseyans are still struggling. At a time where we are asking everyone to do more with less, it would be inappropriate and send the absolute wrong message to the people of our state for Trenton politicians to consider giving themselves pay raises, given the current economic realities,” Christie said in a prepared statement. (Symons, Gannett)
Christie spotlight aids GOP at home
Speculation about a presidential bid is not only boosting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s profile nationally. It is also helping him raise money for his Republican Party back home.
Wedged on either side of his high-profile Tuesday night speech at the Reagan Library were three Christie fund-raisers in Missouri, three in Southern California and one set for Thursday in Louisiana, hardly the traditional stomping grounds for a would-be presidential contender.
Far from agonizing over whether to run—as New York Gov. Mario Cuomo was teased for doing before the 1988 election, earning him the moniker “Hamlet on the Hudson”—Mr. Christie appears to be basking in the attention. And Republicans and even his Democratic foes at home say Mr. Christie has good reason to stay in the national spotlight. (King and Fleisher, The Wall Street Journal)
Romney praises Christie while bashing Obama adviser’s comments
Mitt Romney on Wednesday had kind words for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican who some influential outsiders want in the presidential race instead of Romney. But the former Massachusetts governor stopped short of saying that he’d pick Christie as a running mate.
“Chris is a great friend—a great guy, a colorful character,” Romney told a town-hall audience of about 250 people in Manchester. “He’s a governor I’d love to see in more political settings, and who knows, maybe he’ll get in—it’ll be fun if he gets in.” (Boxer, National Journal)
Perry regrets immigration comments
Rick Perry, a man known for sticking to his positions in the presidential race, on Wednesday walked back some comments on immigration.
In an interview with Newsmax.TV, the Texas governor expressed regret for a comment he made in last week’s Fox News debate where he suggested that those who opposed tuition for the children of illegal immigrants were heartless.
“I probably chose a poor word to explain that,” Perry told the news outlet. “I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word and it was inappropriate.”
In the debate in Orlando last Thursday, Perry told the audience, “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.” (Kaplan, National Journal)
Noncandidates are keeping presidential buzz alive
Chris Christie isn’t running for president but says he’s listening to those who want him to. Donald Trump opted out of a bid for the Republican nomination but hasn’t ruled out running as an independent. Rudy Giuliani’s aides are courting New Hampshire activists. And Sarah Palin says she’ll decide soon whether to join the field, even as she worries the White House might be “too shackling.”
Welcome to The Big Tease, when political stars stoke the hopes of supporters by hinting they just might join the presidential fray. (Associated Press)
Port Authority chief is said to resign; Cuomo to pick successor
Christopher Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, intends to resign by the end of October, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who declined to be identified before Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office responded.
Christopher Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, intends to resign by the end of October, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who declined to be identified before Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office responded. (Goldman and Deprez, Bloomberg)
Lawmakers call for more transparency from Port Authority
Several Bergen County lawmakers said Wednesday they would propose legislation to require the Port Authority to be more transparent and get more public feedback before future toll hikes.
The proposed legislation would require the bistate agency to hold at least 10 public hearings before any future toll increases — including the annual hikes that were approved last month and will go into effect each year through 2015, said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat.
Huttle was joined at the Fort Lee news conference by other Democratic state legislators from Bergen County and by New York state Sen. Andrew J. Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island, who said he would propose the same legislation in New York. (Boburg, The Record)
State’s financial watchdog adding investigators
New Jersey wants to hire four new investigators at the state’s financial watchdog as it prepares to take on greater jurisdiction.
The new investigators, expected to be hired by year’s end, will aid in the state’s oversight of investment advisers — a role set to expand next year — as well as investigate fraud and protect investors, said Abbe Tiger, the new chief of the Bureau of Securities, the state’s financial regulator.
“We’ve seen a lot of Ponzi schemes over the last several years,” Tiger told a gathering of securities lawyers in Newark Tuesday evening. “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of those.”
Staffing would rise to 41 with the hires, including Tiger, though the bureau’s payroll would not surpass the head count of 53 in fiscal 2007, before cutbacks and a hiring freeze. (Tangel, The Record)
N.J. senator challenges state Department of Education to reveal those who voluntarily select new charter schools
Citing possible conflicts of interest on the part of volunteer reviewers who helped select new charter schools, a New Jersey state senator filed a legal challenge to force the state Department of Education to turn over the reviewers’ names.
The department must appear in Superior Court in Mercer County on Dec. 9 to answer the challenge filed by state Sen. Nia Gill, (D-Essex), who said she said she wanted more transparency in the approval process.
State officials in January said more than a dozen volunteer reviewers read applications and gave non-binding recommendations on proposed charter schools. The state did not name them, although a few became publicly known. (Rundquist, The Star-Ledger)
Dems poke fun at Runyan with fake news story
The Ocean County Democratic Party posted a fake news story on its website this week that reports Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J. does not believe American astronauts landed on the moon in 1969.
Marta Harrison, vice chairwoman of the county Democratic Committee, said Wednesday that she was just being silly at Runyan’s expense when she posted the story to oceancountydems.org on Monday.
The article is actually from a satirical news website called whatexitnj.com, which is formally scheduled to launch Saturday . Attorney and standup comedian Joey Novick, who runs whatexitnj.com, first wrote the piece for politickernj.com, where he has lampooned government figures and current events as a regular columnist for the past six years. (Larsen, Gannett)
Report says New Jersey still ranks near bottom in feeding growing number of poor students breakfast
Despite an increase in the number of low-income children in the state, New Jersey still ranks 46th in the nation in the percentage of those children who eat breakfast in school, according to a report released Wednesday by Advocates for Children of New Jersey, or ACNJ.
On average, just 28 percent of all children eligible for the federal free and reduced-price meal program get breakfast, according to the 2010-11 data compiled by the ACNJ for its campaign to raise awareness of the school breakfast program. By comparison, an average 78 percent of those eligible students get lunch every day.
School districts are required to offer breakfast if at least 20 percent of their students are in the federal meal program. (D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City)
N.J. taxpayers paid $78K to remove Carl Lewis from Senate ballot
New Jersey taxpayers paid almost $78,000 in staff time to remove the track star Carl Lewis from the November ballot in his bid for the state Senate.
After a tangled five-month battle in both state and federal court, the state Attorney General and Burlington County Republicans succeeded in making sure Lewis, a Democrat, could not run in the Republican-leaning 8th Legislative District.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, acting in her dual role as secretary of state, decided in April that Lewis did not meet the state’s four-year residency requirement for state Senate candidates, setting off the legal marathon that ended last week in the U.S. District Court for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
New legislation would require resident notifications of sewer system overflow
The leader of the state Senate’s environment committee Wednesday said he will introduce legislation that would require cities and towns to tell residents when outdated sewer systems overflow and spill a dangerous brew of raw waste into New Jersey’s waterways.
In addition, lawmakers plan to hold a hearing this fall on how to fix antiquated systems that dump more than 23 billion gallons of waste into rivers and the ocean each year.
“The public has a right to know when these overflows occur if for no other reason than to protect themselves,” said Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), who chairs the upper house’s environment panel. (Baxter, The Star-Ledger)
New Jersey mandates test for newborns that could detect heart defect
Lisa Rodebaugh took her 4-day-old baby boy to the emergency room because he had stopped eating and kept screaming. Once there, he suffered cardiac arrest and a stroke, and was soon on his way to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for the first of three heart surgeries.
Score one for a mother’s intuition. But if nurses had performed a cheap, simple test three days earlier – before Andrew went home from the hospital the first time – his heart defect might have been caught before the stroke.
Cases such as this one are fueling a growing movement to require that all newborns get the test, called pulse oximetry, which measures oxygen levels in the blood. (Avril, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
State facilities provide New Jersey’s troubled youth a second chance at education
The theme of the story being discussed in Esther Schram’s English class was “Don’t be too quick to judge a person.”
That theme may also apply to the students Schram teaches at the Southern Residential Community/Transition Center. All 23 male residents are doing time for a crime. Most are 16 to 18 years old, and woefully behind in their academic studies. Teachers view most students as troubled kids who fell through the cracks. Now, they’re trying to pull them out.
“You’re not just teaching a subject,” Schram said. “You’re getting into their problems, teaching them about life. You have to want to do this.” (D’Amico, Press of Atlantic City)
Lt. Gov: Apply for storm aid
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno had a simple message Wednesday for homeowners who took some hits from Hurricane Irene: “If you do have damage, or if you even think you have damage, you need to file a claim now.”
Residents have until Oct. 31 to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for relief.
To help spread the word that time is running out, Guadagno toured two houses on Mariners Cove, where several homes sustained extensive damage during heavy rains on Aug. 21 and then again during the hurricane.
After meeting with the homeowners, Guadagno — who is acting governor while Chris Christie is out of state — urged residents to file claims with FEMA, if they had not yet done so. (Predham Lueddeke, Gannett)
Bridge contract a secret
New Jersey Turnpike Authority commissioners approved a $79 million bridge security contract on Tuesday that is so sensitive, officials can’t say how many spans are involved, which bridges will be worked on or what the work is.
The board awarded a $79.225 million contract to Tishman Construction Corp. of NJ for construction management and general contracting services to perform security improvements to the “highest security” bridges on the Turnpike and Garden State Parkway.
And in a scene reminiscent of Jack Bauer in the TV show “24,” officials said the rest is classified.
“I can’t say the number of bridges, they are high priority bridges,” said Veronique Hakim, authority executive director. (Higgs, Gannett)
Fine Print: Newark Charter Compact
What it is: The Newark Charter School Fund, a philanthropic and advocacy organization created to help the city’s charter schools, has forged a contract with charter leaders in Newark that pledges full transparency and accessibility.
What it means: The compact — meant for all charters to sign — is more symbolic than legally binding, but speaks to a serious issue. It aims to address frequent concerns that charter schools are not following the spirit, let alone the letter, of state law, which requires them to be open and accessible to all students, especially those with special needs. Whether it quiets the critics is probably doubtful, but yet to be seen. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Offshore backbone developer makes bid for $100 million in tax credits
The developer of an offshore wind transmission system is seeking to qualify for $100 million in tax credits offered under a New Jersey law aimed at luring manufacturers of offshore wind turbines to the area.
Atlantic Wind Connection, which is aggressively pushing an ambitious plan to create a 350-mile offshore backbone transmission system stretching from New Jersey to Virginia, said its project calls for as many as three interconnections between offshore wind farms and the regional power grid in New Jersey, reflecting a value of approximately $806 million. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
$9.1M to be spent to protect bay
The Ocean County Board of Freeholders is expected to approve $9.1 million next week to refurbish eight stormwater detention basins in an effort to eliminate nitrogen that seeps into Barnegat Bay.
Environmentalists contend that nitrogen nutrients from lawn fertilizers and air pollution, the result of continued population growth in Ocean County, have contaminated the bay.
Such nutrients flow into the bay in stormwater runoff and feed algae blooms that alter the water’s natural chemistry and cause jellyfish to flourish, according to some scientists.
County Engineer Frank S. Scarantino said seven of the detention basins to be renovated are in Toms River and one is in Lacey. “We have estimated that these eight projects will remove about 8,000 pounds of nitrogen from the Barnegat Bay watershed each year and every year, with a minimal amount of long-term maintenance,” Scarantino said. (Larsen, Gannett)
Latest from State Street Wire
BPU to hold hearing into generating capacity, LCAPP
The Board of Public Utilities said today it will hold another hearing into the reliability of the state’s electric supply and whether there is a need to pursue additional generating capacity beyond the 2,000 megawatts contracted for under the Long-Term Capacity Agreement Pilot Program, commonly known as LCAPP. (Staff, State Street Wire)
Federal grant to fund rehiring of police officers
More than 75 police officers in New Jersey will be rehired as a result of Department of Justice grant.
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. said that a total of 78 officers in a dozen towns will be rehired due to $20 million in federal grants.
“More cops on the beat will have a direct impact keeping our kids safe as they go to and from school, preventing crime and decreasing police response time when crime does happen,” Pallone said. (Staff, State Street Wire)
N.J. Sierra Club says beach closings remain an issue
The N.J. Sierra Club argues that N.J. beaches have not been as clean as the administration has said.
The Sierra Club said in a release that there have been 160 beach closings – ocean and bays – this year, up from 109. This is in contrast, the Sierra Club said, with a statement Gov. Christie made on Sept. 2 at Point Pleasant, when he was encouraging people to go back to the beaches in the aftermath of the hurricane. As the Labor Day holiday weekend loomed, the governor sought to reassure beachgoers that water quality was perfect. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
LD 36 GOP sacrificial lamb drops out of Assembly race
Republican Councilman John Genovesi of Rutherford today said he is resigning from his post and intends to end his Republican bid for state Assembly in District 36, according to a report today in the Bergen Record. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Christie can’t say no to fame, fortune
Chris Christie just couldn’t say no – not even with Nancy “Just Say No” Reagan smiling at him from the front row.
Reagan coined that famous anti-drug slogan when her husband was president in the late 1980s. Now, Christie, addicted to the national spotlight and the fawning by powerful and wealthy Republican icons and donors, ignored her advice. (Stile, The Record)
‘Earned American Exceptionalism’
The political class is doing the will-he-won’t-he dance over a 2012 Chris Christie Presidential run, but today we’d like to focus on the speech he delivered Tuesday evening at the Reagan Presidential library. It’s the best thematic statement from any Republican recently on how to transcend the calcifying ambitions of the Obama era. (The Wall Street Journal)
On Obama, Chris Christie offered cheap shots, not hard truths
The low point in Gov. Chris Christie’s speech in California yesterday came when he attacked President Obama’s leadership.
Obama, he said, has refused to take on the biggest issue facing the country, the growing national debt.
“We continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office,” he told the crowd at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Presidential speculation on Christie is good for New Jersey
The sophisticated-looking woman seated next to me on a flight to New Orleans asked where I was from. Then she wanted to know if I knew the governor. For more than I decade, I told her. “Tell him if he runs for president, I will work for him in Florida.”
Turns out she played a role in the Florida campaign for George W. Bush — “you know the one with all the hanging chads.” (Ingle, Gannett)
Chris Christie: The home, family, hobbies of your favorite non-candidate of the moment
You know that Chris Christie is this week’s golden boy, the so-called salvation for the 2012 GOP ticket — even though the New Jersey governor says over and over that he’s not running. You know that he’s, um, hefty because every late-night comedian has a fat joke about him. What else? Here’s everything else about Christie you need to know…(Roberts and Argetsinger, The Washington Post)
Christie guessing game continues
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may have picked up a trick from fellow Republican Sarah Palin. To wit, stoking speculation about a presidential bid can result in large cash hauls and free publicity.
Rumors have flown for months that Mr. Christie might dive into the race this fall, though they cooled once Texas Gov. Rick Perry made the jump last month. On Monday former Garden State Gov. Tom Kean reignited talk of a Christie bid by telling the National Review Online that the “the odds are a lot better now than they were a couple weeks ago.” The Wall Street Journal and other news outlets defused those rumors to a degree on Tuesday, citing Trenton sources who said Mr. Christie had decided definitively against running. (Finley, The Wall Street Journal)
Frankly, Scott has a better idea on highway funding
The other day our sister newspaper, the Gloucester County Times, reported on a raid at a fraternity house at Rowan University where — get ready for a shock — some college kids were drinking. About 100 of the kids were underage and will face charges.
Believe it or not, that incident has its roots in the same problem that led to the controversy over the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska. (Mulshine, The Star-Ledger)