Morning News Digest: October 20, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
Source: Christie raised close to $100K for Driscoll team last night
After unleashing close to a million dollar artillery assault on the enemy, 38th District Democrats now await return fire from GOP challenger John Driscoll, a freeholder chairman running against state Sen. Robert Gordon (D-38).
A well-heeled GOP source close to the Driscoll campaign said the Republicans raised close to $170,000 in the last week alone for LD 38.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno appeared in the district last week and netted $70,000 for the Republican ticket of Driscoll and his running mates. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
South Jersey Democratic campaigns receive lion’s share of State Committee dollars
South Jersey Democrats are the biggest beneficiaries of cash from the Democratic State Committee, which raised $889,099 and closed its books on Oct. 7 with $195,099 cash-on-hand.
The State Committee gave $138,147 to South Jersey candidates compared to $58,132 to Democratic candidates in two competitive districts (LD 14, and LD 38) in other regions of the state.
While most political observers don’t see him in a tough race, state Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, received the most contributions from the statewide political organization: $46,262.
He also contributed roughly $163,000 to other candidates from his personal campaign account, including donations of $24,000 apiece to battleground senators Robert Gordon, (D-38), Fair Lawn, and Jim Whelan, (D-2), Atlantic City. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
3Q campaign finance: By the numbers
With numbers and dollars flying, it’s difficult to determine who is truly up in the all-important money race. The GOP state committee has raised millions, the Democratic state committee less. Democratic candidates hold a 2 to 1 advantage over Republicans, while the Republican ‘Big Three’ holds a $1.5 million advantage over the Democrats’ ‘Big Three.”
So just who’s winning the money wars? (Isherwood, PolitickerNJ)
Christie announces new state plan that focuses on business and job creation
Gov. Chris Christie Wednesday announced the creation of a “State Strategic Job Growth Plan,” an effort he describes as an ambitious, flexible guide for the future of New Jersey’s economic development.
The governor said he expects the plan to become the state’s official statewide planning tool and replace the current state plan created 2001. The plan also will attempt to coordinate the action of government agencies to help bring economic development about.
“New Jersey’s challenges are too great to be approached in the stratified, haphazard and unrealistic manner that has characterized previous statewide planning efforts,” Christie said. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Growth plan gets mixed reaction
Gov. Chris Christie rolled out a new plan for the state‘s economic and building growth Wednesday, winning early approval from local officials but also drawing criticism on fears that it will green-light development in environmentally sensitive areas.
The proposed State Strategic Job Growth Plan is an update of the 2001 State Plan.
Similar documents have been drawn up dating back 25 years, but Christie said his administration’s plan is unlike the previous tries at mapping where new building should take place and how state agencies should guide the process. (Jordan, Gannett)
Christie raised ‘unprecedented’ cash while weighing 2012 race
Chris Christie’s fund-raising swing through western states last month brought in at least $530,000 as former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and a Stifel Financial Corp. co-chairman helped the New Jersey governor shatter the out-of-state fundraising record.
His trips generated more than $620,000 from non-New Jersey sources, out of almost $1.5 million raised by the state Republican Party in the quarter that ended last month, according to a New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission filing.
Christie, 49, the first Republican elected governor in New Jersey since 1997, spent the last week of September on a round of speeches and fundraisers, including stops in California and Missouri. He sought to attract money for home-state candidates as he weighed joining the race for the Republican presidential nomination next year. (Dopp, Bloomberg)
Christie’s constitutional amendment on judge’s pay gets no support from Senate and Assembly leaders
Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver have no plans to post a constitutional amendment ensuring judges are subject to increases in pension and benefit payments proposed by Gov. Chris Christie.
“I am not inclined to support pursuing a constitutional amendment,” Oliver said. “It sets a very unhealthy precedent.”
Christie’s call for an amendment to the state Constitution stems from a decision issued Monday by Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg, who wrote requiring judges to pay more for pension and benefits is an indirect reduction in salary. The state Constitution prohibits pay cuts for judges and justices. The amendment would define justices and judges’ salary as exclusively salary, not encompassing pension and benefit payments. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
New Jersey applies for $60 million Race to the Top grant
Under a plan being proposed to the federal government, New Jersey would evaluate and grade every registered early childhood center and preschool serving low-income students in the state.
The proposal is part of the Christie administration’s application, announced yesterday, for up to $60 million in federal funding under the federal Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge. The rating system has been piloted in three cities.
The grant proposal also includes statewide assessments for kindergarteners, increased programs for training early childhood educators, and better coordination between different state agencies in charge of early childhood care. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
N.J. appellate panel blocks implementation of Gov. Christie’s new affordable housing guidelines
An appeals court panel, bowing to a group advocating affordable housing for low- and middle-income families, has blocked guidelines recently announced by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie.
But the same three-judge panel, in a decision handed down on Tuesday, denied a second application by the advocacy group, Fair Share Housing Center, seeking to stop the administration from eliminating the Council on Affordable Housing.
Christie abolished the 12-member council on Aug. 29 and transferred its duties to the state Department of Community Affairs. The court will hear oral arguments on that issue Feb. 15 in Trenton. (DeMarco, The Star-Ledger)
Leonard Lance, Rodney Frelinghuysen face heat in ads for votes on clean-air environmental bills
Environmentalists have targeted Republican Reps. Leonard Lance and Rodney Frelinghuysen in an ad campaign, with an organizer saying a “significant five-figure” amount is being spent to criticize votes that impact clean air measures.
Doug O’Malley, field director for Environment New Jersey, said the advertisements are running this week on the state’s largest websites and in major newspapers. The campaign includes a homepage takeover of PolitickerNJ, sponsorship of the “Wake Up Call” email newsletter, and Google ads.
Lance represents portions of Somerset, Union, Middlesex and Hunterdon counties. Frelinghuysen’s district covers all of Morris County and parts of Somerset, Essex, Sussex and Passaic counties. (Jordan, Gannett)
Jasey wants close scrutiny of N.J. charter schools
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D- Essex) expressed concern Wednesday over the number of applicants—42—seeking approval from the state Department of Education to open charter schools. She noted that three weeks ago, the DOE approved four of the 55 charter schools that applied.
Jasey, an education advocate in the Legislature, said she believes the growing number of existing charter schools underscores the need for several measures she is sponsoring would address what she sees as a disconnect that currently exists between public schools and charter schools in New Jersey. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
Clash with Christie leads to Assembly run for teacher
Marie Corfield didn’t know what to expect when she confronted Governor Christie last year at Raritan town hall.
The art teacher left her elementary school during her lunch break and walked across the street to the municipal building.
“I said, ‘Well, now’s my chance. Better go speak my mind,’ ” said Corfield, 52.
She did, and the ensuing 10-minute argument would soon become a YouTube sensation for Christie, helping him burnish his national image as a tough-talking, no-nonsense executive. But it also made Corfield a sort of unofficial spokeswoman for aggrieved public school teachers and, eventually, a Democratic candidate for Assembly. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
GOP challenger Michael Class reconsiders ending bid against state Sen. Nicholas Scutari
Michael W. Class is no dropout.
A month after asking three county clerks to remove his name from the ballot as the Republican candidate for state Senate in the 22nd Legislative District, Class says he’s still in the race.
Class, a former councilman in Middlesex Borough, had written to the clerks of Middlesex, Union and Somerset counties to remove him from the Nov. 8 general election ballots, citing a work-related conflict.
The letter, however, reached the clerks Sept. 20, seven days after the statutory deadline and after the ballots had already been printed. (Bichao, Gannett)
Legislative District 31
Hudson County, and especially Jersey City, is practically hallowed ground for Democrats, and there’s no reason to think November’s election will change the party’s domination in the 31st District.
But that’s not stopping Republicans from mounting a fierce challenge against the three incumbents. They say the Democrats have not done enough to address unemployment, failing to attract big businesses or to provide the education students need to learn job skills. In short, they say it’s time for a change in the 31st, which consists of Bayonne and the southern half of Jersey City. (Zambiti, NJ Spotlight)
Legislative District 35
Next-door neighbors in working-class Paterson are rivals in the Assembly race in the 35th district, a city hard hit by Hurricane Irene where tempestuous local politics define a once-booming textile town.
Contributing to this turbulent election is the unusual phenomenon that there are technically no incumbents for any of the three seats.
Redistricting shifted the incumbent senator’s hometown out of the boundaries of the 35th, and Sen. John Girgenti, a Democrat, opted to retire rather than move back to his native Paterson. His decision paved the way for Assemblywoman Nellie Pou, a longtime city worker, to run. She hopes to become the Senate’s second Hispanic woman. (Lehren, NJ Spotlight)
Stephen Sweeney blames Chris Christie for rising poverty rate, health care coverage levels
While Gov. Chris Christie is focused on meeting with wealthy supporters, New Jersey’s economy is struggling, according to Senate President Stephen Sweeney.
Just as election season was getting under way, Sweeney offered two examples in a Sept. 15 message on Facebook of the state’s deteriorating economic conditions during Christie’s tenure: the poverty rate and the number of residents without health insurance has increased. (Wichert, PolitiFact New Jersey)
Menendez renews push for teacher, firefighter bill
Vice President Joe Biden joined Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and several other Senate Democrats this afternoon to drum up support for a $35 billion bill to prevent teacher and first-responder layoffs.
Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has yet to schedule a vote on the bill, whose provisions are part of the $447 billion jobs package proposed by President Barack Obama. Since the Senate rejected the overall package last week, Democrats are putting specific provisions in legislation and want the Senate to vote on those smaller stand-alone bills. Menendez is lead sponsor of the teacher and first-responder bill. (Chebium, Gannett)
NJ politicians in Congress divided on US trade deals with South Korea, Panama, Colombia
Free trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia could be a bonanza for New Jersey firms that produce chemicals, transportation equipment, computer parts and other items, supporters say.
But critics see economic pain, not expansion, in store for the state and predict layoffs as imports rise from those three countries, particularly South Korea.
President Barack Obama is to sign the three agreements into law Friday. Congress approved the deals Oct. 12 with lukewarm support from the New Jersey congressional delegation. (Chebium, Gannett)
Poll: Majority of N.J. voters support sports betting
An amendment to the New Jersey Constitution that would allow betting on sports at Atlantic City casinos and the state’s racetracks would be supported by a majority of voters if the election were held today, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released Wednesday.
Betting on sports events, subject of a question on the Nov. 8 general-election ballot, is supported by 58 percent of likely voters, while 31 percent oppose it, according to the poll’s results. Among Republicans, support is even higher, at 64 percent, while 58 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents favor the measure.
Betting on sports events, subject of a question on the Nov. 8 general-election ballot, is supported by 58 percent of likely voters, while 31 percent oppose it, according to the poll’s results. Among Republicans, support is even higher, at 64 percent, while 58 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of independents favor the measure. (Parmley, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Trump rolls the dice on e-bets
Donald Trump and New York hedge-fund manager Marc Lasry want a seat at the virtual poker table if online gambling is legalized in the US.
The real-estate financier, Lasry’s Avenue Capital Group and casino operator Trump Entertainment Resorts will form an Internet gaming joint venture should US regulators permit such businesses to operate, according to an Oct. 14 regulatory filing.
Trump Entertainment, which Avenue Capital took control of last year, would own 10 percent of the venture, the company said in its filing. It didn’t disclose the stakes to be held by Trump or Lasry’s $12 billion hedge fund. (Bloomberg)
Utility plans on investing in infrastructure – and jobs in South Jersey
Atlantic City Electric is proposing to spend another $69 million in capital expenditures next year to help jumpstart the economy in South Jersey under a proposal filed yesterday with state utility regulators.
The utility, which serves about a half-million customers in the southern portion of the state, is proposing to ramp up spending under its Infrastructure Improvement Program, a policy the state has encouraged to finance upgrades to the New Jersey’s distribution and transmission system as well as creating jobs in a struggling economy. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Advocates lobby for fund to fix bridges
Drivers in the New Jersey-New York metropolitan area are more likely to roll over a deficient bridge than pass through the takeout window at McDonald’s, according to an analysis of bridge data released Wednesday by a transportation reform group.
In the report, “The Fix We’re In For: The State of Our Nation’s Busiest Bridges,” Transportation for America took data it had released this year about bridges and looked at how regions are affected.
It reports that the section of New Jersey considered part of the New York metropolitan area has an estimated 465 deficient bridges. (Rouse, Herald News) http://www.northjersey.com/news/132221723_Advocates_lobby_for_fund_to_fix_bridges.html
Study: $4 billion goes to community college dropouts
A new national study reports that federal, state, and local governments invested nearly $4 billion in full-time community college students who dropped out after their first year.
In Pennsylvania, that five-year expenditure amounted to about $87 million – $98 million in New Jersey – in government aid to students and support to schools, according to data released Thursday by the American Institute for Research of Washington.
Nationally, the report’s authors say, nearly $1 billion in government funds was spent on these first-time students who dropped out in 2008-09, the most recent year surveyed, a 35 percent increase from five years before. (Giordano, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Planners Assoc. says Christie economic plan can be positive step
The N.J. chapter of the American Planning Association said that if Gov. Christie, with his new economic growth plan, can get state agencies to cooperate, then it will have been a positive step.
“Whether you like his approach to governance or not, Governor Christie is a strong leader – and that is what the State Plan has been lacking in recent years,” the Association said in a release this afternoon. (Staff, State Street Wire)
N.J. League supports state’s new economic growth plan
The N.J. League of Municipalities expressed support for the state economic development plan unveiled today by the governor’s office.
“While this is just the first step in a long, public process, the League is encouraged that the Administration is focused on State government, and proposes no new requirements or mandates on local governments,” the League stated in a release. (Staff, State Street Wire)
DCA, Fair Share Housing Center both gladdened after court ruling
Both the Fair Share Housing Center and the Department of Community Affairs expressed optimism over the affordable housing ruling handed down Tuesday.
The Housing Center attorney who won the ruling regarding one aspect of the case against the state in the long-running battle over affordable housing felt that it bodes well as the Center prepares for full arguments next year. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Mitsch tweet flap gets stranger
Republican 6th District Senate candidate Phil Mitsch continued his tweeting two step today, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board that he did not send a series of off-color and misogynistic messages to one of his Twitter followers and that his opponents somehow cobbled them together to make him look bad.
This denial came five days after telling an Inky reporter that the tweets in question (the ones he didn’t send) were taken out of context and that he didn’t mean the part about women moaning in a sexual manner. He apparently explained to a reporter as he did Thursday to PolitickerNJ that the messages represented his “dry humor.” (Isherwook, PolitickerNJ)
Moving the money around
A high-powered GOP source shrugged his shoulders at the fundraising totals in competitive districts.
“It’s obvious what the Democrats are doing – they’re wheeling their money in from their safe districts,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The significant money you see is Sweeney, Sarlo, and cash from other Democrats who aren’t threatened.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
2011 is no referendum
Governor Christie is becoming a pretty good public opinion analyst. Earlier this week, he noted that the Occupy Wall Street movement is not unlike the Tea Party, saying that both grew out of an “underlying problem… that people feel like government is unresponsive and dysfunctional.” His view is an accurate read of current polling data.
That demonstration of public opinion acumen follows Christie’s dead-on analysis of the upcoming legislative elections: “In the end, I don’t think these Legislative elections are a referendum on Barack Obama or on me. I think they are a referendum on each one of these individual candidates in these individual districts.” (Murray, PolitickerNJ)
Christie used smear to put heat on judges
It drives Governor Christie bonkers that he can’t control the judiciary.
He’s in firm command of the executive branch, he’s muzzled the Republican side of the Legislature and manipulated the collaborationist Democratic leadership, yet he can’t seem to get the current crop of 432 judges to comport with his quasi-autocratic, unitary government no matter how hard he tries. He’s like a growling Kong, climbing the ivory tower of the judiciary, swiping at the black-robed prey, only to come up empty-handed. (Stile, The Record)
Christie ready to take judges fight to N.J. voters
New Jersey’s judiciary has long considered itself better than the people who support it, and more equal than the other two branches of government.
Gov. Chris Christie sent that cliquey fraternity a message even the most dense of judges should understand: Get with the pension reform program or expect a constitutional amendment to force it.
Superior Court Judge Paul M. DePascale of Jersey City filed a suit in Mercer County last July. He didn’t like the pension and health care reforms that require public employees to pay more toward their benefits. That’s something for the little people. (Ingle, Gannett)
Former N.J. Assembly Speaker Joseph Doria survives the ‘slings and arrows’
For more than two years, Joseph Doria — one of New Jersey’s most powerful Democratic politicians — lived under a cloud of a federal probe first revealed in spectacularly public FBI raids on his Bayonne home and Trenton office.
For all that time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office had a statement from a key witness — alleged bagman Jack Shaw — saying “Joe Doria never saw a dime and never asked for a dime” from scammer-turned-informant Solomon Dwek.
What Jack Shaw, now dead, told the FBI apparently was true because federal prosecutors sent a letter to Doria’s lawyer saying, “Based on the evidence of which we are currently aware, no charges will be brought by this office regarding the circumstances that led to the search.” (Braun, The Star-Ledger)