Morning News Digest: October 26, 2011
By Missy Rebovich
LD 7 Republican poll shows a contest for assembly seats
A Republican-commissioned poll of Legislative District 7 voters deems the assembly contest a toss-up, with state Sen. Diane Allen (R-7) in an especially commanding position as the only clear cut over 50% candidate in the district.
Conducted by McLaughlin and Associates, the poll obtained by PolitickerNJ.com shows voters preferring a Republican 35.0% versus 33.0% who prefer a Democrat, with 37% undecided; and shows Gov. Chris Christie in solid position with a 64% approval rating.
Democrats immediately voiced skepticism over the results, and at least one expert said it should be approached with caution. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
No regret from Christie on dead-end Menendez investigation
Asked whether he stood by the timing of an ultimately fruitless federal probe into U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in his capacity as U.S. Attorney, the governor wasted few words in his own support.
The recently-ended investigation was leaked to the press two months before Menendez’s 2006 re-election campaign against state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R-21), of Westfield. Gov. Chris Christie said at a press conference that he stands by that timing when asked by a reporter.
Critics have alleged since 2006 that Menendez was a political target of Christie’s federal law enforcement arm, in the same vein as former Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Joe Doria, who was also recently cleared of a federal probe that emerged as Christie was challenging Gov. Jon Corzine for the corner office. (Carroll, PolitickerNJ)
Christie steps up attack on judges
Governor Christie continued his push to amend the state constitution and reduce judicial benefits Tuesday, but had to stop short of directly linking his big-picture reforms to the local issue of property taxes.
The governor tried to frame his fight to overturn a court ruling on judicial benefits as a campaign issue, making the decision that judges should be ineligible for the reforms passed in June overtly political. To hammer his point, Christie gathered more than 50 supportive Republican candidates running for state legislative seats in Nov. 8 elections to flank him onstage at a Trenton event. (Fletcher and Reitmeyer, The Record)
Christie rallies Republicans over judicial pensions
The state legislative election this year has been on cruise control so far, but Gov. Chris Christie attempted to kick-start it Tuesday by riding Republicans out behind his new chrome-plated issue: his call for a constitutional amendment to force judges to pay more for their pensions.
Christie said that, should a Superior Court judge’s decision last week hold up on appeal, voters can ensure that they have a chance to vote on his proposed amendment next November if they elect GOP majorities to the state Legislature on Nov. 8. (Method, Gannett)
Christie seeks OK to use bonds to pay for road projects
Governor Christie’s treasurer will appear before lawmakers Thursday to ask them to approve using up to $1.6 billion in previously authorized but unused debt to pay for road and bridge improvements.
The funding for the transportation projects is the only issue on the agenda for the Joint Budget Oversight Committee, which includes members of both the Senate and Assembly budget committees.
Democrats who control the committee initially blocked a similar request by the Christie administration last year right after he announced he was considering stopping a long-planned Hudson River transit tunnel project over cost concerns. (Reitmeyer, The Record)
Senator Robert Menendez responds to investigation closure
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez said he feels vindicated now that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has confirmed dropping an investigation into his business pract
Then–U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, a Republican, began investigating ties between the North Hudson Community Action Corp., an anti-poverty organization, and Menendez when the Democratic senator sought his first full term in 2006.
In an Oct. 5 letter to Marc Elias, Menendez’s Washington-based lawyer, Zane David Memeger, the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, confirmed that the case now is closed. Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney in New Jersey had recused himself from the case. Memeger was appointed by President Barack Obama. (Chebium, Gannett)
Automatic cuts could hurt N.J.
It’s crunch time for the “super committee” in Congress that is working to slash $1.2 trillion from future deficits by Thanksgiving.
Mandatory cuts loom in January 2013 if the committee fails, and that could mean fewer government and contractor jobs, higher property taxes and worse traffic for North Jersey, according to a Record analysis of where federal dollars go now.
The emphasis should be on the word “could,” however, because no one can say for sure exactly where the mandatory cuts would fall. There are supposed to be 8.8 percent cuts applied across the board, but as federal agencies wield their budget knives around the country, some states might absorb less of the blow than others. (Jackson, The Record)
NJEA puts weight behind select few on ballot
The state’s largest teachers union has opened its checkbook wider for this year’s legislative races — largely to gird for a battle with Gov. Chris Christie over proposed changes in education policy.
“Looking out over the landscape, there are more races that are judged to be critical races,” said Stever Baker, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association. “There’s a sense that the stakes are higher in this election, so it’s critical we support people who support public education.”
At the same time, the powerful education association narrowed the scope of recipients, following through on a threat to penalize lawmakers who approved a large increase in the cost of pension and health care benefits. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Camco Dems, Burlco GOP top fundraisers
South Jersey has two of the state’s most well-funded political organizations, and one of its neediest, according to a report released Tuesday.
Burlington County’s Republican organization led all of the state’s GOP county committees with a net worth of about $347,000 as of Sept. 30, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Committee.
Camden County’s Democratic Committee placed second statewide for that party’s county organizations, with a net worth of about $153,000 at the same time, ELEC said. But Burlington County’s Democrats would have faced a deficit of about $105,000 if its debts were subtracted from cash-on-hand. (Walsh, Gannett)
New Jersey’s 23rd, 24th District incumbents expand fundraising leads
Republican incumbents in New Jersey’s 23rd and 24th legislative district have annihilated challengers in the fundraising department so far.
State Sen. Steve Oroho raised more money for his re-election campaign in the last four months than all the Democrats seeking office in the 24th District combined.
Oroho, R-Sussex/Morris/Hunterdon, raised $63,489 last quarter and $136,759 total. (Molnar, The Express-Times)
District 11 Senate
Democrat Raymond Santiago is challenging Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck in the redrawn 11th District, which covers much of Monmouth County.
The district should give the Democrats a shot at gaining a seat in the Senate, where they already hold a majority, but the Republicans remain confident of victory.
Beck has been serving in the 12th District but was moved to the 11th as part of the spring redistricting. She started her career as chief of staff for arch-conservative Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina before leaving for the private sector, where she ran the Trenton office of MWW, one of New Jersey’s most influential public affairs firms. She is now president of JAB Marketing, a media relations and marketing firm. (DeMasters, NJ Spotlight)
District 27 Senate
With 55 times more cash than his Tea Party challenger, Sen. Richard J. Codey has a distinct monetary advantage in his quest for re-election in the 27th.
But that pot of money hasn’t deterred a groundswell of opposition from conservatives who say Codey isn’t their cup of tea.
On a recent rainy night in Livingston, some of those detractors filled a music room at Livingston High School in Essex County, firing off a chorus of attacks on the powerful Democratic senator who has served in Trenton for nearly four decades, including 14 months as governor. (Lehren, NJ Spotlight)
23rd District Senate candidates Michael Doherty, John Graf Jr., Daniel Seyler square off
State Sen. Michael Doherty wants to cut red tape, John Graf Jr. wants to change New Jersey’s business climate, and Daniel Seyler wants to cut property taxes for seniors.
The three state Senate candidates for New Jersey’s 23rd Legislative District faced off in a debate Monday night, tackling issues from property taxes to gay marriage.
The League of Women Voters of Somerset Hills organized the debate, held at the Bedminster Township Municipal Building in Somerset County.
Based on the state’s redistricting plan approved earlier this year, the 23rd District will cover 18 municipalities in northern Hunterdon County, six in east Somerset County and 11 in southern Warren County. (Rowan, The Express-Times)
40th District election race is dominated by Wayne rivalry
The spotlight in the race for three seats in the 40th Legislative District has been dominated by a heated rivalry between Assemblyman Scott Rumana, a Republican, and Democratic challenger William Brennan.
Hard feelings between the Wayne residents were set off in March 2010 when Brennan alleged in a state ethics complaint that Rumana crossed the line by representing the non-profit Wayne Energy Corp. as an elected official. Brennan filed an appeal when the complaint was dismissed last month.
In the legislative race, Brennan has chided Rumana at public meetings over appointments he made as mayor and for what he says was the loss to Wayne of millions of dollars because of Rumana’s conflicts of interest. Rumana has fought back. (McGrath, The Record)
Assemblyman Biondi reveals cancer under control as Democrats target his absences
In news that shocked his own party as well as his opponents, Assemblyman Peter J. Biondi this week revealed for the first time that he’s been battling a form of cancer for two years.
The Somerset County Republican, who has represented the 16th Legislative District in the state Assembly for 13 years, said he is successfully battling non-hodgkin lymphoma, which he described as being “under control” and in remission.
Until this week, the true nature of Biondi’s condition was known just to his immediate family. (Bichao, Gannett)
Guadagno praises NJBIA commitment to Trenton at headquarters groundbreaking
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno hailed the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s decision to build its new headquarters in Trenton at a groundbreaking ceremony today.
“This guarantees a partnership between Trenton and business,” Guadagno said, referring to Trenton as both the city and the state government.
Guadagno also said the $180 million in business tax cuts included in the state budget this year was partially attributable to the NJBIA’s advocacy.
The headquarters will be at 10 W. Lafayette St., across from the Trenton Marriott Downtown. It is a short distance from the association’s current office on West State Street. (Kitchenman, NJBIZ)
NJ ‘green’ technology leaders face unclear future
New Jersey’s economic development czar Tuesday encouraged the green technology industry to take advantage of incentives for start-up businesses, but some investors said they want a clear idea about planned changes to the state’s energy policy.
Caren Franzini, chief executive officer of the state Economic Developm
ent Authority, told an audience of nearly 200 at the Cleantech NJ conference about how the administration a few weeks ago won a commitment from Belgian-based Fluitec to call New Jersey home. The company has sales in 36 countries and offices in the United States, Belgium and China, and is consolidating its U.S. operations and global corporate functions here. (Jordan, Gannett)
Bill could deliver what solar sector needs most: Stability
The legislature appears poised to act to stabilize a solar market that some have argued threatens to curtail the rapid growth of solar systems in New Jersey. But the initiative will have to wait until the lame-duck session after the election next month.
Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Middlesex), the influential chairman of the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, said he expects to move a bill in mid-November that would deal with issues that have caused widespread uncertainty among investors as to whether solar energy is still a good bet in New Jersey. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Five N.J. food banks share $147,000 in federal funding
More than $147,000 in federal block grant funds has been distributed by the Christie administration to five major New Jersey food banks, state officials said Tuesday.
About $20,000 of it has been directed to the Food Bank of South Jersey in Camden, Burlington, Gloucester, and Salem Counties.
Twenty percent of the allocations to the food banks is for “Jersey Fresh” fruits and vegetables, officials said.
The effort was announced Tuesday by state Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Lori Grifa and state Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher at the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank in Ewing, Mercer County. (Colimore, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
N.J After 3 student supervision programs to end next week with loss of funding
New Jersey After 3, the state-funded program that has funded afterschool supervision, recreation and education for 2,000 children statewide, is going under in the aftermath of a decision by Gov. Chris Christie to line item veto the $3 million needed to keep it operating for another school year.
After 3 sponsors have been notified that the program, which has existed since 2004, will cease operation next week. When the program began, it provided care fro 25,000 students in 30 cities and towns. (Hester, New Jersey Newsroom)
NJ schools group fights for Facebook grant records
A group representing Newark schoolchildren is fighting with city officials to get access to documents related to last year’s $100 million public schools grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Acting on behalf of the Secondary Parent Council, the American Civil Liberties Union sued for the materials under state open public records laws. The Associated Press and other news outlets also have made such requests. (The Associated Press)
Election could influence NJSIAA dispute
Those who think admission to an NJSIAA championship football game is exorbitant should have purchased a ticket last month to Assemblyman John Burzichelli’s political fundraiser.
Donors paid $1,200 for a seat in a luxury box at Lincoln Financial Field to watch Penn State defeat Temple, 14-10, in a gridiron battle that could be closer than next month’s race in the third legislative district, where Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, is a two-touchdown favorite to win a sixth term. (Tufaro, Gannett)
Newark responds to ACLU accusations of obfuscation around Facebook’s $100M
The city of Newark issued a response this afternoon to accusations from the ACLU of New Jersey and a Newark
parents’ group. The groups allege that city officials, including Mayor Cory Booker, were using personal email to communicate to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the schools funding pledge. The groups filed a complaint seeking the communications, but their requests for disclosure of the emails were challenged by the city on the grounds that those communications were not part of official business. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
Garfield Superfund site cancer-rate study released
A study of cancer rates at a N.J. Superfund site has concluded there are no statistically higher rates than would be found at other locations in the state.
The study of the groundwater contamination site in Garfield concluded “that the incidence of cancers potentially related to exposure to hexavalent chromium, in the population residing in the neighborhood above the Garfield Chromium Groundwater Contamination Area, is similar to what would be expected based on state-wide cancer rates.” (Mooney, State Street Wire)
Statehouse storm-related damage leads to FEMA application
State officials have sent a letter of intent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to apply for a grant that would cover the costs of relocating the mechanical/electrical room and elevator systems in the Statehouse that sustained flooding damage from the recent hurricane.
The elevators were not operational for several weeks as a result of the damages from Hurricane Irene and other storms. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
Democrats respond to Christie’s campaign tilt
With Gov. Chris Christie using the court battle over judicial benefit hikes as a campaign centerpiece, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34), of East Orange, said in an email response, “It’s just terrible that Gov. Christie has chosen to stomp his feet and play politics instead of focusing his attention on protecting taxpayers by overturning this ruling, which would be the quickest and best way to resolve this problem. (Carroll, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Codey rolls out television spot
Running for re-election in the new 27th, state Sen. Richard Codey (D-27) went up on cable television this week.
Here’s his new ad… (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Feds set record straight for Doria, Menendez
On the morning of July 23, 2009, federal agents fanned out across New Jersey to arrest 44 people, mostly politicians and officials, on charges including bribery.
The raids resulted from investigations initiated by former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Christopher Christie, who had resigned several months earlier to campaign as a Republican for election as governor. The arrests sent shock waves through the state establishment. (Ahearn, The Record)
Former Gov. Jon Corzine’s portrait turning heads in Statehouse
Artist Loren Dunlap knows the portrait he made of former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine looks very different than the dozens of other paintings of former governors that hang on the walls of the Statehouse.
That, he says, is exactly the point.
Because he is a different type of artist. And his subject, Corzine, is a different kind of guy. (Donohue, The Star-Ledger)