Weekly Advance: Week of Dec. 26

TRENTON – What do the Tea Party, Catholic schools, a N.J.-based biopharmaceutical company, and lineman-turned-Congressman Jon Runyan have in common? They’re all finding gifts under the tree this weekend.

While New Jersey Tea Partiers may not be happy if their preferred candidate for U.S. Senate – state Sen. Mike Doherty (R-23) – never makes the primary, their darling in Congress, U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5), scored a win in redistricting, landing a home base favorable to the Financial Services Capital Markets Subcommittee chairman. His potential opponent, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), is put in a tough position and may opt for an exit other than a head-to-head loss against Garrett. In other Tea Party news: under the new map, former Highlands Mayor Anna Little remains a thorn in the side of U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, potentially setting up a re-match of their 2010 battle.

 Diegnan under fire

 What gift awaits the Catholic schools? They can expect movement on the Opportunity Scholarship Act soon, according to two sources in Trenton, which could provide for a B12 shot in enrollment for the struggling education sector. Even Gov. Chris Christie hinted at developments in the bill when asked at his town hall last week by a priest/educator when relief would be coming. Smack in the middle of the lawmaker’s home district, Christie dangled the Education Committee chairman, Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-18), of South Plainfield, before the crowd as the main obstructionist to the tax-credit-for-vouchers program.

Some in Democratic leadership have been targeting Diegnan to be replaced as chairman of the committee, but a lack of willing foot soldiers poised for promotion on the panel has quieted the rumors.

 Friends with benefits

 Or rather new hires with benefits. Celgene has wooed Rich Bagger away from public sector “sabbatical,” as Christie’s outgoing chief of staff termed it last week. Along with Bagger’s extensive private sector experience, the biopharma company seems to be getting a direct line to the front office, too.

“It’s not like I’m going to lose Bagger’s number,” Christie said this week while bidding adieu to his former gatekeeper and confidante. The governor said he won’t hesitate to lean on Bagger for advice in the future – just as he has with other administrative expatriates who’ve found homes in the private sector – and snuck in an ‘and vice-versa’-like statement at the end of his remarks. Translation: Celgene, which surely it knew, is landing one of the governor’s chief sounding boards in their board room, and likely an exec with Batphone access to the golden dome chief and his chieftains.


Ex-lineman gets a block

U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan, a favorite of the Christie camp, was one of the biggest winners in redistricting, netting Brick and shedding Cherry Hill. Runyan, though only a freshman, was aided by the new map, as was another GOP Congressmen, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7). Lance avoids an avowed general election challenger in former Edison Mayor Jun Choi, whose hometown was moved to the new District 6.

The Republican offering didn’t take any crazy shots at Christie arch-nemesis U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6), whose district along with U.S. Rep. Albio Sires’s (D-13) new haunts remain terribly gerrymandered. There may have been a weak motive in moving Choi into Pallone’s district, but Choi immediately dropped his challenge and backed Pallone, according to reports.

What the Republicans did do with their map was open the door for a Rothman primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8), the latter of which inherits several South Bergen towns in a large chunk of Rothman’s old district, and just one town away from Rothman’s home in Fair Lawn.

Year-end reports

A few year-end reports are coming due, two of which may shape the education reform landscape in the coming year.

All due on Dec. 31, the administration should be receiving a Higher Education consolidation report and final task force recommendations on college and career readiness and education transformation.

There are no scheduled events or meeting next week. Enjoy the holidays, from State Street Wire.

  Weekly Advance: Week of Dec. 26