Morning News Digest: June 4th 2012
By Missy Rebovich
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Winners and Losers: Week of May 28th
Our Winners and Losers list is dominated by Tuesday’s primary candidates, some of whom shined this week and some of whom went dark. As usual, we have an indicted public official (guess which list she’s on) and she’s accompanied by some college presidents gone wild. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Rothman gets a positive response in Fort Lee
On the Sunday prior to Election Day, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) blocked out an entire day of campaign events, including the kickoff of the cricket season in the City of Passaic and an arts festival on the eastern edge of Bergen County.
Running against U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) in the redistricted 9th, Rothman complemented his late network television ad buy with aggressive retail politics. “Did you get a pen?” the congressman asked people on the street in Fort Lee. He held up two versions and added, “Your choice.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Pascrell troops rally around Paterson native son
Aiming for a show of strength in the vicinity of where Dominican American Councilman Julio Tavarez personally embraced U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), the Pascrell Campaign welcomed Bronx salsa legend Willie Colon to the streets of Paterson in support of the city’s native son.
“I don’t usually do this,” said the sunglasses-wearing trombone star in front of the massive old Post Office next to the elevated train tracks. “I could be at the beach. But here, supporting Bill Pascrell.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie’s role as consensus-builder being challenged
When Gov. Christie put out a parody video with Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker last month, the Republican governor described it as a quintessentially bipartisan effort – “emblematic of the way I’ve tried to govern.”
“Look at Washington, D.C.,” he said at a public town hall the day the video became a YouTube sensation. “They can’t get a thing done down there, and everybody’s at fault, everybody’s to blame. People have to start reaching across the aisle, and start working with each other.”
The same day, a pro-Christie group released a $1.6 million TV ad in which actors portraying Republicans, Democrats, and independents praised the governor and New Jersey “reformers from both sides” for “getting the job done.” (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Pascrell, Rothman disagree on few issues
Reps. Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman spent a combined $2.7 million going after each other this year — and that’s even before they unleashed this weekend’s barrage of TV ads, mailings and automated phone calls.
The prize in Tuesday’s primary is the nomination in the 9th Congressional District covering parts of Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties, a district that’s even more heavily Democratic than the ones Pascrell and Rothman represented before a new congressional map was drawn last year.
The loser could be looking at the end of his political career. (Jackson, The Record)
Bitter New Jersey primary pits President Obama against Bill Clinton
A contentious New Jersey congressional primary between two Democratic House incumbents is attracting the attention of two of the most powerful Democrats in the country, President Obama and former president Bill Clinton.
The problem is that they are on opposite sides of the fight.
The contest, in northern New Jersey, between Rep. Steven R. Rothman and Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. has exposed old wounds in the Democratic Party dating to the bitter 2008 primary contest between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. (O’Keefe, The Washington Post)
2 congressional races top NJ primary contests
Two veteran Democrats battling each other for a seat in New Jersey’s downsized congressional delegation reached for the party’s star power the weekend before primary voters go to the polls Tuesday: Rep. Steve Rothman strolled with President Obama down the White House colonnade, while Rep. Bill Pascrell shared a stage with former President Clinton for a get-out-the-vote rally in Paterson.
New Jersey’s marquee primary battle in the newly drawn 9th District , in Bergen, Hudson and Passaic counties , is one of two competitive primaries in the state. The other battleground is in the redrawn 10th District, which encompasses parts of Essex, Hudson and Union counties. There, Democrats will choose among six candidates to succeed Rep. Donald Payne, New Jersey’s first African-American congressman, who died in March. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
N.J. Sen. Kyrillos will play underdog in this year’s U.S. Senate race
State Sen. Joseph Kyrillos is a patient man.
For the last 24 years, Kyrillos has bided his time in Trenton. He has been a loyal foot soldier for Republican administrations and a state party chairman. He has been one of the more civil lawmakers, never considered a partisan bomb thrower. And maybe most important, he is a close friend of Gov. Chris Christie and for the past two years has been his right-hand man in the Legislature.
Now Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) wants to move up to the U.S. Senate, and faces only token opposition in the Republican primary on Tuesday. (Friedman, The Star-Ledger)
Candidates: Republicans U.S. Senate
Several of the candidates for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate would like to remind voters that this contested race is on tomorrow’s ballot.
Independent contenders David-Douglas Brown, Bader Qarmout and Joe “Rudy” Rullo have staked out positions on matters of consequence, but despite their high-energy levels, they are finding it challenging to broadcast those messages.
“It seems like we’re having a bit of a media blackout,” said RoseAnn Salanitri, Qarmout’s campaign manager.
When it comes to the fourth candidate, state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth), seems perfectly happy with the silence. Backed by party organizations throughout the state, Kyrillos has all but ignored his Republican opponents and focused from the beginning on the November battle against Democratic incumbent Sen. Robert Menendez. (Tyrrell, NJ Spotlight)
Assemblyman John Wisniewski wants to see 2010 toll hike documents
In his latest attempt to access the inner workings of an agency partly controlled by Gov. Chris Christie, Assemblyman John Wisniewski has asked the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for records related to last year’s toll hike and the trans-Hudson tunnel nixed by the Republican governor.
Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) heads the state Democratic Party and chairs the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee. Last month the committee voted to grant him the power to direct the Office of Legislative Services to issue subpoenas to force officials to testify and produce documents. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
Newark mayor says Obama campaign advised ‘don’t stick foot in mouth’ in Seattle Dems speech
The mayor of Newark, N.J., has told the Washington state Democratic Party convention that the Obama campaign offered some advice as he prepared his Seattle speech — don’t stick your foot in your mouth again.
Cory Booker drew a laugh as part of a warm welcome from his Friday night audience.
Booker earlier drew flak from fellow Democrats for criticizing President Barack Obama’s campaign. In a May 20 appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” he described as “nauseating” attack ads against Bain Capital. That’s the private equity firm once run by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (Associated Press)
NJ university merger plan faces critical tests
A major higher education restructuring plan will reach a crossroads in New Jersey this week, with critical votes by Rutgers University’s governing boards that could red- or green-light the proposal, and legislation to seal the deal being tweaked for introduction.
Rutgers’ Board of Governors and Board of Trustees are set to vote Wednesday on a statement opposing a deal that would reduce their authority over the Camden and Newark campuses. Their “Statement of Principles,” which has not been finalized, would grant both campuses more autonomy but would not cede control of either. (Delli Santi, Associated Press)
Parents’ hope reborn with ‘gestational carrier’
Kim Christian knew when she was 32 that she could not bear children. For the next decade, she and her husband, Dan Rominski, saved and planned for fertility treatments.
“We’re positive people, with a positive outlook,” Rominski said recently.
So the Montvale couple gambled — legally and medically. They crossed state lines to make a deal with a 30-year-old Illinois woman who agreed to bear a child for them.
They found Kristie Taylor through a broker, choosing her from others through interviews and questionnaires “like personality profiles,” Rominski said. They trusted Taylor with their own fertilized embryos, which she carried to term — twins, they all discovered. (Fletcher and Layton, The Record)
Fine Print: New charter school regulations
What it is: The Christie administration has proposed new regulations for New Jersey’s charter schools, from who can apply, how the application process would work, and what would be required for charter schools once approved, including considerably more powers for the state education commissioner. The proposal is before the State Board of Education, which will hold a public hearing on Wednesday.
What it means: The proposed regulations include a number of controversial measures, some of which critics contend go against what is allowed under the state’s 15-year-old charter school law. Among them are provisions for online charter schools and expanded roles for national charter management companies. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Judicial pick irks Burlington County bar chief
Lawyers in Burlington County have expressed dismay over Gov. Christie’s nomination last week of former New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow to serve as a state Superior Court judge in the county though she has neither worked nor lived there.
Although Dow’s qualifications have not been questioned, Burlington County Bar Association president Timothy S. Farrow said the group was disappointed that a lawyer from its ranks was not selected. “The bar association does have an interest in having judges appointed who are local practitioners,” Farrow, a Democrat, said. (Hefler, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
EDA cuts $40M from tax credit to Prudential for Newark project
The state Economic Development Authority has approved a reduced tax credit to Prudential Financial Inc. for its plan to build a new office tower in downtown Newark.
At a special board meeting today, the EDA approved a nearly $40 million reduction, to $210.8 million, of the Urban Transit Hub tax credit awarded in November. The insurance giant has proposed moving to a site near Military Park, on Broad Street, after amending its original plan to build a new tower near the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. (Burd, NJBIZ)
NJ gas utilities expect winter heating costs to be lower
Once again, this winter is shaping up to be a season where natural gas customers can expect to pay less or about the same to heat their homes.
In annual filings with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the state’s four gas utilities proposed cutting rates by as much as 5.2 percent beginning in October, the latest in a series of declines that have saved some customers as much as $674 since January 2009.
The steep drop in natural gas prices has been spurred by increased production of natural gas in neighboring Pennsylvania and other areas, largely a result of the discovery of new supplies of the fuel in the Marcellus Shale formation in the Keystone state and elsewhere. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Rahway mayor accused of ethics violation, ordered to pay fine
The hits keep coming for Rahway’s embattled mayor, who’s gone from the star of his local party to an outcast.
Rick Proctor, the former Union County freeholder who took a seat at the city’s helm last year, was kicked off the local Democratic Party committee — the one he chaired for about two decades — and his salary was cut by 68 percent by council members who seem to dislike his every move.
Now, the state Local Finance Board says he violated ethics rules and tried to interfere in a civil service hiring process in which his wife was a candidate, going as far to suggest she be given a six-figure salary and the title of director. (Hutchins, The Star-Ledger)
Red-light cameras: Cash cow in the fast lane
You are so busted.
You are in Cherry Hill driving a blue pickup truck in the left lane of Springdale Road where it crosses Route 70, and you are blowing through the intersection a second after the traffic light turned red.
Township police just got a nice video of your truck, as well as some close-up photos, and you will soon receive a notice in the mail demanding $85 for your haste. (Nussbaum, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Move in Camden to return to local elections without party affiliations
Camden activists have launched a campaign that could lead to the return of nonpartisan elections in the city.
The group, led by Frank Fulbrook, is circulating a petition to get a November ballot referendum allowing voters to decide whether they prefer municipal elections in which candidates do not indicate their party affiliation.
The goal is to give anyone a chance to be elected mayor or council member, not just those with party backing, Fulbrook said. In nonpartisan elections, most often held in May, all candidates’ names appear in the same column, which is fairer, he said. In partisan elections, candidates’ names are grouped on the ballot in columns, each for a different political party. The names of independent candidates could be in a fifth or sixth column. (Vargas, The Philadelphis Inquirer)
Barnabas, Atlantic end alignment discussions
Two of the largest health care providers in the state announced this afternoon they had ended the nearly two-year discussion to form a relationship.
Barnabas Health and Atlantic Health System issued a release today saying the discussions that began in October 2010 to “explore synergies between the two organizations” had been terminated. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
North Jersey hospitals in fierce competition for kidney transplants
Kidney patients waiting for a transplant at Hackensack University Medical Center received letters recently encouraging them to stay with the “world-class hospital” until its transplant program reopens — or to transfer to a New York City program.
But most of the patients who are transferring — about 50 of the 300 on Hackensack’s waiting list — are staying in New Jersey instead. They’d rather go to Barnabas Health, a Livingston-based hospital group that is one of the busiest kidney programs in the nation. (Washburn, The Record)
Not just for sick and injured any longer, hospitals make splash with fitness clubs
Amid pressure to control healthcare spending, New Jersey hospitals are preparing for a future when keeping people healthy is as vital as taking care of them when they are ill or injured.
To do so, hospitals are providing more outpatient services focused on disease screening and prevention, and opening fitness centers where members are coached toward a healthier lifestyle of regular exercise and good nutrition. (Fitzgerald, NJ Spotlight)
Rutgers VP of research leaving for Calif. school
In the time Michael Pazzani has been at Rutgers University, the school has received national recognition for its research programs, become a top-25 national grant school and increased interaction with the state’s corporate world.
In announcing his resignation from the university today, Pazzani, vice president for research and economic development, announced he will now try to do the same thing at the University of California-Riverside, as of July 1. UC-Riverside has about half the research budget of Rutgers, according to the announcement, and will be launching a medical school in the fall of 2013. (Caliendo, NJBIZ)
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Weekly Advance: Week of June 4th
Weekly Roundup: Week of May 28th
One year later: Law to aid unemployed job-seekers working
Apparently a law passed a year ago to prevent New Jersey businesses from discriminating against unemployed job-seekers is having its desired effect.
One year after Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that would fine employers if their classified ads prohibited unemployed job seekers from applying, the Department of Labor said only one employer has been issued a civil penalty. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Steinberger named Dem field director
Adam Steinberger, a veteran of several state campaigns, has been named field director of the New Jersey 2012 statewide coordinated campaign.
Since March 2010, Steinberger worked for Crossroads Campaigns as a field consultant where he campaigned on the ground in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Virginia, and New Jersey. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
What the Harris defeat means for Christie
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney sent Gov. Chris Christie a very clear message yesterday. It wasn’t about the defeated Supreme Court nominee Bruce Harris or even the Court itself. It was about the balance of power within the State House.
Ever since the calendar turned to 2012, legislative Democrats – specifically the leadership who worked closely with the Republican governor in his first two years – have looked for every opportunity to make life uncomfortable for Chris Christie. (Murray for PolitickerNJ)
Christie hints he may not renominate chief justice
Governor Christie vented undisguised disgust at Senate Democrats on Thursday after they rejected his nominee for the Supreme Court, Chatham Borough Mayor Bruce Harris.
But did Christie also send Chief Justice Stuart Rabner a veiled warning that his job may be in jeopardy in a couple of years?
Rabner’s name did not come up in Christie’s half-hour news conference after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-6 against Harris’ nomination. But at one point Christie laid out his line-in-the-sand position on choosing nominees. And in doing so, he indirectly put the question of Rabner’s fate on the radar. (Stile, The Record)
Supreme Court nominee Bruce Harris denied small act of mercy
At the confirmation hearing of Bruce Harris on Thursday, all sides agreed on one thing, and only one thing: Harris, a nominee for state Supreme Court, was a genuinely nice person caught in an impossible spot.
So The Auditor was surprised to hear rumblings that the governor’s office denied Harris, the mayor of Chatham Borough, one small act of mercy.
Democrats said they were willing to take a break to allow Harris to leave the room before the vote. Phillip Kwon, the governor’s first failed nominee for a seat on the high court, was permitted to leave during a break and returned before the vote. (Auditor, The Star-Ledger)
Legislators advise and consent, not nominate
The judiciary matters. Depending on the issue, state high courts or the U.S. Supreme Court have the final say in reconciling difficult issues with the law. U.S. presidents and state governors have a right to pick judicial nominees who reflect their views. The U.S. Senate and state senates act as checks and balances on those choices. It generally works. But not always.
On Thursday in Trenton, the state Senate Judiciary Committee voted almost exclusively along party lines to reject Governor Christie’s latest nominee to the high court, Bruce Harris. All but one Democrat voted against his nomination for an assortment of reasons. (Doblin, The Record)
Trials, triumphs and intriguing future of EPA head Lisa Jackson
To find the hottest flash point between President Obama and his Republican opponents these days, take the Metro to the Federal Triangle stop and visit Lisa Jackson.
If Republicans were fighting with artillery, her sprawling office at the Environmental Protection Agency would be a priority target.
They have tried to take away her agency’s funds. They have tried to strip her power to regulate. Some have proposed killing her agency entirely. If Republicans win big in November, the change will be profound. (Moran, The Star-Ledger)
Rutgers governing boards finally take charge of college merger conversation
Months of hand-wringing, dithering indecision, back-room dealing, and official silence are apparently about to end. Members of Rutgers University’s two governing boards are scheduled to hold a rare joint meeting Wednesday to do what they should have done long ago — act openly to protect the structural integrity and political independence of the state university.
If it’s not too late. (Braun, The Star-Ledger)