Morning News Digest: September 18, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Monmouth U national poll: Obama has slight lead over Romney
President Barack Obama has opened a slight lead over Gov. Mitt Romney in the latest Monmouth University Poll of American voters. In a week when the news cycle has been dominated by violence against Americans overseas, voters say that the Democratic incumbent has done a better job than the Republican challenger responding to the situation and is better able to handle the nation’s foreign policy in general.
Currently, Obama holds a 7-point lead over Romney (48% to 41%) among all registered voters and a 3-point lead (48% to 45%) among likely voters. That compares to slimmer margins of 4 points and one point, respectively, in mid-August before both parties’ nominating conventions. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Nine who could succeed Andrews in CD 1
One of the original members of the successful South Jersey Democratic enterprise, U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1) faces continued scrutiny from a Congressional Ethics Committee over his possibly inappropriate, personal use of $100,000 in campaign funds.
Twice unsuccessful in statewide elections (for governor in 1997 and Senate in 2008), Andrews shows no visible signs of relinquishing his congressional seat as he tries to weather the crisis.
But sources close to the congressman concede that as long as ethics questions dog him, Andrews has a political problem.
No one is talking openly about succession, however, in the event that the congressman decides to retire in the coming months, the following nine names circulate as potential successors to the 22-year incumbent congressman… (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Wisniewski plans to make decision on governor after 2012 election
Democratic State Party Chairman John Wisniewski intends to wait until after this election cycle in order to make a final decision about the 2013 gubernatorial contest.
The party leader and 19th District assemblyman’s presence at the Plainfield headquarters opening for President Barack Obama signified no more than his strong support for the re-election of the incumbent, he told PolitickerNJ.com.
“When 2012 is over, I will make a decision,” Wisniewski said. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Christie has strong support in N.J., poll finds
Coming off a major national address at the Republican convention and heading into the fourth and final year of his first term, Gov. Christie retains strong popularity in an otherwise Democratic state, according to the Inquirer New Jersey Poll conducted last week.
Christie has 56 percent favorability ratings statewide, tying with President Obama, a Democrat, as the most popular of seven prominent politicians whose names were polled. Christie’s unfavorability ranking statewide is 40 percent.
When voters were asked if they approved of the job that Christie is doing, 59 percent answered affirmatively, compared with 55 percent for the president.
In the seven South Jersey counties, the governor’s job approval drops – but ever so slightly, to 55 percent; his favorability there is 53 percent. (Katz, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Christie to hold town meeting in Elmwood Park Tuesday
Governor Christie will take his “middle-class reform agenda” to Elmwood Park Tuesday.
It’s his 91st town hall-style event since taking office in 2010 and the second event to carry the new theme, which Christie unveiled last week after leaving behind the “Jersey Comeback has begun” slogan that he’s used since January.
Christie said the new theme is meant to highlight the legislation he has called for since taking office, but has yet to be enacted.
He’s pushing to end payouts to public employees for unused sick time, ban public officials from having more than one taxpayer-funded job and revoke the pensions and campaign funds of officials who are convicted of crimes related to their public office. (Hayes, The Record)
Christie to campaign in Mo. for Spence
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be in southwest Missouri later this month to raise money for Republican gubernatorial nominee Dave Spence.
The Springfield News-Leader reports the Spence campaign confirmed Monday that Christie will speak at a fundraiser in the city the afternoon of Sept. 23.
Spence is challenging Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. (Associated Press)
National Republican Congressional Committee raffling off lunch with Christie
For a $10 donation, you could win lunch with Governor Christie.
That’s the message greeting visitors of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s website. The group’s homepage has been replaced with a contest entry screen and a large image of Christie at a podium.
Christie is set to headline the NRCC’s 2012 Fall Battleground luncheon and summit in Washington, D.C. Friday with House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.
It’s part of a three-day out of state fundraising tour Christie is going on later this week, starting with a campaign stop for Rep. Steve King in Iowa Thursday and followed by a visit to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s annual fundraiser Saturday. (Hayes, The Record)
Widow takes on Congressman who ousted her husband
Shelley Adler was still mourning her husband’s death when the thought hit her: Why not run for his old Congressional seat? But when she approached her husband’s longtime political adviser and close friend, he gently discouraged her.
“I told her it would be a difficult race,” the adviser, Michael Muller, recalled. “She was still grieving, and I asked her if she was prepared to handle all the work that goes into running and the possibility of losing. I really wanted her to think about what she was getting into.”
Ms. Adler, a Democrat and a former PTA president in Cherry Hill, N.J., would not be dissuaded. She jumped in and is now locked into one of the more intriguing House races in the country. (Hernandez, The New York Times)
Menendez leading Kyrillos in statewide poll
Heading into the final seven weeks of campaigning, Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez holds a significant lead over Republican challenger Joe Kyrillos in their race for one of New Jersey’s two U.S. Senate seats, according to the Inquirer New Jersey Poll.
Menendez leads by 43 percent to 32 percent among likely voters who have made up their minds or are leaning toward a candidate, according to the bipartisan survey, conducted from Sept. 9 through Wednesday.
His advantage is consistent with what other recent polls have found. “It’s a strong lead,” said Jeffrey Plaut, founding partner at Global Strategy Group, which coauthored the survey. “At the top of the ticket [President] Obama has an even bigger lead of 14, which should help in the Senate race down below it.” (Tamari, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Barring big Wall Street comeback, N.J. economic recovery will be slow
New Jersey’s economic recovery will continue to lag the rest of the nation’s, complicating efforts by the Christie administration to hit its ambitious revenue targets this year, a Wall Street ratings agency warns.
Gov. Chris Christie is banking on nearly 8 percent growth in revenue for the state budget he signed in June — among the highest jumps in the nation and nearly triple last year’s growth.
Moody’s Investors Service said in a report released Friday that the revenue projections appear optimistic given historical trends and the state’s slower than expected economic recovery. The ten-year average growth rate has been 3.8 percent and revenues only grew 2.6 percent in the fiscal year that ended in June. (Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
N.J. taxpayers shelled out nearly $20K to protect Gov. Christie at RNC in Tampa
IIt cost New Jersey taxpayers $19,624 to protect Gov. Chris Christie last month while he was in Tampa for the Republican National Convention.
The figure includes costs incurred by the state troopers who provided security for Christie during the six days he was in Tampa from Aug. 26 to Aug. 31, according to spokesman Michael Drewniak. Christie delivered the keynote address on Aug. 28.
State police spokesman Lt. Stephen Jones said the number represents a “tally of costs incurred for the security detail,” not including salaries. State police originally released a smaller figure and revised it upward as more costs came to light. (Portnoy, The Star-Ledger)
NJ received less stimulus than national average
Squeezed by the recession, New Jersey received slightly less in federal stimulus money per capita than the national average, and the largest proportion of it went to fund unemployment insurance, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said.
The state received $1,377 per capita in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, according to a report released by the bank Monday.
That compared with $1,500 per capita nationwide and $1,614 per capita in New York.
The National Bureau of Economic Research, the federal body that determines when a recession starts and ends, said the recession began in December 2007 and concluded in June 2009, a few months after the stimulus law was passed. (Morley, The Record)
N.J. minimum wage proposal may be revived, with voters deciding
Top Democrats in the state Senate say they’re considering asking voters next year if they would like to change the state constitution to raise the minimum wage.
With a bill to increase the $7.25-an-hour minimum wage stalled in the upper house, leaders are discussing putting a constitutional amendment on the 2013 election ballot — a move that would allow them to bypass Gov. Chris Christie, who has said he is worried about a wage hike’s impact on business.
State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, acknowledged the talks. (Friedman and Renshaw, The Star-Ledger)
Conference offers recommendations for Latino advancement
Sen. Robert Menendez delivered the keynote address at city-based Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey’s 2012 conference on Saturday.
In addition to his legislative record in support of fellow Latinos, Menendez spoke about the history and contributions of Hispanics in America, including St. Augustine, the first town in North America, founded by Hispanic settlers 500 years ago.
“There is much work ahead on immigration reform, education, and economic empowerment, but I know, looking at everyone in this room, all of you who have made a difference,” he said. “Together we can accomplish anything.” (Makin, Asbury Park Press)
Getting out the school board vote in the Garden State
While the presidential election in November is getting all the headlines, another landmark vote will be taking place on November 6 that is struggling to grab people’s attention.
For the first time in a century, more than will vote for their school board candidates in the general election, the result of a that gave districts the option to move their elections from April to November.
Far more districts than expected opted for the change in the first year, drawn by the incentive that school budgets will no longer need to be voted on as long as they stay within the state’s caps. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
Implications for NJ seen in U.S. study on costs of climate change
Is the federal government significantly underestimating the costs of climate change?
A new study in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Scientists argues it is because it is relying on a faulty analytical model to account for the economic changes that climate change will inflict on future generations.
“This is a wake-up call for America to start aggressively investing in low carbon sources of energy,” said Laurie Johnson, chief economist in the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a co-author of the study. “The very real economic benefits will accrue quickly and increase over time.” (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
Activists march from Camden to Trenton to push for justice system reform
At a small rally in front of the State House today, activists demanded that the Legislature pass two bills that are pending in committees. The bills would allow people on parole or probation to vote and prohibit employers from automatically disqualifying job-seekers with criminal records.
Speakers at the rally also railed against the state’s Department of Corrections, which they described as “corrupt,” and the imprisonment of minors convicted of nonviolent crimes.
They arrived at the State House after a four-day march from Camden to Trenton. (Linhorst, The Record)
Serving up a healthy lunch for NJ school kids
The line at Monument Elementary School’s cafeteria was long, but rather than waiting to be served a typical lunch of processed, high-fat food, the students were waiting to grab their lunch from the school’s new salad bar.
“I was surprised to see that the kids preferred the fruits and vegetables over the processed food,” said Bernadette Trapp, the school’s principal. “I thought we would have problems getting them to eat it, but they seem willing to try it.”
Those eager kids are the beneficiaries of the federal (Beveridge and Thrasybule, NJ Spotlight) , which went into effect at the start of the 2012 school year.
Smart growth group defends transit hub incentive in wake of critical report
While a national think tank panned the Urban Transit Hub tax credit in a report on economic development incentive programs, a smart-growth group said the program has been successful, though its expansion beyond the nine urban centers first targeted by the legislation has weakened its impact.
“From Teachers Village, in Newark, to the Gateway Transit Village, in New Brunswick, it is clear that these projects are absolutely helping to cluster economic growth around transit hubs,” Economic Development Authority spokeswoman Erin Gold said in an e-mail. “The major reason why (Panasonic Corp.) was looking for a new facility in the first place was to encourage its employees to use transit, which was not really possible in its current location. So that’s over 800 employees that will now have greater access to transit.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Social media and workplace privacy issues before Senate Labor Comm.
The Senate Labor Committee will – again – hold a hearing on three bills focusing on privacy and social media accounts. The bills are on the agenda for Thursday’s committee hearing.
Bill S1915 would prohibit employers from requiring workers to provide passwords, or other information, that would enable them to access their workers’ electronic accounts. (Hassan, State Street Wire)
DOT turns down request to increase state share of airport grand program
A request for the state to increase its share of a matching grant program for airports has been turned down.
The Department of Transportation has rejected a request to increase its portion under an Airport Safety Fund Program to compensate for a reduced level of federal aid. (Mooney, State Street Wire)
From the Back Room
Bigfoot sighted in Perth Amboy
CWA Local 1039 won’t endorse Frank Salado today in the Perth Amboy mayor’s race, or anyone else, according to sources.
The local was ready to press go an endorsement of the challenger to Mayor Wilda Diaz, but got bigfooted after the larger organization objected, according to sources.
Salado settled for the addition of veteran operative Lionel A. Leach to his team.
President of CWA 1039, Leach threw his own personal weight behind Salado without the union behind him, according to a release. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Former NJDOT official pleads guilty to taking a bribe
A former official with the New Jersey Department of Transportation admitted today to accepting a $24,000 bribe from a contractor as payment for his official assistance on a federally funded road construction project, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Kenneth Huber, 64, of Budd Lake, N.J., a former engineer with the N.J. Department of Transportation (the “NJ DOT”), pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with one count of soliciting and accepting a $24,000 bribe. Huber entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano in Trenton federal court. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Boteach: ‘Vote for the man with the beard’
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Republican Congressional candidate in New Jersey’s 9th district, today released a web video jokingly asking constituents to vote for “the man with the beard.”
“As we enter into Rosh Hashana, I wish each and every one of you a very happy and sweet new year infused with God’s light, joy and blessings,” Shmuley says in the YouTube video. “May this year be prosperous for all of you – perhaps slightly more for us Republicans – but to you Democrats as well. May God bless each and every one of you, may there be peace on earth, and may this great nation live up to its fullest potential – especially the innate male potential to sport facial hair.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Chris Christie’s next act
New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie says he won’t start thinking about his options until after November, but with his term up in 2013 there’s already heightened speculation about his next political step.
Whatever he’s thinking, if Christie’s also interested in a presidential run, then Mitt Romney’s fate in November could color his decision.
The New Jersey governor says he loves his job, but a Romney loss makes a bid for a second term a dicier proposition. While Christie’s polling numbers are solid at the moment, New Jersey remains a Democratic state. Since Christie has already established himself as a top tier presidential prospect for 2016, why risk tarnishing the star by running again and possibly losing? (Mahtesian, Politico)