Morning News Digest: September 7, 2012
By Missy Rebovich
Rutgers poll: Menendez hold 12-pt. lead over Kyrillos
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, (D-NJ), holds a 12-point lead over New Jersey state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, (R-13), Middletown among likely voters in the race for the U.S. Senate, 47 percent to 35 percent, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
Ten percent are unsure and 8 percent say they would prefer “someone else.”
Kyrillos remains virtually unknown to most voters two months before Election Day; three-quarters say they have no opinion or don’t know him while 15 percent have a favorable impression and 10 percent are unfavorable, the latest poll shows.
Menendez, on the other hand, is viewed favorably by 40 percent and unfavorably by 28 percent. Twenty-six percent are unsure and 7 percent don’t know who he is. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Phil Thigpen, Obama, and the arc of history
Veteran Essex County Democratic Chairman Phil Thigpen has not always responded to the cool style of President Barack Obama, but tonight he said he saw some requisite fire in the belly.
“It was really good,” Thigpen said of Obama’s speech. “He changed the dialogue. Instead of blaming everybody else, I think he injected some real optimism. He moved people to encourage other people to vote for him.”
The highly regarded party chairman attended his first Democratic Convention in Atlantic City in 1964, where he helped President Lyndon Johnson, the Texan with a realpolitik streak matched by few government players in modern American history. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Obama: ‘The country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another’
President Barack Obama denounced his opponent as a huckster of corporate welfare, and tried to sell his own brand as pro-middle class.
“On every issue, it won’t just be between two candidates or two parties, it will be a choice between two paths for America,” said Obama, seeking a four-year reup in the face of Republican challenger Mitt Romney on economically embattled national terrain.
Romney wants more tax cuts for the wealthy.
Obama said no way. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Biden aims for middle class connection: ‘Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive’
Packaged as the dirt-under-his-fingernails brand from Scranton, Vice President Joe Biden hit middle class rustbelt Catholic veteran pressure points aimed at bucking up an economically wounded America.
Entering to the strains of Jackie Wilson, Biden connected with his wife, Professor Jill Biden, seated in the front row, then went for the voter connect.
“Four years ago a battered nation turned to a leader who they knew would lift our nation out of the crisis,” said Biden. “Today, I say to my fellow citizens, in the face of the greatest economic crisis, this generation has proven itself worthy.”
Grit. Determination. Character. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Bollwage on Booker candidacy: he can ‘evolve’ into an effective counterpoint to Christie
As he heads toward tonight’s speech by President Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage said he’s confident Obama will beat Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Unclear, though, is Bollwage’s own future as a potential 2013 gubernatorial candidate.
As PolitickerNJ.com reported in the past, Bollwage’s candidacy hinges on Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s designs.
Booker and Bollwage both enjoy close relations with power broker state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) and Lesniak wants Booker to run.
If Booker decides against challenging Gov. Chris Christie, Bollwage could be in play as a contender. Local sources say his candidacy could help Lesniak, who survived a fierce Democratic Primary last year and could use a top of the ticket boost district-wide from proven vote-getter Bollwage. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Rice: if Codey is not in the 2013 race, Christie will be governor for 4 more years
State Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D-28) wants a local brand to run for governor next year, an Essex County guy with street cred in executive office.
No, not Newark Mayor Cory Booker, his longtime city rival.
Rice said he wants state Sen. (and former Governor) Richard Codey (D-27) to run.
“I know how state government works, and the person the power players keep trying to knock out of the box is Governor Codey,” Rice told PolitickerNJ.com. “There’s a reason they try to do that, the Joe D’s and George Norcrosses of the world – it’s because Governor Codey has a grip on the history of the Statehouse. He knows how we got in this mess. The media is not giving the attention to Codey and they should because he is a very respected person. The bosses want to dictate who’s going to be the governor or the senator or the mayor but at some point the people have to stand and say, ‘You’re not telling us, we’re telling you.” (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)
Chris Christie turns 50
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is celebrating his 50th birthday on Thursday.
By all accounts, the governor is having a low-key day. He planned to lunch with colleagues then share cake with staff.
Christie didn’t mention his milestone at a Statehouse news conference on Wednesday or tweet about it on Thursday.
That didn’t stop the Republican State Committee from inviting donors to contribute to the party on behalf of the governor’s 50th.
Christie spent the eve of his birthday watching the Giants lose to the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium with his brother, Todd, who is two years younger. (Associated Press)
N.J. Democrats applaud Obama on economy, boo Christie
New Jersey Democrats left their national convention on Thursday night ready to give dozens of reasons why the United States was better off after four years of President Obama. They also left ready to say just how worse off New Jersey is after three years under Republican Governor Christie.
Some of the same Democrats who cheered convention calls to stand together — and booed descriptions of obstructionist Republicans in Congress – squabbled among themselves over whether the Democrats who control the Trenton Legislature were too cooperative with Christie.
“Hell, yeah, the country’s better off. Four years ago, the country was going in a black hole. Four years ago, banks were foreclosing,” said Democratic State Chairman John Wisniewski, praising the president for stewarding an economy that has had 29 months of job growth and a stock market that’s nearly doubled since then. (Jackson, The Record)
Newark Mayor Booker calls platform question ‘over the top’
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, co-chairman of the Democratic National Conventions’ platform committee, appeared on CNN during the last day of the Democratic National Convention and addressed the move to rewrite the platform, adding a statement that says Jerusalem should be recognized as Israel’s capital.
“Here we have a simple omission that was corrected by the Democratic Party now becoming something we’re talking about on a morning talk show, which to me is a little bit over the top,” he said on CNN’s Starting Point. “What we should be spending our focus on is talking about those substantive differences between our platforms, like one platform saying if a woman is raped, a victim of incest, she can’t get right to an abortion and the other platform saying, ‘Hey we’re in line with where America is.’” (Jackson and Hayes, The Record)
Campaign calls on Gov. Christie to sign fracking waste water ban
Between stands selling fresh vegetables and artisanal cheeses, activist Amy Braunstein stood with a clipboard collecting signatures.
Braunstein was part of a campaign by the national Food and Water Watch to support a state ban on the shipping, transporting, treating or disposing of waste water produced by a controversial natural gas-drilling technique known as fracking.
Fracking, also known by the more technical name of hydraulic fracturing, is the process of injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the ground to release gas trapped in rock formations. Fracking is common in neighboring Pennsylvania, which sits on the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, but isn’t done in New Jersey. The technique is credited with reducing energy costs, but critics fear the drilling process impacts the environment, particularly drinking water supplies. (Bichao, Asbury Park Press)
Dems answer are-you-better-off question
Democrats cited the depths of the economic downturn, the levels of recovery, and the steps President Obama has taken to help when asked at the Democratic National Convention this week if the country was better off four years later. Here’s a sampling of their answers. (Jackson, The Record)
Is NJ’s 2% property tax cap working?
Governor Chris Christie insists New Jersey 2% cap on property tax increases is working. Critics say Christie is misleading the public. One lawmaker is pushing legislation that would establish a task force to study the issue.
“Under Governor (Jon) Corzine we set a 4% cap and then we adjusted it down to 2% under Governor Christie, but property taxes are still too high. I mean Stevie Wonder could see that so it’s time now to assemble another body of information,” explains Assemblyman John Burzichelli. “These kinds of issues require academic review from time to time. We all know property taxes are still too high.”
Under Burzichelli’s bill a “Property Tax Levy Cap Task Force” would be created to monitor the impact of changes to the levy cap law. (McArdle, New Jersey 101.5)
Zach Braff zings Chris Christie
“Garden State” star and New Jersey native Zach Braff isn’t impressed with the governor of his home state.
Asked what he thinks of Gov. Chris Christie, the actor told POLITICO on Wednesday, “I’m hoping the state will reconsider.”
A Democrat at heart, Braff said he loves President Obama and is “excited to see him have another four years.” (McDevitt, Politico)
Lautenberg: Time for N.J. Democrats to ‘fight back’
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg upbraided Democrats in Trenton as too willing to cooperate with Gov. Chris Christie in a Thursday speech to the party’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
Lautenberg has had a combative relationship with Christie for years, and earlier this year he was vocal and active in trying to thwart a plan to restructure higher education in the state, particularly the portion affecting Rowan University and Rutgers University’s Camden campus.
As part of the tangle over the college plan, Lautenberg sparred with Democratic power broker George Norcross III, who chairs the board of a hospital opening a new South Jersey medical school affiliated with Rowan, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and others. (Symons, Asbury Park Press)
Sen. Menendez goes on campaign blitz at Democratic convention
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez kicked the final leg of his re-election campaign into high gear this week with a tireless blitz of media appearances, speeches, and meetings at the Democratic National Convention.
Menendez, the hard-charging and well-financed Hudson county Democrat, is in a largely lopsided battle with state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) to win a second full term in the Senate.
In a pitch to the New Jersey delegation Thursday morning, Menendez urged the party to come out in November, both for him and President Obama.
“I know we’re looking at governors’ races and other races, but the best way to win in 2013 is to have a strong success in 2012,” he told the delegates. (Giambusso, The Star-Ledger)
NJ lawmaker says there’s no such thing as a ‘gay cure’
Proponents of so-called “conversion therapy” claim it can help turn gay kids straight. Recently the California State Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill to ban the controversial for minors.
Now, an openly gay New Jersey lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation to outlaw the therapy in the Garden State.
“Studies and personal testimony have shown this practice creates irreparable harm on young people struggling to come to terms with their sexuality,” says Assemblyman Tim Eustace. “Forcing someone to deny their innate feelings and their very existence has led to depression, suicidal tendencies and other untold harm.” (McArdle, New Jersey 101.5)
NJ bill aims to protect lottery winners’ identity
For some lottery winners, a large jackpot can bring out scam artists and others looking to get a piece of the pie.
Some winners have even been kidnapped and killed.
Now, a New Jersey assemblyman hopes to reduce the chances of that happening through legislation that would keep winners out of the public eye.
“Winning the lottery can be a blessing and a curse,” said Assemblyman Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli.
“Once their identities become public, winners can become targets for unscrupulous individuals and scam artists.” (Cooney, Courier-Post)
DEP asserts NJ has reduced soot pollution
People seem to be no longer as worried about the air they breathe in New Jersey, once derided as cancer alley for the spate of chemical plants and oil refineries along the New Jersey Turnpike.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is asking the federal government to find New Jersey in compliance with the national air quality for soot or fine particulate matter, a pollutant that causes severe health impacts for people exposed to unhealthy levels of the contaminant.
Yet when the state held a hearing on Wednesday, only one person showed up to comment on the petition, which state officials view as a significant milestone in its efforts to deal with air pollution problems. (Johnson, NJ Spotlight)
ADP employment report indicates most robust job growth in five months
Though talks of another recession cropped up in the spring amid disconcerting national job growth, August employment data released today by Roseland-based Automatic Data Processing surpassed market expectations, as private-sector employers added 201,000 jobs — the most robust job growth in five months.
Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers LLC, which co-authors the monthly report, said August’s number is a “gradual restrengthening of employment gains,” though he noted it shows the economy “still has a very long way to go before we can characterize the labor market as substantially healed.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
Big names in lottery management hope for N.J. contract
New Jersey officials met today with the companies who will compete for the chance to take over the marketing and sales operations of the New Jersey Lottery, which plans to make incentive payments to the winning firm if it succeeds in driving up revenue.
The lottery has raised about $20 billion for education and state institutions since its inception in 1970.
Among the companies represented were Providence, R.I.-based GTECH, a Lottomatica subsidiary that has been the primary vendor of lottery technology to New Jersey since 1984, and provides lottery services in 27 states; Scientific Games Corp., of New York, a global lottery systems provider; United Kingdom-based Camelot Group, which operates the UK National Lottery; and Intralot, a company based in Athens, Greece, that operates in 53 countries. (Fitzgerald, NJBIZ)
Newark airport getting $6M for repairs
Just a week after announcing more than $18 million for repairs and new construction projects at New Jersey airports, U.S. Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez announced another round of federal funding today.
New Jersey will get more than $6 million from the Department of Transportation, with most of that earmarked to repair taxiways at Newark Liberty International Airport, according to a statement by the senators.
Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday announced a $6.2 million grant for Ocean County Airport, in Berkeley, to build a new runway. (Arney, NJBIZ)
Plainfield Democrats to showcase Booker as keynote speaker, fresh off fiery DNC address
It’s a pretty safe bet that the crowd for Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s keynote address at the Sept. 15 grand opening of the Plainfield/Central New Jersey Democratic Headquarters will pale in comparison to the tens of thousands who heard him speak on the first day of the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina this week.
But that fiery speech, which had Twitter and media outlets nationwide not only buzzing, but pontificating on Booker’s apparently bright future in the party, certainly has stoked local interest in hearing what he has to say next.
“I think there will be a big turnout,” Plainfield City Councilwoman Annie McWilliams said. “Newark is a neighbor of Plainfield, and I think he understands a lot about what’s going on in our part of New Jersey.” (Spivey, Asbury Park Press)
Prescriptions for N.J. marijuana hard to get
Many of the doctors who recently registered with New Jersey’s medical marijuana program are not accepting new patients, while some are charging nearly $500 in cash for visits before they will recommend the drug.
That may explain why only 130 patients have signed up so far for the state’s new program, say members of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, a patient advocacy group that has been pushing for the alternative pain relief for more than five years. In Arizona, more than 700 patients applied to use marijuana when that state’s program opened last year. (Hefler, The Philadelphia Inquirer)
Special Report: The life and death of Newark’s Eighteenth Avenue School
After more than 130 years in Newark’s Central Ward, the Eighteenth Avenue School didn’t open its doors to new and returning students yesterday.
The demise of the once-stately brick building is indicative of what’s happening in cities across the country: enrollment down to 250, walls and infrastructure well past their years, student test scores on the low end in a city where the norm is nothing to cheer about.
In sum, the school built in 1876 in this hardscrabble neighborhood was an easy target for Superintendent Cami Anderson in 2012, as she seeks to raise expectations in a district suddenly in the national spotlight. (Mooney, NJ Spotlight)
As it turns 115, water utility stresses attention to infrastructure
While Middlesex Water Co. continues to change its operations and invest in technology to meet New Jersey’s evolving water needs, the investor-owned utility’s top executive said one thing that has remained consistent throughout the company’s 115-year history is its struggle to comply with increasingly stringent government water quality regulations.
“The regulatory processes for utilities in New Jersey have been in place for many years, and overall, I believe they work reasonably well,” Middlesex Water chairman, president and CEO Dennis W. Doll said in a statement. “But in my mind, there is nothing easy about operating a regulated utility business in New Jersey — or in any other state for that matter.” (Eder, NJBIZ)
From the Back Room
1996 and 2012
As the Machiavellian maneuvers continue in Charlotte in the lead up to the 2013 gubernatorial contest, insiders recall another year when similar jockeying occurred, in similar circumstances.
It was 1996, and another Christie was governor.
Republican Governor Christie Whitman prepared for re-election as Democrats mobilized in Chicago to re-elect the Democratic incumbent, President Bill Clinton.
Today, united behind President Barack Obama, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, State Party Chairman John Wisniewski, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18), Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6), and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage are all positioning themselves as potential 2013 challengers to Republican Gov. Chris Christie. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Healy sews up 2013 Building Trades support
Incumbent Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healy will be able to depend on the Hudson County Building Trades in his race for a third term next year.
The organization has scheduled a $500-per head breakfast on Sept. 25 for Healy’s re-election at one of the mayor’s favorite hangouts, Puccini’s Restaurant. (Staff, PolitickerNJ)
Is this any way to treat a ‘Jersey Girl’ who has sights set on higher office?
Barbara Buono, the all-but-announced candidate for next year’s gubernatorial nomination, will have to conduct an unconventional campaign to overcome the hostility displayed against her by party leaders.
She’s off to a good start. Well, a good start at unconventionality, anyway.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, another unannounced window shopper for higher office, has made quite a splash at the Democratic convention by seeming to be everywhere at once, making impassioned speeches and pointedly praising the party leaders who denied Buono delegate status despite her nearly two decades in Trenton and past leadership position in the Senate. (Braun, The Star-Ledger)
Two keynotes in major and minor
In music, major keys are happy; minor keys are sober. In politics, it is much the same. These past two weeks, first Republicans and then Democrats gathered for their national conventions to pitch differing visions of America. Republicans were in E-flat minor. Democrats sang a secular Hosanna in C-major.
We often hear that party platforms are not reflective of the candidates’ policy positions. That is true. This week, someone mailed me a copy of the Republican platform circa 1968. By 2012 standards, it is lofty and liberal. The party slogan was: “We must think anew and act anew.”
That was the same convention that nominated Richard Nixon. Clearly the motto on the platform pamphlet had a typo. It should have read: We must think Agnew and act Agnew. (Doblin, The Record)
Did Clinton seal the deal for an Obama victory?
There is a lot riding on President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention here, but if he wins another term history may show it was what happened the night before that swayed enough undecided voters and independents his way to claim victory.
Former President Bill Clinton took the stage late to take advantage of the limited network TV coverage, then did what he does best — communicate with plain words and humor. (Ingle, Asbury Park Press)
Cherry Hill, Merchantville merger called off
The question of whether Cherry Hill and Merchantville ought to merge won’t be on the November ballot.
Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn has effectively pulled the plug on a planned municipal-consolidation study that Merchantville Mayor Frank North didn’t support earlier.
No study, no public vote; no public vote, no merger. That’s state law.
“No one from a Cherry Hill perspective . . . saw the advantage” of proceeding, Cahn says. (Riordan, The Philadelphia Inquirer)