Winners and Losers: Week of The Debates


Chris Christie

Yeah, true, he could be a loser because Mitt Romney did well – thereby putting 2016 out of reach in the event Mitt wins the presidency; we get it. But the governor won the week with his 800-man Wednesday night bench press in Perth Amboy at an Ironworkers Union Hall. Forget about the Joe D’s and Stacks of the world sitting on their hands in a general election. This well-received sleeves-rolled-up Christie performance in a Building Trades arena could signal flat-line time for Democrats next year unless they can rouse and focus a serious candidate.

Bob Menendez

The U.S. Senator outdebated his Republican challenger in their first matchup at Montclair University. The incumbent was crisper and more detail oriented as he prevented Kyrillos from gaining traction in a contest Menendez is already winning by double digits.

John Murphy

The retiring Morris County freeholder didn’t get to be governor – at least not yet. But Gov. Christie’s old intraparty rival received the first Alex DeCroce Leadership Award from the governor, a prize named in honor of the late Assembly minority leader from Morris.

Mitt Romney

A la John Kerry in 2004, the GOP challenger came off the cold slab in his first debate performance against the incumbent president. Criticized in the aftermath for his failure to provide detail on his tax cut plan and ridiculed by the president for laying into Big Bird, Romney nonetheless took advantage of a listless-looking Barack Obama to better project desire for the job in question.

Annette Quijano

The 20th District Assemblywoman threw together an impressive Latino rally in Elizabeth in support of the Democratic ticket headed by Obama and Menendez. She organized it in eight days and over 500 people attended. 

Jon Runyan

A Stockton poll released this week shows the freshman incumbent congressman ten points ahead of Democratic Party challenger Shelley Adler in their CD 3 tilt.

Brian Levine

Defeated by Gov. Chris Christie in the 2009 GOP Primary for governor, the likeable Franklin Township mayor received a gubernatorial appointment this week to the Pension and Health Benefits Review Commission.

Mark Alexander

The 34th District state Senate candidate this week announced he will file over $70,000 in campaign donations with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), according to his campaign. A good number. But Essex sources say the former Obama state director will still have a hard time working his way through to the inside of the machine. It’s not just that state Sen. Nia Gill (D-34) is suddenly everywhere in LD 34 in an obvious effort to project goodwill in the aftermath of her unsuccessful campaign for Congress. It’s that powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo will likely be reluctant to offload a woman. If the party establishment punishes Gill, they will more than likely replace her with Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34) than back Alexander.   


Joe Kyrillos

The Republican challenger appeared nervous in his debate with Menendez on Thursday night and failed to aggressively and convincingly contrast himself with the Hudson County Democrat. Kyrillos embraced Obamacare, in least in good measure, and came across as “multiple choice,” in Menendez’s words. It’s not over for Kyrillos. Sources in both parties said his realistic goal was to present himself as a viable statewide brand in the event the positions of governor or senator open up in the future. The Republican state senator still has two debates to go, but as with Obama at the national level, Kyrillos will have to perform stronger in his next two encounters to achieve his aims. 

Kathy Sumter

The acting super of county elections faces a class action grievance filed by IBEW Local 1158, alleging that she has fostered a hostile work environment. But it gets worse. State ELEC records show Sumter contributed $1,000 to Gov. Chris Christie in 2009 and 2010, and $250 to state Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-40) in 2010. That’s a direct violation of the state Executive Commission on Ethical Standards, which prohibits county Superintendents of Elections from contributing to political campaigns.

Bob Gordon

The sharp senator from Bergen County made a strong case for more transparency at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but this week failed to secure an override by the Republican governor.

Cory Booker

As he mulls a statewide run at Gov. Chris Christie, the Newark mayor watched Christie drop comfortably into a Building Trades union hall in Perth Amboy in the ultimate muscle flex designed in part to scare away Booker. Oh, and Newark still doesn’t have a budget.

Steve Sweeney

True, few believe he can run against Christie anyway, with base problems tied to pen/ben overhaul and the difficulty he would have trying to establish contrast. But it is truly tough to picture how Sweeney can summon any traction for a gubernatorial run next year against the sitting Republican governor following Christie’s kingly appearance Wednesday in the hall of Ironworkers Local 11.

Bryant Venegas

The Union City contractor from Clifton admitted this week that he agreed to pay bribes to a city official in connection with a Union City Zoning Board matter. Venegas pleaded guilty to knowingly and corruptly agreeing to give corrupt payments to individuals, including a Union City employee.

Tom O’Leary

The former executive director of the South Amboy Housing Authority received 30 months in prison for his role in a scheme to funnel illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic primary election campaign of Joseph Vas for U.S. Congress in 2006, as well as evading taxes.

John Fernandez

The Democratic Party campaign worker from Belleville was convicted of committing absentee ballot fraud on behalf of the 2007 election of state Sen. Teresa Ruiz. The jury found Fernandez guilty of charges of conspiracy (2nd degree), election fraud (2nd degree), absentee ballot fraud (3rd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), and forgery (4th degree).

Winners and Losers: Week of The Debates