Morning Digest: Oct. 21, 2013

Red Bank councilman married same-sex partner

At the stroke of midnight Fanwood Mayor Collen Mahr made the following statement:


“As a New Jersey Mayor who supports equality for everyone I was honored be a witness to history by performing the marriage of her good friends Red Bank Councilman Ed Zipprich and JP Nicolaides and Red Bank residents Laura Vitucci and Marlee Naporano,” said Mayor Mahr.” “October 21, 2013 will forever be known as a historic day regarding civil rights in the State of New Jersey.” (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)







Buono “energized” by Booker support in Jeresy City; U.S. Senator-elect backs Gordon in Bergen

JERSEY CITY – State Sen. Barbara Buono (D – Middlesex) came to the Brightside Tavern on Sunday down in the polls and down one newspaper endorsement – the Star-Ledger backed Governor Christie, noting numerous Democratic defections from their party’s standard bearer in the 2013 gubernatorial election. But on a day of perfect campaign weather, New Jersey’s highest wattage Democrat, Newark Mayor and U.S. Senator-elect Cory Booker, came to boost Buono 16 days before the vote, with Buono hoping that his unique brand of political pixie dust rubs off just in time. 

“We cannot let the party of tea undermine the nation of we,” said Booker, four days away from his victory over Tea Party favorite Steve Lonegan in the contest to fill the late Frank Lautenberg’s Senate seat. “We cannot let the right wing take us the wrong way.” (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)







Buono picks up endorsement from N.J. Dominican American group in North Jersey stops

PATERSON — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono picked up an endorsement of a statewide Dominican American political group as well as a new nickname — “the little rooster” — during a campaign stop in Paterson on Sunday.

It was one of several stops that Buono made in North Jersey over the weekend in her bid to unseat Governor Christie, who has held a considerable lead in the polls and in campaign fundraising. Buono started her day at the Hamilton and Ward Steakhouse in Paterson Sunday, swinging by Bayonne and Jersey City before arriving in Fair Lawn Sunday afternoon.

Christie had no public events scheduled for Saturday or Sunday. Christie, who has raised speculation of a 2016 presidential run, has led recent polls by more than 20 points and has received dozens of endorsements from Democrats across the state.

Manuel Segura, the chairman of the Dominican-American Elected and Appointed Officials Caucus of New Jersey, gave Buono the nickname after watching her spirited debate with Christie on television. He urged Latinos throughout the state to canvass their neighborhoods to support Buono’s bid for governor.

“Grass roots have been always the force of people like us,” he said. “It’s about you and I, all of us, saying to the state that we have a little fighting rooster. And that she can do it, she can deliver for us.” (Baker/The Record)     







Gay couples celebrate first marriages in New Jersey

Newark Mayor and U.S. Sen.-elect Cory Booker ushered in a post-midnight wave of New Jersey’s first-ever same-sex marriages, officiating over his first weddings of any kind after holding out for gay people to gain the right to wed.

Booker, fresh off his victory in Wednesday’s special Senate election, married Jenelle and Lydia Torres and eight other couples, both gay and straight. The couples began to say “I do” under the dome of Newark City Hall at a minute past midnight.

A state Supreme Court ruling Friday denied Governor Christie’s attempt to delay gay marriage while the decision is under appeal, setting the stage for the unprecedented nuptials throughout the state. (Diduch and Ensslin/The Record) 






NJ Faces Hefty Price Tag for Rail Tunnel, Transportation Projects

Governor, Legislature need plan to fund Gateway Tunnel, Transportation Trust Fund by 2015

This is the first in a series of articles laying out the critical policy challenges that the next governor and Legislature will face, as well as their positions on these issues.

Two years from now, New Jersey’s governor and Legislature will not only have to come up with an $8 billion plan to fund the Transportation Trust Fund for another five years, but also $3 billion or more if they want New Jersey Transit trains to be able to use Amtrak’s Gateway Tunnel into New York’s Penn Station.

These are two of the most difficult fiscal challenges that the winner of the November 5 gubernatorial election will face, and Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his challenger, Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), staked out opposing positions on the importance of a new rail tunnel long before the campaign began. (Magyar/NJSpotlight) 







NJEA Super PAC Spending on Buono, Dems Helps Triple Totals from Past Elections


With its latest media buy, NJEA has shelled out over $6M on top-of-the-ticket, legislative races

Its gubernatorial candidate may be on the ropes, but the New Jersey Education Association is not holding back in the upcoming New Jersey election and is already spending triple its previous totals in campaign efforts.

The union’s new super PAC, Garden State Forward, has spent or distributed more than $5 million for the governor and legislative races, according to the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission. (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 






Despite Dire Predictions, DEP Holds Line on Environmental Waivers

Department grants no new waivers, even though new rule gives it broader powers to do just that

In the 14 months since a much-contested rule took effect, not a single request to waive environmental regulations under certain, limited circumstances has been granted by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The regulation, adopted over bitter protests from environmental organizations and Democratic lawmakers, went into effect August 2012. But apparently it has had no discernible impact on how New Jersey’s tough environmental regulations are enforced, as critics had warned.

Despite scores of applications from developers and others to waive rules governing land use, site remediation, and water supply and quality, none have been approved by the agency. The DEP has denied seven requests and rejected another 16 as incomplete; four have been withdrawn; another 15 are still under review, according to information on the department’s website. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 






Republicans making ‘Obamacare’ their next target

WASHINGTON — “Obamacare” escaped unharmed from the government shutdown Republicans hoped would stop it, but just as quickly they have opened a new line of attack on President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement — one handed to them by the administration itself.

While Congress was arguing, President Barack Obama’s plan to expand coverage for the uninsured suffered a self-inflicted wound. A computer system seemingly designed by gremlins gummed up the first open enrollment season. After nearly three weeks, it’s still not fixed.

Republicans hope to ride that and other defects they see in the law into the 2014 congressional elections. Four Democratic senators are facing re-election for the first time since they voted for the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare,” and their defeat is critical to Republican aspirations for a Senate majority. (Associated Press) 







The Mendez-Booker Compendium: How two very different personalities will mesh


At a Bergen County Democratic Committee fundraiser last night in Edgewater, with the skyline of New York City aglow on the other side of the river, two men went to the head of the room as human center pieces of the party’s new county – and state – wide look.

They didn’t go up to share the stage together. In fact, they had different arrival times, as is the custom when a U.S. Senator, and, in this case, a U.S. Senator-elect, are on the card.

But they both planted their feet in what for them is this comfortable, well-worn county, the bellwether of New Jersey’s strident political culture.

People in that room last night listened to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and listened to U.S. Senator-elect Cory Booker, and quietly considered these two politicians who now occupy that same irregular and tormented platform stretching exactly the distance from Cape May to High Point.

Inevitably, insiders alert to palace intrigue in a place like Bergen mentioned the late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and U.S. Senator Bob Torricelli, who infamously couldn’t stand each other.

One the cold fish behind a bullet proof vest, the other the TV star with a winning smile and golden throat, Booker and Menendez are undeniably different, with contrasting public temperaments and personas. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)







Fight of the Week: Christie versus the Libertarian wing of the GOP

The combative Republican governor of New Jersey stood on a stage earlier this year and told the U.S. Senator from Kentucky that the reason Republicans lose elections is because of Tea Party Libertarian extremists like Paul.

A conflagration ensued, and experts looking at the 2016 presidential contest identified Christie and Paul as the leading contenders for Republican Party Primary love.

In that kind of environment, every election becomes a testing ground. (PolitickerNJ Staff/PolitickerNJ)







Many North Jersey seniors must shop for new Medicare plans


About 80,000 seniors in New Jersey enrolled in HMO-like alternatives to traditional Medicare plans need to shop for new coverage because their plans are being terminated due to changes spurred by the nation’s new health care law.

Medicare Advantage plans are being discontinued and replaced by other coverage as private insurance companies respond to funding cuts to the Medicare Advantage program. Those cuts were implemented along with the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

More than 5,000 residents in Passaic County and 6,400 in Bergen are being notified that their plans will terminate at the end of the year, insurance officials said. (Diskin/The Record)







Former lawmaker Paul Contillo named to fill interim Assembly seat

Democrats reached back into their past Sunday to tap veteran Bergen County legislator Paul J. Contillo to serve as caretaker of the state Assembly seat vacated three weeks ago by Connie Wagner.


Contillo, an 84-year-old Paramus Democrat who last served in the state legislature 22 years ago, was the unanimous choice of Democratic committee members from Legislative District 38 during a brief convention at a party campaign headquarters in Fair Lawn.


He will fill the seat through the end of the year when the candidate chosen by the voters on Nov. 5 will take over. The seat has been vacant since Oct. 1 when Wagner resigned to spend more time with her family in Florida.    







Pioneering gay couple among the first to wed in New Jersey


They’ve been together 27 years, since Asaro asked Schailey out for a movie and Chinese food. In 2007, they became the first New Jersey couple to be joined in a civil union. When neighboring New York legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, they formally wed there. But that wasn’t New Jersey, which they’ve called home for 16 years.

This time, “it really means everything,” Asaro, of Lambertville, told The Times as she prepared for her post-midnight nuptials. “What’s really going through our mind is to not faint. It’s so huge.”

After the clock strikes midnight, city halls will begin performing marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. New Jersey became the 14th state to recognize same-sex marriage after the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s order calling for marriages to begin Oct. 21. The court cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. (Hamilton/Los Angeles Times),0,1216427.story 





September revenues: 10% ahead of last year, 1.5% off FY14 budget

TRENTON – Total tax revenues for September, compared to September last year, are up 10.1 percent, according to state revenue figures released this afternoon.

Total revenues for September compared to the FY 2014 budget are 1.5 percent behind projections, the state reported.

For the comparison of the two Septembers the state took in $2.51 billion this year compared to $2.28 billion last year.

The income tax revenues for September were $1.17 billion compared to $1.02 billion in September 2012, an increase of 14.7 percent.

Income tax collections for the first three months of the fiscal year totaled $1.94 billion, up 7.7 percent over the same period in the prior year, the state reported.  (Mooney/State Street Wire)





Baraka and Buono join forces in Newark’s West Ward

In front of a packed house flanked by West Ward staple Senator Ron Rice Sr (D-28), Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-28), and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Barbara Buono, Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka today opened his West Ward campaign headquarters. (PolitickerNJ Staff/PolitickerNJ)










 From the Back Room



The Star-Ledger backs Christie for Governor

Calling him the country’s most remarkable political talent since Bill Clinton, the Star-Ledger today endorsed the re-election of Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

“If you haven’t witnessed his performance at a town hall meeting yet, make a point of it. You will come away convinced there is a sensible middle ground in America after all,” the editorial reads. “Equally impressive is his skill at playing Trenton’s inside game. Faced with Democrats in solid control of the Legislature, he’s managed to split them down the middle by seducing a handful of pliant party bosses whose self-interest compelled them to hitch their wagons to his.” (PolitickerNJ Staff/PolitickerNJ)









Congratulations, Mayor Mahr


The Union County Emerald Society has named Mayor Colleen Mahr of Fanwood the 2013 Irishwoman of the Year.

The vice chair of the Union County Democratic Party, Mahr cut her teeth on Hudson politics in the McCann administration and is now in her tenth year as mayor of Fanwood. (PolitickerNJ Staff/PolitickerNJ)









Americans for Prosperity Strikes in Dem Legislative Districts


Americans for Prosperity this week launched a new “Jobs First” TV and radio ad blitz focused on dislodging Democratic incumbents in LD 1, 2, 3, 7, 14, 18, and 38.

According to AFP, the “Jobs First” ads package Democrats as the problem in those key districts where Republican Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-21) and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) want to pick up seats. (PolitickerNJ Staff/PolitickerNJ)












Wedding bells for gay couples finally sound


SOME TIME today, in Newark, Jersey City, Asbury Park or perhaps in all three cities, same-sex couples will wed. If wedding bells are chiming, bells are ringing in Governor Christie‘s ears. One man cannot stop justice.

On Friday, the state Supreme Court refused to grant a stay sought by the Christie administration, preventing same-sex couples from marrying starting today. The high court refused to block a lower-court ruling that in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, New Jersey’s same-sex couples were being denied equal rights.

The DOMA decision applies to legally married couples, and in New Jersey, same-sex couples may enter into civil unions but not marriages. In 2006, when the state Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples must have the same rights and benefits as opposite couples, the ruling was 7-0.

On Friday, the high court issued another 7-0 ruling. The current court may not have seven justices nominated by Christie on the bench, but it has one: Anne Patterson. And even she did not agree with Christie’s position. The court’s refusal to grant the stay is significant. But the unanimous refusal to grant a stay on an issue the court has announced it will hear in January is monumental. (Doblin/The Record)   Morning Digest: Oct. 21, 2013