Morning Digest: Oct. 31, 2013

Inverso and company await the governor’s arrival in JoJo’s

HAMILTON – If someone else stepped into a packed JoJo’s Tavern an elbow was going to go throw a window where Republicans on Wednesday night waited for the star of their party to land in this battleground district.

Someone asked about the World Series and the response – paying too much attention to politics, no time for sports – nearly started a bar brawl.

Former state Sen. Pete Inverso and his Assembly running mate Steve Cook were right in the middle of it. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)







Christie lands in LD18 at the crossroads of Middlesex politics

WOODBRIDGE – Gov. Chris Christie courted the Indian American community on a swing through Middlesex County this afternoon, while attempting to show up his rival state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18) in her home district and reinforce his money gift to the Republican state Senate campaign of East Brunswick Mayor Dave Stahl.

“Even more than money, it’s the message,” said state Sen. Sam Thompson (R-12), chairman of the Middlesex County GOP.  “I need his help putting that message out there. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)







Kim Guadagno: The Unknown Lieutenant Governor

Guadagno gives reporters the silent treatment, refusing to take their questions at public events

For a woman who’s only a heartbeat, or a presidential campaign, away from the governorship of New Jersey, not much is known about Kim Guadagno.

For the past four years, the lieutenant governor has cultivated an image as a staunch adjutant to Gov. Chris Christie, appearing dutifully — but silently — at his side at press conferences but leaving voters without much of a clue as to who she is or what she does. (Hurdle/NJSpotlight) 





Pro-School Reform Group Noticeably Quiet in 2013 Election Campaign

Organization seen as counter-balance to NJEA has spent no cash on candidates, ads


Founded and funded by two hedge-fund giants, the Better Education for Kids (B4K) organization and all its offshoots appeared at their creation to be a pro-reform counterweight to the New Jersey Education Association.

But while the NJEA is going all-out with multi-million-dollar campaign contributions and election ads this fall, B4K’s political arm has so far mostly stayed out of the 2013 gubernatorial and legislative elections, despite some big school-reform issues on the table and a reform favorite on the ballot in Gov. Chris Christie.

Better Education for New Jersey Kids Inc., the organization’s PAC, has yet to report any spending at all leading up to the Nov. 5 election, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 










Colleagues give U.S. Sen. Jeffrey Chiesa a warm farewell


WASHINGTON — New Jersey’s outgoing interim U.S. Senator has gotten a warm send-off from his colleagues.

Jeffrey Chiesa was bid a fond farewell by his colleagues this afternoon.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to praise his fellow Republican. He said that while Chiesa’s tenure has been short, it’s also been eventful — noting that he was present for the government shutdown in October. (Associated Press) 








Christie wins th ad wars with 16 TV spots, compared with Buono’s 2

TRENTON — These days you can catch Gov. Chris Christie talking up Chris Christie on hundreds of television channels, but you could be surfing for hours before chancing upon his Democratic gubernatorial challenger, Barbara Buono.

That’s because Christie — awash with campaign funds — has been airing 16 TV ads this year, showing him comforting Hurricane Sandy victims or rubbing shoulders with Democrats and Republicans, in both English and Spanish — and then there’s that cameo by NBA legend and Newark native Shaquille O’Neal thrown in for good measure.

An underfunded Buono has struggled to reach viewers with her message, appearing more often in footage in Christie’s attack ads than in her own.

The Democrat has raised $2.9 million to Christie’s $12.7 million so far, which for viewers means only two TV spots during the past six months.

Their ads are like night and day. Christie’s spots are gauzy and cinematic, many of them ending with his silhouette against a boardwalk backdrop and a narrator calling him simply, “The Governor.” Just yesterday, he released an ad marking Sandy’s one-year anniversary, a black-and-white montage of the governor hugging storm victims and looking at the destruction. (Rizzo/Star-Ledger) 









Cory Booker, nations newest senator will take office today



As Newark’s mayor, Cory Booker became known for a hands-on approach to governing. He invited residents without power after superstorm Sandy to stay at his home. He responded to a neighbor’s house fire and delivered diapers to a snowed-in resident.

Booker says New Jersey voters who sent him to the U.S. Senate in a special election two weeks ago can expect more of the same. He will be sworn in to office today by Vice President Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol.

“I’m going to run around the state like I did running around the city as mayor,’’ Booker said. “People were surprised to see me roaming around in police cruisers my first year in office until midnight or 1 or 2 o’clock. I think I’ll be running around to all four corners of our state looking to serve people in very practical ways to show them I’m hard-working, very involved, and will work above and beyond the call of duty.’’ (Jordan/Asbury Park Press) 






Vets urge support of ballot raffle question

TRENTON — Veterans’ groups could keep some of the money they raise through raffles and other games to pay their own bills, rather than give all those funds to outside causes, if New Jersey voters give their approval on Tuesday’s ballot.

Public Question No. 1 wouldn’t allow groups such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion to run new games beyond the pull-tabs, bingo and lotto they do now.

But it would permit them to use some of that money for expenses such as insurance and utilities, as senior citizens’ groups have done for nearly 30 years. Currently, all those proceeds must be given to educational, charitable, patriotic, religious or public-spirited uses. (Symons/Asbury Park Press) 







New health law puts many N.J. college students in coverage limbo


The nation’s top health official struggled Wednesday to explain why policy cancellations and a crippled website have left many people — including tens of thousands of suddenly uninsured community college students in New Jersey — in a state of health insurance limbo.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius underwent heated questioning from Congress on continuing website problems.

Both she and President Obama went on the defensive against the growing outcry over cancellation notices that many insurance companies have sent to their customers. The new law outlaws many of the bare-bones-coverage policies that individuals, small businesses and colleges used to offer, and as a result many insurers have raised prices or scrapped plans altogether.

In New Jersey, college students who enrolled this fall were among the first to experience unforeseen changes in the marketplace, with many seeing their annual health insurance costs triple. At community colleges in Bergen and Passaic counties, students lost coverage altogether. (Diskin and Alex/The Record)   







NJ coalition of non-profits help entroll uninsured in new health coverage plans

A coalition of New Jersey non-profits said Wednesday that they’re making headway in helping enroll the uninsured in new health coverage plans through the Affordable Care Act — despite the problems with the federal website.

Most of the uninsured expected to sign up this year will be eligible for the state’s expanded Medicaid program, and can apply directly to the state, said Ray Castro of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a member of the NJ for Health Care Coalition. So they’ll be able to bypass the federal website that’s prevented many from signing up.

Others, who are eligible for tax subsidies available only through the federally run insurance marketplace for New Jersey, can file paper applications. (Washburn/The Record)   





Chris Christie accused of having eyes on Iowa


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of an obscure bill dealing with pig crates might not be popular in his home state.


But it sure might sound good in Iowa.


With the political world watching every move Christie makes for signs of his 2016 ambitions, even something like his rejection of a law passed by the state Legislature to ban gestation crates for pregnant pigs — which animal rights activists believe are cruel — can be interpreted as a purely political move that extends well beyond the Garden State.


Iowa is the nation’s No. 1 hog producing state while New Jersey isn’t even in the top 20 in pork. But Christie’s veto of the gestation crate bill has New Jersey critics howling about his political ambitions. (Party/Politico) 






Politicians celebrate Halloween

What could be scarier than an elected official in a Halloween costume? POLITICO looks at lawmakers, governors and presidents from the past and present who have celebrated the holiday with candy, costumes and politics. (Politico) 









NJ Lawmaker: Something Must Be Done About Our Drug Epidemic


New Jersey lawmakers are mulling legislative options that could help crack down on the state’s prescription drug abuse epidemic.

The State Senate Health Committee exhaustively discussed the issue at a recent public hearing and the statistics that are being cited are extremely alarming.

“According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control more than 40 people die each day in the United States from prescription pain relievers such as Vicodin, methadone and Oxycontin,” says Sen. Joe Vitale who chairs the committee. “That’s 1,200 people a month who die. That’s around four plane loads of passengers on jumbo jets that would crash every month. Certainly if this were about jumbo jets we would be having not just a discussion here, we’d be having a national discussion on safety and prevention.”

To deal with the growing prescription drug and heroin abuse problem in New Jersey, the committee heard from experts in the field of substance abuse and addiction about the state’s efforts to promote prevention, treatment, and recovery from opioid addiction. (McArdle/NJ101.5) 












 From the Back Room



Phil Thigpen: In Memoriam  

The following is a statement of eight Central Jersey Democratic chairs on the death of Essex County Democratic Chairman Phil Thigpen…

“We will miss his wisdom, his wit and his conscience. Those of us who had the privilege of serving with Chairman Thigpen, respected his deep understanding of what motivates the 
electorate, what communities need and deserve from their elected officials and his unwavering commitment to the party and its ideals. His voice may be silenced but his impact will live on. 
We offer our condolences to the Thigpen family knowing that they too must be proud of his service and honored to have shared this time with him.” (PolitickerNJ)





Newly established South Asian caucus supporting Buono


Sen. Barbara Buono’s gubernatorial bid has the backing of the state’s newly established South Asian American Caucus, according to state Democratic officials. (PolitickerNJ)









N.J. voters are likely to be less prepared to choose a new governor than 4 years ago


Today’s political candidates campaign in a world in which news and information travels with unprecedented speed and arrives on smart phones that we carry in our pockets.

But modern technology has not produced a more informed and educated electorate. In fact, when New Jersey voters go to the polls next Tuesday to choose a candidate for governor, they may be less prepared to make that decision than they were four years ago.


For starters, the size of newsroom staffs at news outlets covering the state has decreased through buyouts, layoffs and other cutbacks. At the same time, the growth of the internet has altered the manner in which news is gathered, reported and disseminated, placing new demands on depleted news staffs. Neither of these developments is unique to New Jersey, but our experience in the Garden State may provide a lesson for the rest of the nation. Because we are the most densely populated state in the country, public policy issues often emerge here first – and we are among the first to react and respond to them. (Lee/Times of Trenton Guest Column) 


  Morning Digest: Oct. 31, 2013