Morning Digest: Nov. 1, 2013

Highlands mayoral race combines post-Sandy recovery with pure politics HIGHLANDS – Both of the main mayoral candidates in this 5,000-person

Highlands mayoral race combines post-Sandy recovery with pure politics

HIGHLANDS – Both of the main mayoral candidates in this 5,000-person Monmouth County borough were front and center when Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Bayshore a year ago. Republican incumbent Frank Nolan and his challenger, Democratic Council President Rebecca Kane, roamed up and down Bay Avenue, trying to restore their destroyed piece of the shore in their capacities as mayor and fire department member, respectively.  (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)







The Swearing-in of NJ Senator Cory Booker

Vice President Joe Biden moments ago at the United States Capitol swore Cory Booker into office as the junior senator from New Jersey.

Booker earlier this month defeated Steve Lonegan for a vacant seat created by the death of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg. (Pizarro/PoltickerNJ)








Bob Menendez: U.S. lacks Syria strategy

The Obama administration’s approach to the crisis in Syria received a strong rebuke from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, who charged that there was no “coherent strategy” to deal with the country’s problems.


“Today’s hearing left me bewildered that this government does not have a strategy as to Syria,” Menendez (D-N.J.) told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday. “It seems that we’re having meetings about how we get to meetings in Geneva, while Syria is becoming the Somalia of the Middle East and attracting an all-star cast of violent extremists.”


Menendez made his comments following a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing on the situation in Syria Thursday.


“It’s beyond my imagination that at this stage we don’t have a comprehensive plan to try to get Syria into a different track,” he told Tapper.


Menendez indicated that he would convey his concerns to Secretary of State John Kerry during a scheduled meeting on Iran. (DelReal/Politico)






Obamacare marketing push on hold

Team Obamacare is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars of essentially frozen assets — yet another consequence of the failed launch of


There’s no point in an ad blitz directing people to sign up on a website that doesn’t work. And while advocacy groups say they had always planned to spend more money on the back end to boost enrollment in lagging states at the end of this year and early next year, they didn’t count on the opening month fizzle. (Palmer and Allen/Politico)











Teachers Union Spends Big on Buono Campaign, Tight Legislative Contests


Latest finance reports puts NJEA total above $13M, almost as much as Christie campaign has shelled out

The New Jersey Education Association’s political juggernaut keeps on rolling.

With the latest campaign finance reports in, the teachers union has now topped $13 million in spending on the state elections next Tuesday, easily beating all other special-interest spending and almost matching Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign itself, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.

The bulk of the money is out of its super PAC, Garden State Forward, which has been active for not only Democratic challenger Barbara Buono, with two television ads on her behalf so far, but also focused on helping Democratic candidates in a handful of legislative races that are considered tight. (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 




Coalition Moves to Block PSE&G Proposal to Harden Power Grid

Disagreements over how much Energy Strong program will increase consumer gas and electric bills 


The state should reject out-of-hand a nearly $4 billion proposal by Public Service Electric & Gas to harden its electric and gas infrastructure, according to a coalition of consumer groups, manufacturers, and environmentalists.

In a teleconference with reporters, the New Jersey Coalition for Affordable Power ramped up the rhetoric in what is an increasingly bitter fight between the utility and interveners and others involved in a case pending before the state Board of Public Utilities. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 






Christie change on tuition equality may help NJ’s undocumented students

A bill that would allow some students who are in the country illegally to pay in-state tuition rates at New Jersey’s public colleges and universities could become law by the end of the year now that Governor Christie has dropped his opposition to the measure, lawmakers say.

The move could mean a reduction in tuition rates for hundreds — if not thousands — of undocumented students, many of whom have lived in New Jersey since they were children and now pay the out-of-state rate, which is about double the cost.

Christie signaled support for the so-called tuition equality act during an appearance before a Latino group and in a campaign debate last month with his Democratic opponent Barbara Buono, a longtime supporter of the measure. (Alex/The Record)










NJ finance panel Oks bond plan for American Dream Meadowlands


The plan to issue $748 million in public bonds for the American Dream Meadowlands project received a key sign-off from state officials Thursday, and another state panel is expected to follow suit Friday.

The state Local Finance Board gave a “favorable” review to part of the plan that would raise an estimated $494 million from bonds backed by property-tax breaks granted by East Rutherford to Triple Five, the prospective developer of the latest incarnation of the project once known as Xanadu.

Triple Five is scheduled to go before the state Economic Development Authority at a special meeting today for the other $254 million segment of what would be a two-piece bond issue offered to institutional investors in the first or second quarter of next year.

Triple Five says it will also raise more than $1 billion from private sources to complete its vision for the long-dormant entertainment and retail project, which will add indoor water and amusement parks to the existing structures that for four years have sat dormant at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. (Brennan/The Record)    







Christie Political “Landmines” Kept Him Off Romney’s VP List According to New Book

Excerpts in the New York Times and the political website Politico from the upcoming book Double Down: Game Change 2012  claim that President Obama was very angry at Cory Booker following a Meet The Press appearance in which he claimed to be “nauseated” by negative political ads and there was a plan to replace Joseph Biden on the Democrat ticket with Hillary Clinton.

Authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann say that Romney’s vetting team had five unanswered questions about New Jersey’s governor relating to names and documentation of his household help, his medical history,  a defamation lawsuit from early in his political career, a Securities and Exchange Commission settlement involving Christie’s brother Todd and about his time before becoming Attorney General working as a Trenton lobbyist for a securities industry. (Alexander/NJ101.5) 







Louisiana consultants ease Seaside Heights’ Sandy recovery


SEASIDE HEIGHTS — When Michelle Beauregard first arrived in the borough, the sights and smells of destruction were abruptly familiar.

Eight years ago, she lived in the center of her own disaster after Hurricane Katrina pounded New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

But if there’s a silver lining in living through a disaster, it’s having the knowledge to help others when disaster inevitably strikes. That’s why the Landmark Consulting compliance manager has spent 2013 helping Seaside Heights recover from its own disaster, superstorm Sandy.

“A lot of things are similar —flood damage, mold remediation, instability when it comes to structures, loss of business, ‘Do I rebuild?’ ‘I’m 70 years old, do I want to do this again?’ ‘Do I leave?’ A lot of the same things we saw at home, a lot of the same struggles we saw at home… We get it. It’s a hard, hard process on folks,” Beauregard said.

Beauregard, a 43-year-old who lives in New Orleans and Bay St. Louis, Miss., is one of a team from the New Orleans-based Landmark Consulting that is helping Seaside Heights in its recovery after superstorm Sandy. (Funderbunk/Asbury Park Press) 






The battle over a buck

TRENTON — The governor’s race is looking lopsided and the legislative map has rendered most Senate and Assembly contests uncompetitive, so where are the fireworks in New Jersey’s November election?

Look no further than the $2 million-plus battle over a plan to raise the minimum wage in the Garden State.

Democrats put Public Question 2 on the ballot to achieve through a referendum what they were blocked from doing in the Statehouse by Gov. Chris Christie — increasing the minimum wage by $1 an hour, starting in January, then requiring annual increases to keep pace with inflation.

The proposal has resulted in an avalanche of special-interest spending, amplifying a long-running debate: Does a mandated wage hike help low-wage employees and spur economic activity or does it hurt business owners, taxpayers and even those workers it purports to benefit?

“More than 400,000 New Jerseyans will be affected by a minimum wage increase. These are the people that pump our gas and bag our groceries and take care of our elderly parents,” said Paul Penna, the Raise the Wage campaign manager for the union-backed Working Families United for New Jersey. “Having not only a minimum wage increase, the first substantial one in New Jersey since 2007, it also provides stability so that when the cost of goods and services go up, the cost of the base wage in New Jersey will keep pace.” (Symons/Asbury Park Press) 




Chris Christie, Barbara Buono hit campaign trail 5 days before Election Day


Michelle Franz doesn’t know what to do.

TRENTON — While Gov. Chris Christie’s custom campaign bus rumbled across South Jersey, Democratic challenger Barbara Buono on Thursday conceded she’s a longshot — and said her campaign was hurt by the governor’s decision to hold a special U.S. Senate election two weeks ago.

One poll released today shows Buono gaining ground on Christie, but hardly enough to turn the race in her favor: She’s still 19 points behind. Christie leads Buono 59 to 40 percent in the Fairleigh Dicknson University PublicMind poll. That’s down from a 33 percentage point lead for Christie in early October.  (Hutchins and Portnoy/Star-Ledger)  





Poll shows Christie leading Buono by 19 points

TRENTON — A new poll has some good news for state Sen. Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor: She’s getting closer to Gov. Chris Christie.

The bad news: She’s still 19 points behind.

The Fairleigh Dicknson University PublicMind poll of 570 likely voters shows Christie leading Buono 59 percent to 40 percent. That’s down from a 33 percent lead for Christie early October, when he led 58 percent to 25 percent. (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 









Fed officials remind N.J. voters of election hotline


NEWARK — U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman is reminding New Jersey voters to use an Election Day hotline if they suspect voter fraud.

The U.S. attorney’s office says it is prepared to respond to reports of election irregularities, voter intimidation or any other activities that interfere with a citizen’s right to vote.

The Election Day hotline number is 1-855-291-6791. It will be active from Nov. 3 through Nov. 7. It will be staffed live on Election Day.

Fishman says The Department of Justice and federal law enforcement partners will work with county boards of election and the New Jersey attorney general’s office to respond to complaints and direct them to the appropriate authorities. (Associated Press/Courier-Post) 












 From the Back Room



Giuliani to campaign with Christie tomorrow  

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will campaign in Bergen County tomorrow with incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Both former prosecutors by trade, Giuliani and Christie are friends and longstanding political allies. (PolitickerNJ)





New Buono web ad targets minimum wage question


The Buono for Governor campaign today unveiled a new web video to highlight the importance of raising the minimum wage. 

“Melissa – Life Under Minimum Wage” tells the story of Melissa, a single mother living in Newark, who works two part-time jobs, six or seven days a week, to support her daughter. (PolitickerNJ)










The waters are calm for Christie in 2013


CAMPAIGN 2013 will go down as the election without big ideas. Governor Christie offers personality, energy and confidence, but he has mainly been selling himself this time around. There is nothing wrong with that if you are in a seller’s market. Right now, brand Christie is more popular than Apple.

And it doesn’t hurt when your competition is akin to Nintendo. State Sen. Barbara Buono should have taken a page from Bill de Blasio’s playbook. Democrat de Blasio is poised to walk all over Republican Joe Lhota in Tuesday’s election for mayor of New York City. Yet early this summer, de Blasio was running fourth in a crowded race until, remarkably, he sprouted up like his son Dante’s bountiful hair.

De Blasio tapped into a growing discontent with all things Bloomberg. Some of the discontent was merited; Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New York is a divided place – not just rich versus poor, but Manhattan versus four other boroughs.

Buono didn’t tap in; she tapped out. She has the disadvantage of running against a popular incumbent and against her party’s leaders. State Democratic bosses are more than content with Republican Christie. A few Democrats have held on to some degree of public modesty and given tacit support to Buono. But when you see Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo all but twerk like Miley Cyrus in a Chris Christie parade in Newark’s Ironbound, there is little doubt Democratic powerbrokers never wanted a real challenger to Christie. (Doblin/The Record) Morning Digest: Nov. 1, 2013