Morning Digest: Nov. 11, 2013

LD38 Assembly Race Breakdown: A Tie is Born

PARAMUS – New Jersey politicians on both sides of the aisle routinely complain every ten years when the state’s legislative districts are redrawn. Both parties declare that one party or the other has gained an unfair advantage when municipalities move around on the new maps. But many of those who watch Garden State political life cynically claim that these districts are gerrymandered in a way to ensure partisan stasis, boring elections and results almost frozen in amber.  

But this year, in one legislative district, the resin cracked.  

In LD 38, a truly competitive race produced a near statistical tie. According to machine votes and absentee ballots provided by Bergen and Passaic county election officials, the top vote-getter, Democrat Joseph Lagana, is separated by 340 votes from the last candidate, Republican Joan Fragala. Only 59 votes separate Republican Joseph Scarpa, in second place, from Democratic incumbent Assemblyman Tim Eustace, in third place. The current vote totals include machine counts and absentee ballots; a total of approximately 500 provisional ballots are scheduled to be counted on Tuesday in Bergen and on Wednesday in Passaic. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)





12 people to watch out for to succeed Christie

Not to jump the gun too early, but let’s take a look at a dozen people who could be in a good position to succeed Gov. Chris Christie as the incumbent looks to take a second term in office.

Here’s PolitickerNJ’s list: (PolitickerNJ)





Kean Survives Ouster Vote Despite Christie Arm-Twisting

Senate minority leader targeted for trying to defeat Christie-crats in South Jersey

Only in Chris Christie’s New Jersey would a Republican Senate minority leader face ouster for trying to elect enough Republican senators to take control of the Senate back from the Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-Union) kept his leadership post by a 10-6 vote yesterday, despite arm-twisting by Christie on behalf of Sen. Kevin O’Toole (R-Essex) and against Kean at the behest of Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who was angry that Kean tried to engineer his defeat.

It was a rare defeat for the “Uni-Government,” as The Record’s columnist Charlie Stile dubbed the bipartisan alliance of Christie, Sweeney, South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross, and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo that has run New Jersey for the past four years. Rarer still, it marked the first time that Republican legislators have stood up to Christie. (Magyar/NJSpotlight) 





Legislative Package Offers Help to Property Owners Still Recovering from Sandy

Bills range from safeguards against unqualified contractors to help with mold removal

After months of hearings on how to deal with problems posed by Hurricane Sandy, lawmakers yesterday advanced a package of bills designed to help homeowners and others cope with rebuilding efforts.

The Senate Environment and Energy Committee approved bills ranging from a measure (S-2976) to help safeguard homeowners who want to elevate their homes from contractors not qualified to do the job, to legislation (S-2081) aimed at making sure mold hazards are removed safely — based on the best industrial standards and federal environmental regulations – from residential structures. 







2016 elections: How Chris Christie stacks up to Rudy Giuliani

Talk to early presidential state or Washington operatives and you hear the same thing over and over about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential prospects: He’s the second coming of Rudy Giuliani.

National Democrats have given the idea new life the past week, looking to ding Christie after allowing him to coast to reelection untouched. But the comparison is hardly new: Republicans have invoked it for years, and not in a favorable way – intimating Christie is too provincial and, like the former New York mayor, will prove too liberal to win his party’s presidential nomination. Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has made the analogy privately in conversations. 

It’s become a proxy for the debate among Republicans about whether Christie will have staying power in Republican primaries dominated by social conservatives and tea party activists.

The comparison rankles Christie supporters, but there is some truth to it. Both are tough-talking ex-prosecutors from the tri-state area. Christie is being cast as the moderate in a potential 2016 primary, just as Giuliani was before he bowed out of the 2008 running. And they’re allies: the only person Christie asked to stump for him in both his gubernatorial campaigns was Giuliani. (Haberman/Politico)




Iraq, Afghanistan change the face of Veterans Day

Veterans Day in America is traditionally a time to look back, but the new generation of veterans wants to remind people the country also must look forward.

As they return home after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, younger veterans argue the holiday can’t just be about wreaths on gravestones at national cemeteries, parades or celebrations in the basement at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post. They say Veterans Day must be not only about aged veterans in wheelchairs but about men and women in their 20s and 30s, some of whom returned from combat marked by deep wounds — many of which are invisible. (Summers/Politico)




Typhoon deaths climb into thousands in Philippines

TACLOBAN, Philippines — Corpses hung from trees, were scattered on sidewalks or buried in flattened buildings — some of the thousands believed killed in one Philippine city alone by ferocious Typhoon Haiyan that washed away homes and buildings with powerful winds and giant waves.

As the scale of devastation became clear Sunday from one of the worst storms ever recorded, officials said emergency crews could find more bodies when they reach parts of the archipelago cut off by flooding and landslides. Desperate residents raided grocery stores and gas stations in search of food, fuel and water as the government began relief efforts and international aid operations got under way.

Even in a nation regularly beset by earthquakes, volcanoes and tropical storms, Typhoon Haiyan appears to be the deadliest natural disaster on record. Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday and quickly barreled across its central islands, packing winds of 147 mph that gusted to 170 mph, and a storm surge of 20 feet.

Its sustained winds weakened to 74 mph as the typhoon made landfall in northern Vietnam early today after crossing the South China Sea, according to the Hong Kong meteorological observatory. Authorities there evacuated hundreds of thousands of people.  (Gomez/Associated Press)   




N.J. Politics Roundup: Christie-in-2016 speculations rises; Time defends cover

TRENTON — Speculation over whether Gov. Chris Christie will run for president in 2016 continued to rise in the days after his landslide re-election victory.

The Republican governor tip-toed around questions — and discussed immigration, Obamacare, and more — while making the rounds on the morning political talk shows Sunday.

But several online bookmakers show Christie is the odds-on favorite to win the next Republican presidential nomination.

Meanwhile, Christie’s big win has already renewed questions about his record as critics place a target on his back.

And The Star-Ledger editorial board writes that the governor’s presidential strategy seems to be running as the “grown-up” compared to Washington lawmakers 




‘We’re going to fix it’: N.J’s top Democrat blsts private special-needs school spending

TRENTON — State Senate President Stephen Sweeney wants to control the spending of taxpayer dollars by New Jersey’s private schools for students with disabilities and said he will pursue changes to ensure as much money as possible goes toward education.

With his pledge, Sweeney, the state’s top Democrat, joined a growing chorus of lawmakers calling for reform in response to a Star-Ledger investigation that found nepotism, high executive salaries, generous pensions, fancy cars and questionable business deals are common in some of the nearly 180 private schools for the disabled.

These schools are privately run but they are supported by public money. At the same time, they are not subject to the same oversight given public schools.

“As a father of a child with a disability, my motivation and passion is to improve special education,” Sweeney said in an interview Thursday. “This puts a really bad mark on it, so we’re going to fix it in a way so we’re not going to have to read stories about this again.” (Baxter/Star-Ledger) 





Booker goes to Washington a celebrity and senator

WASHINGTON — When the U.S. Senate passed a bill to ban job discrimination against gay and transgender people, its newest member’s first impulse was to yell with joy. Then he remembered where he was.

Instead, Cory Booker reached into his pocket for his phone.

“I got it all out via Twitter,” said Booker, who has 1.4 million followers.

Booker, the 44-year-old Democratic former mayor of Newark, N.J., came into Congress as a rare freshman senator with celebrity status. He has been dubbed a rock star mayor by Oprah Winfrey, been called a hero for pulling a neighbor out of her burning home in 2012 and hobnobbed with Matt Damon.  (Zezima/Associated Press) 




Christie: GOP should ‘show up’ for minority votes

WASHINGTON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says his Republican Party needs to “show up” in places that aren’t traditional GOP strongholds such as Hispanic and black communities if it wants to expand its reach.

Christie was appearing on four Sunday news shows as speculation runs high about whether he will run for president in 2016.

He won re-election Tuesday by a 22-percentage point win and better-than-average showings among minorities.

Some in the GOP are looking to his strategy as one that could give Republicans their first presidential victory since the 2004 election.

Exit polls say Christie won 50 percent of Hispanic votes and 21 percent of black votes.

Christie tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Republicans should explain to minority neighborhoods why GOP policies are better. (Associated Press) 









Health law’s troubles give GOP a much-needed boost

WASHINGTON — The health care law’s seemingly endless problems are giving congressional Republicans a much-needed boost of energy, helping them to move past the government-shutdown debacle and focus on a theme for next year’s elections.

Republicans are back on offense, and more quickly than many had expected, after seeing their approval ratings plunge during last month’s partial shutdown and worrisome talk of a possible U.S. debt default.  (Associated Press) 




Steve Sweeney: Nobody Could Have Beaten Chris Christie

Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s landslide victory over Democratic State Sen. Barbara Buono didn’t surprise many people, but this might – State Sen. President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat, admitted Christie was pretty much invincible.

 “I didn’t think anybody could beat Chris Christie,” conceded Sweeney in a one-on-one interview in his Statehouse office. “He did a good job during the storm (Superstorm Sandy). People saw him willing not to let partisan politics get in the way of embracing the president to ensure that his state got the resources that they needed.”

According to Sweeney, Buono ran the best possible campaign under the circumstances, but she ran into a buzz saw in the popular Christie who saw his poll numbers skyrocket after Sandy. (McArdle/NJ101.5) 





 From the Back Room



PolitickerNJ on Reporters Roundtable  

PolitickerNJ’s Matthew Arco sat down with NJTV’s Michael Aron and three other Jersey Statehouse Press Corps reporters for a special on-the-road taping of Reporters Roundtable.

The weekly Statehouse news program was taped in front of a live audience as the panel discussed the outcome of the recent election as well as leadership jockeying within the Senate GOP caucus.

Reporters Roundtable with Michael Aron airs Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9 a.m. (PolitickerNJ)






Menendez brings in Sandberg to serve as Press Secretary


U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today announced the appointment of Steven Sandberg as his Press Secretary. Sandberg comes from all-news radio station 1010 WINS-AM in New York City, where he has spent the past nine years as a general assignment reporter, primarily covering New Jersey.

“In the nearly 15 years that I have known Steve, he has always exemplified the highest level of integrity,” said Menendez. “He is well-respected and regarded throughout New Jersey and the region as a consummate professional. He brings his strong Garden State roots and extensive experience to his new role. I am thrilled to welcome Steve and am confident that he will be an asset to both me and my office.”

“It is an honor and a privilege to work with Senator Menendez, for whom I have the utmost respect,” said Sandberg.  “Senator Menendez has always fought hard for the people of New Jersey. I am excited to join his team.” (PolitickerNJ)







Bob Gordon: Beaten by Rothman, now going where Rothman wouldn’t?


It was 1996 when the mayor of Fair Lawn ran off the line against the organization-backed mayor of Englewood for the 9th District Congressional seat in the Democratic Primary. He got run over in that election and left for politically dead.

Now Bob Gordon, who later revived his career in the Assembly and then moved up to become the 38th District’s dominant fixture, is again mulling a run for Congress.

This time. he’s looking at doing something his onetime conqueror, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), wouldn’t do: run against incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5), New Jersey’s most conservative congressman.

Gordon and Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato are looking at the possibility of a Gordon candidacy next year.

The 38th District’s favorite “obstructionist” just weathered a hard election, winning by 2,000 votes on Tuesday night, and is not ready to make a final decision about Garrett, but sources in Bergen say he’s studying the situation closely. (PolitickerNJ)











Renew New Jersey’s push for open space


New Jersey is, unquestionably, the most crowded state. Over and over, we’ve shown that we’ll spend money to save those open spaces that remain — whether they’re parks, farms or just empty acres we’d rather not see bulldozed for strip malls.

In 2009, voters let the state borrow $400 million to buy more of these areas. But that’s the last big check we wrote — and we’ve spent every penny.

When it comes to open space, New Jersey’s flat broke. (Star-Ledger Editorial Board)  

Morning Digest: Nov. 11, 2013