Morning Digest: Nov. 5, 2013

Christie asks voters to “send a shock wave” through New Jersey at final campaign rally

UNION CITY – Brian Stack set the stage Hudson County-style for Chris Christie’s final campaign rally in the 2013 gubernatorial race. The Democratic mayor’s workers handed out air horns Monday night to the more than 500 people jammed in front of City Hall. His police patrolled the narrow streets with machine guns, befitting the appearance of not just New Jersey’s Republican governor, but perhaps a future presidential candidate. His face was festooned on hundreds of posters emblazoned with his smiling face. And Stack’s smile stayed in place as Christie stepped up to the mic to stake his claim for four more years as governor.  (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)













Buono rallies with Union Democrats on eve of election

UNION – The state’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee’s campaign may be lagging in the polls, but in Legislative District 20, Democrats are vowing to take Sen. Barbara Buono across the finish line.

Buono joined LD 20 candidates and other local officials in Union Monday night on the eve of the Tuesday election. The Democratic hopeful is trailing by double digits in the polls, but Union Democrats promised to deliver serious get out the vote efforts Tuesday to bring support Buono and others on the ticket.

“I will tell you Barbara, we are working as hard in this election as I did in my primary,” said Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20), who is running unopposed in the general election but fought off a Democratic challenger in the primary election. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)








Prosecutor: Garden State Plaza gunman committed suicide inside mall, body found

The body of a 20-year-old Teaneck man who walked into the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus on Monday night and fired six shots, setting off a panicked frenzy and a six-hour manhunt, was found in a storage area inside the shopping center early Tuesday morning with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, authorities said.

John L. Molinelli, the Bergen County Prosecutor, identified the shooter as Richard Shoop, 20, at a predawn press conference. He said authorities recovered a note from the house Shoop shared with his parents on Emerson Avenue in Teaneck. Molinelli did not describe its contents but said he would not classify it as a suicide note.

Molinelli said Shoop, dressed head-to-toe in black and wearing a black helmet, entered the mall about ten minutes before it was due to close at 9:30 and fired six rounds from a Sig Sauer rifle that had been modified to resemble an AK-47-style assault rifle. The rounds struck an escalator and an elevator, but Molinelli said Shoop did not appear to be firing at anyone. (Koloff, Green, and Norman/The Record) 






Best and brightest try to bridge education gap

Eli Grossman, a recent Cornell University graduate from Teaneck, wants his Paterson sixth-graders to know he presumes they can make it to college.

In one lesson he explained “college-ready” note-taking. In another, he said they would need to understand the word “loquacious” for the SATs. And for a special preview of campus life, he brought his Cornell a cappella group to sing in their cafeteria.

“The joy level was off the charts,” Grossman said. “The small miracle of it was the word ‘college’ was on the lips of 11-year-olds in Paterson.”

Grossman, 23, an English major with a theatrical flair, embodies the ethos of Teach for America. The program dispatches high-achieving college graduates — who might not have considered careers in teaching — to work for two years in some of the country’s toughest environments. Their goal: narrowing the stark achievement gap between the privileged and the poor.

Supporters say the program brings smart, energetic young people to staff hard-to-fill jobs in needy schools, and gives them intensive summer training to get ready. But critics counter it puts underprepared résumé-polishers in charge of at-risk kids who sorely need experienced teachers committed to helping them for the long haul. (Brody/The Record)   










Voters face wide range of ballot questions Tuesday


Voters across the country face ballot measures Tuesday ranging from whether to approve seven casinos in New York to the fate of Houston’s iconic Astrodome. Here’s a look at some of the ballot questions. (Associated Press)   








Runway Governor’s Race Confounds Pollsters and Pundits

Christie’s coattails in legislative races hinge on margin of victory, but who votes — and where — is anybody’s guess Four years ago, the last five polls in the governor’s race varied by just five percentage points — with GOP challenger Chris Christie leading by no more than 3 percent and Gov. Jon Corzine by no more than 2 percent. Even with the complication of independent Chris Daggett in the race, the polls were basically right on the money: Christie ended up winning by 4.5 percent, within the margin of error for three of the polls.

Tonight, somebody’s poll is going to be very wrong — and that’s in a race in which the pollsters have no argument over the winner.

The Monmouth University poll has Christie leading Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) by 20 percent; the Quinnipiac poll has Christie winning by 28 percent; and the Rutgers-Eagleton poll shows a whopping 36 percent Christie landslide. For a polling profession that usually quotes margins of error of plus or minus 1.5 to 3.5 percent, those Monmouth and Rutgers-Eagleton polls are an Evel Knievel chasm apart. (Magyar/NJSpotlight) 






Rate Counsel Out Against PSE&G’s $3.9B Energy Strong Program

Division unhappy with utility’s plan to recover costs from customers up front, before grid upgrade gets under way

Count the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel among those urging the state Board of Utilities to reject a $3.9 billion plan by Public Service Electric & Gas to fortify its gas and electric systems over the next decade.

In filings with the BPU, the division, which represents the interests of all ratepayers in the state, recommended the regulatory agency reject the utility’s so-called Energy Strong proposal and its method of recovering those costs from ratepayers. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 







A potential tax dilemma for Chris Christie looking to 2016

Chris Christie may have a bit of a tax problem.


With the Republican governor of New Jersey set to stroll to reelection Tuesday, political strategists are calling him a potential formidable force in the 2016 presidential campaign.


But the hot-headed statesman is saddled with something no GOP presidential hopeful wants: exorbitant taxes in his home state, with some trying to tag him with a poison-pill phrase of tax hiker. That could mean trouble in a Republican primary, where taxes are a bread and butter issue.


“They’ll basically go pound Christie on anything that looks like a tax increase or fee increase,” said veteran GOP strategist Ed Rollins, Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign manager. “What he has done as governor will matter.”


One of Christie’s first actions as governor was to scale back tax breaks that effectively hiked property taxes on hundreds of thousands of residents, after he pledged to do the opposite. (Bade/Politico)   





Big Money Flows in New Jersey Races to Thwart Christie Agenda

Democrats and unions, fearful that a landslide victory by Gov. Chris Christie will reshape New Jersey’s political landscape, have poured tens of millions of dollars into a record-breaking outside spending campaign that has transformed the state’s election season.


The effort, designed to preserve Democrats’ dominance of the State Legislature and complicate Mr. Christie’s plans to build a record of legislative achievement as he considers a presidential bid in 2016, has inundated some legislative districts with millions of dollars in negative ads on a scale never before seen in New Jersey.

As of last Thursday, according to the state’s election law enforcement board, outside spending for candidates had topped $35 million, twice the amount spent when Mr. Christie, a Republican, was elected in 2009 and the highest recorded by any state except California.

The surge of spending is likely to be replicated around the country next year, as outside groups from both parties signal increasing interest in influencing state-level contests.

The New Jersey campaign is one of the most aggressive efforts Democrats have mounted anywhere to exploit the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, which eradicated limits on fund-raising for outside groups. New Jersey underscores the decision’s continuing ripple effect, as legal challenges mount in the few states remaining that still limit independent expenditures. (Confessore/New York Times 










Polls are open in N.J. race for governor between Christie, Buono


TRENTON — After nearly a year of campaigning between Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic challenger Barbara Buono, polls are now open in the race for governor.

Christie is seeking a second and final four-year term as New Jersey governor. Buono, a state senator from Middlesex County, is giving up that seat to challenge Chrisite.

All along, polls have shown Buono with an uphill battle. Polls released this week showed Christie leading Buono by between 20 and 36 points.

Christie is running with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, while Buono’s choice for lieutenant governor is union leader Milly Silva.

Polls close at 8 p.m. (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 







Buono says Gov. Chris Christie purposefully confused voters with U.S. Senate election

LYNDHURST — On the eve of Election Day, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Barbara Buono cast aside the latest poll numbers and expressed optimism, while also saying Gov. Chris Christie purposefully confused voters and sought to depress turnout by scheduling the special election for U.S. Senate last month.

“We really have had this 20-day sprint to Nov. 5 to make sure people know that, yes, there’s another election and people are engaged and they’re excited,” Buono told Democrats at a breakfast in Lyndhurst. “We have to make sure that people aren’t confused because this governor wants people to think it is over, and it’s barely begun.”

The latest polling numbers, however, show little movement in favor of Buono just one day before New Jerseyans cast their ballot for the next governor as well as for legislators in all 40 districts. A Monmouth University poll put the governor up by 20 points, while a Rutgers-Eagleton survey gives Christie a 36 point margin.

Asked about the numbers, Buono, a state senator from Middlesex County, said she was “focused on the issues and getting people out to the polls.”

“I’m very confident the people of New Jersey, they’re smart, they’re going to vote on the issues,” Buono said. “This choice is very clear.”

Asked if she had any regrets in light of the numbers, she said, “None. None. Not a one.”

Buono said she underestimated the significance of the special election held Oct. 16 to fill the U.S. Senate seat of the late Frank Lautenberg. Christie set the election three weeks before the regularly scheduled general election tomorrow, saying that despite the cost, New Jersey needed an elected representative in Washington as soon as possible. (Baxter/Star-Ledger) 





Minimum hourly wage hike to $8.25 on NJ ballot


TRENTON — New Jersey voters were being asked to raise the state’s minimum wage by $1, to $8.25 an hour, and to allow automatic cost-of-living increases as 10 other states already do.

About 50,000 workers in the state receive minimum wage, or about 3 percent of the workforce. About an equal number, including restaurant staff, get less than the minimum because they work on commission or rely on tips, federal labor statistics show.

The Democrat-led Legislature put the minimum-wage hike on Tuesday’s ballot as a constitutional amendment after being unable, through legislation, to reach an agreement with Gov. Chris Christie on changes.

If approved, the hike would take effect Jan. 1, with cost-of-living adjustments made every Sept. 1. (Associated Press)  




Top mayoral races in AC, Hoboken, Camden

ATLANTIC CITY — Two mayors who had to deal with the effects of Superstorm Sandy on their towns are among those seeking new terms on election day.

In Atlantic City on Tuesday, Democrat Lorenzo Langford is seeking another term as mayor of the seaside gambling resort. He is opposed by Republican Don Guardian, who runs the city’s Special Improvement District, and independent candidate John McQueen, who works as a newspaper circulation employee and proposes selling drones to neighboring police departments as a way to raise revenue. (Associated Press) 






NJ Election Safegaurds in Place


Federal and state law enforcement officials are pulling out all the stops in New Jersey to ensure that voters can exercise their right to vote in a safe and fair manner today.


An Election Day hotline has been set up for those who suspect voter fraud. Meanwhile, about 150 state Deputy Attorneys General will be assigned throughout the state to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

“There is really nothing more important to Americans than the right to vote and to be able to do that in a way that is fair and unimpeded,” said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. “If anyone has a problem, there are people they can call to help steer them through the problem. If it’s appropriate for us to investigate, we will. If it’s more appropriate for someone else’s jurisdiction, we will make sure that those people are aware of the problem and can deal with it as quickly as possible.”

State Acting Attorney General John Hoffman is reminding New Jersey residents that it is a criminal offense to solicit or electioneer voters as they enter or exit a polling location. A protective zone extends 100 feet from the outside entrance of any polling site. (Waldron/NJ101.5) 





Chris Christie read for reelection, possible 2016 presidential run, as polls show wide lead

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is poised for reelection Tuesday — putting the high-profile pol into position for a 2016 presidential run.


Monday’s polls showed the incumbent pol with a wide lead over his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono. He could be the first Republican in the state to exceed 50% of the vote in 25 years. (Lestch/NY Daily News)














 From the Back Room



Buono would have benefited from unified party, Cryan says

UNION – Fractures within the Democratic Party took a toll on Sen. Barbara Buono’s gubernatorial campaign, says Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-20).

The North Jersey assemblyman told PolitickerNJ ahead of a Buono campaign event on the eve of Tuesday’s election that Democrats could have been in a better position to unseat popular Republican Gov. Chris Christie if they were on a unified front. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)












Should N.J. schools be snooping on students?


A school district in California recently announced that it hired a private company to monitor students online for signs of bullying.

And it’s not the only one. The firm says it expects to be watching more than 3,000 schools worldwide by the year’s end — and a handful of New Jersey districts are “aggressively pursuing” its services.

California officials say they’re responding to a sudden spate of student suicides, with an effort to stop dangerous acts before they happen. But critics are convinced that a government surveillance mindset is seeping into our classrooms.

Which raises a crucial question: How much is too much snooping on students?

The American Civil Liberties Union in California argues that this monitoring is a violation of student privacy. On closer examination, though, that seems overblown. In reality, this isn’t NSA-style surveillance. Schools that employ this company aren’t reading private text messages or Face­book accounts; they’re only looking at social media posts that are publicly available. (Star-Ledger Editorial Board)   Morning Digest: Nov. 5, 2013