Morning Digest: Nov. 7, 2013

Christie on legislature leadership fight: “I’m committed” to Sweeney

UNION CITY – With tensions rising in the legislative leadership struggle between State Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-21), Gov. Chris Christie seemed to nod south, not north, regarding who he favored. 

“I’m committed to Stephen, and he’s committed to me – I’ll be meeting with him this week,” Christie said, adding that he had no comment about Kean. “We’ll do the best we can. Elections have consequences, and now we go back to work. We’ll see where we go from there.” (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)











Prieto ready to assume speaker-ship tomorrow

They came far and wide to the bright light in the swamps of Secaucus where the latest man with a moustache to mount the statewide stage of leadership led a crowd of 250 people eager to embrace the imminent speakership of self-professed coalition builder Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-32).

Prieto has overwhelming support in the assembly caucus to formally succeed Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34) tomorrow as speaker. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)








Ted Cruz, Mark Rubio downplay Chris Christie’s victory

TRENTON — Two of the men who could end up battling Gov. Chris Christie for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 downplayed the governor’s landslide re-election victory.

In separate interviews today, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas addressed the implications Christie’s win may have on the next presidential race and the fractured Republican party.

Many experts see the governor’s triumph as a sign that the he could be a major contender in the 2016 GOP presidential primary — threatening more tea party-leaning candidates like Rubio, Cruz, or U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. (Johnson/Star-Ledger) 





After shedding pounds, Christie says he’s sleeping better

TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie’s easy victory Tuesday night may have put him one step closer to the White House, but that doesn’t mean the political effects of his weight have disappeared.

When he was asked by a New York Times reporter on Tuesday whether he would have trouble handling the rigors of a presidential campaign, Gov. Christie didn’t hesitate to say no.

“No more than any other 51-year-old person,” he told the newspaper. “I’m slower than I was when I was 40. But that’s the slow march of time. No, I don’t have any problem handling the rigors.”

Since undergoing a lap-band surgery in February, the governor has continuously shed the pounds. He told The New York Times that he is more than halfway to meeting his weight-loss goal.

He also said the surgery has changed the way he eats. Christie said his appetite is so small, that recently he could not even finish a wrap sandwich, The New York Times reported

The surgery, and his subsequent weight loss, has offered another benefit. (Nix/Star-Ledger) 









Program Helps Connect Job-Seeking Veterans with Healthcare Companies


Workforce Opportunity Services founder sees growing sector as natural fit for those who served their country and now seek employment


New Jersey residents who are leaving the armed services and looking for civilian jobs are having success finding work in the growing healthcare sector, with the help of a nonprofit that is connecting them with potential employers.

Workforce Opportunity Services (WOS) is working to provide a training program to nearly 100 New Jersey veterans, including many who are working at health insurance and pharmaceutical companies including Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Merck and Johnson & Johnson. (Kithcenman/NJSpotlight) 







U.S. Rep Runyan’s Surprise Withdrawal Could Offer Opening for Democrats

Cites more time with family, but some observers say Runyan could be frustrated by Tea Party politics, power struggles within GOP


U.S. Republican Rep. Jon Runyan’s announcement Wednesday that he will not seek reelection to New Jersey’s Third Congressional District next year was a surprise that may give Democrats an unexpected chance to retake the seat, political analysts said.

The Democratic Congressional Committee is already sending out jubilant emails about Runyan “deciding to abandon Republicans’ sinking ship” and asking for contributions.

Runyan, a former NFL player who has been in Congress since 2011, said in a statement he wants to spend more time with his family and that he had never intended to make politics his career. (Hurdle/NJSpotlight) 





Westfield Garden State Plaza back to business with emphasis on safety

Westfield Garden State Plaza resumed normal operations Wednesday, and for the foreseeable future, it will be a new brand of normal, with heightened security and assurances that New Jersey’s largest mall is safe.

Thirty-six hours after Richard Shoop’s six rifle shots led to an all-night, anxiety-filled lockdown, the mall reopened at 10 a.m. Uniformed security guards and police seemed to be everywhere. Maintenance workers replaced glass doors that had been broken by SWAT team members who were checking locked stores, and mall employees swapped tales of what they did during the lockdown.

Shoppers returned, though in what appeared to be fewer numbers than a typical Wednesday in November. Most seemed unconcerned about the Monday night incident. (Verdon/The Record)   






Obama congratulates Christie on re-election

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has called Republican Gov. Chris Christie to congratulate him on his re-election in New Jersey.

Christie won a second term on Tuesday, defeating Democrat Barbara Buono by more than 20 percentage points.

Obama and Christie have developed an unusually close relationship for politicians from opposing parties. The two were all smiles when Obama visited New Jersey just days before the 2012 presidential election to view damage from Hurricane Sandy. That visit was perceived as boosting Obama’s appeal among independents and Republicans.

Obama didn’t campaign for Buono this year, even though he did campaign for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. On Tuesday McAuliffe won the only other governor’s race in 2013.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says Obama was glad to congratulate Christie on his victory. (Associated Press) 




Sen. Booker grills officials on Sandy recovery

WASHINGTON — Participating in his first congressional hearing, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey pressed administration officials Wednesday on superstorm Sandy recovery efforts and skyrocketing flood insurance rates that have hit homeowners across the state.

“The frustration that my office has, is that we are dealing with lots and lots of people who feel the sense of discontent, ill at ease, frustration,” Booker said at a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on emergency management.

“Though Congress has passed a relief package in the aftermath of the storm, billions of dollars in federal assistance has yet to make its way to families in need,” Booker, who was sworn into office last Thursday, said from behind a makeshift paper nameplate. “We have still so much work to do.” (Herman/Asbury Park Press) 









Rumson write-ins say run shook up local politics


RUMSON — A write-in campaign mounted less than two weeks before the borough council election potentially garnered about a third of the vote.

It wasn’t enough to edge out the Republican candidates and frontrunners, Joe Hemphill and Laura Atwell, for the two open seats.

But at least one of the candidates on the “Rumson Family” ticket says the sizable showing is enough to shake up participation in local governing.

“I think Rumson Family as an organization is going to be more vocal in town,” said Tim McCooey, who along with Tom Ridgway, made up the write-in ticket.

The unofficial results show Hemphill garnered 1,176 votes. Atwell came in next with 1,143 votes. Democrats Michael Steinhorn and Philip Wagner received 363 and 338 votes respectively. (Cervenka/Asbury Park Press) 







Assembly Democrats – and maybe Senate Republicans – to get new leaders today

TRENTON – It’s changing of the guard day for the New Jersey Legislature.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) is on her way out, with Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) set to formalize his support among the Democratic caucus to succeed her.

Less certain is the future of Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Union). Although he released a letter showing off the support of 11 of his 15 fellow Senate Republicans to head off a potential challenge to his leadership position, Gov. Chris Christie did not back him up when asked if he supported Kean. (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 






Christie insists he’ll focus on governing N.J.

Fresh off his landslide victory, Governor Christie shrugged off a cacophony of speculation about his presidential ambitions on Wednesday and insisted that his full focus is squarely on unfinished business at home in New Jersey.

“I was reelected to do a job last night, that’s the job I’m going to do, and I’m not worried about all this other stuff,” said Christie, a Republican. “And if the time comes where I change my mind with that [and] I decide I want to do something else, I’ll tell the people of New Jersey I want to do something else.”

But Christie’s unlikely choice of venue for this pronouncement — a public school in heavily Democratic Union City — suggested that Christie is already looking to 2016 and how his lopsided victory over state Sen. Barbara Buono in traditionally blue New Jersey might serve as a model for a successful national campaign. (Hayes/The Record) 









 From the Back Room



Van Drew records biggest win of his career

Senator Jeff Van Drew (D-1) last night won re-election to his First District Senate seat by the largest margin of his legislative career — a 19-point victory over Republican challenger Susan Adelizzi-Schmidt.

He won all three counties in the district. (PolitickerNJ)








Priebus celebrates Christie victory in N.J.


Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is in Asbury Park to celebrate Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election.

The national chairman was one of a handful of GOP officials to give a speech to Christie supports ahead of the governor’s victory speech. Priebus and others spoke in a room where a slew of dignitaries gathered in the Asbury Park Convention Hall. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)







Another Name to Watch in CD3


Burlington County Republicans and their counterparts in Ocean want to avoid the bloodbath they went through in 2008 when the counties clashed over Chris Myers and Jack Kelly.

The names are on lockdown right now.

But talked to one source who said to file away one Bruce Garganio, a former Burlington County Freeholder and union carpenter who could emerge as a contender for the GOP nomination. (PolitickerNJ)



The Kean Imbroglio: Update

Republicans this morning put their names to another tour of duty in the leader’s chair for Tom Kean Jr., but at least two of them did so with one caveat: if Gov. Chris Christie doesn’t want Kean again, they would have to stand with Christie.

Sources – including those among the 11 of 16 who affirmed support for Kean in a letter released by the minority leader – said the support was soft absent word from the front office. (PolitickerNJ)











New Jersey GOP looks like a party of one


Governor Christie now has a bright future in the national Republican Party.

But the New Jersey Republican Party he leads may be very well on the cusp of a dark period.

It’s hard to imagine such a forecast after Christie’s 23-point landslide Tuesday. The win is being pitched as reason to validate him as a pragmatic Republican with cross-party appeal and, for the moment, has put him in the front tier of candidates for the GOP nomination for president in 2016.

But Tuesday’s election may very well force some New Jersey Republicans to confront the reality that the party was put primarily at the disposal of Christie’s ambitions and that once he takes his fundraising and star power to the national stage, Republicans will have to start from scratch.

The party’s failure to pick up even one seat in the state Senate — even with Christie at the top of the ticket — left many Republicans dispirited. Christie represented perhaps the party’s best chance this decade to make inroads — some even harbored hope of a Republican takeover of the state Senate.

Now he may soon be gone. (Stile/   










Christie is the GOP’s best hope for reinvention


Gov. Chris Christie’s landslide victory this week says a lot more about his political savvy than it does about his actual record here in New Jersey.

It certainly wasn’t an endorsement of the GOP platform. Policy-wise, Christie has rarely been on the same page as the majority of people in this state.

We saw that yet again on Tuesday, with the overwhelming approval of a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage — a solid refute of Christie’s refusal to tie it to the rate of inflation, for people struggling to survive on menial jobs.

And it was even clearer in the exit polls, when the same voters who handed Christie his big victory said that in a future presidential matchup, they’d rather vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

So the real take-home lesson here is a national one: By proving that a conservative can prevail in a blue state, Christie has cast himself as one of the GOP’s best hopes to solve the tea party problem that is the root cause of Washington’s dysfunction.

Tea partiers loathed Christie’s praise of President Obama last year after Hurricane Sandy, his willingness to work with state Democrats, and the way he’s played down his conservatism on social issues. But that’s exactly how he got himself re-elected by such a huge margin — by building a bipartisan coalition, including the support of women and minorities. (Star-Ledger Editorial Board)  

Morning Digest: Nov. 7, 2013