Morning Digest: Dec. 3, 2013

Waiting for Wimberly, source at Pascrell’s Party: ‘I want [him] to get in the race’

GARFIELD – Two years ago at this time some of the closest confidants of U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell’s (D-9) looked like they wanted to evaporate into the wallpaper of the Venetian sooner than fall in behind the chariot wheels of the veteran Paterson congressman.

But they did go to war, some of them less reluctantly than others and none more fervently than the candidate, as they all finally reaped the rewards of Pascrell’s stunning victory over U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), and in the aftermath gleefully awaited the next would-be political bloodbath, in this case the 2014 Paterson mayor’s contest. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)




Ras Baraka on CWA Newark mayoral endorsement: “I’m the labor candidate”

NEWARK – With the Communications Workers of America, New Jersey’s largest public workers union, set to endorse South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka in the Newark mayoral race on Tuesday, Baraka expressed his “excitement” about the union’s support. 

“The CWA brings a level of union support that we need,” said Baraka as he confirmed the endorsement. “They have helped candidates in municipalities like Orange and Jersey City get elected. We absolutely can use anything they have, whether it’s money or ground troops.” 

The CWA, which represents more than 40,000 state workers and 15,000 county and municipal workers, has 1,900 members who live in Newark. The union announced the start of an organizing drive for taxi drivers in Newark last week.  

Baraka is battling councilmen Anibal Ramos, Jr. and Darrin Sharif, as well as former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries in the May 2014 Newark mayoral election. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)





Chris Christie steamroller hits home-state hurdles

Republican Chris Christie’s greatest asset and claim to fame – governing in the blue state of New Jersey – could become his biggest liability next year. 

As the GOP’s strongest 2016 hopeful, according to polling at this early stage, and the newly-installed chief of the Republican Governors Association, Christie is in the enviable position of being able to raise loads of money and draw instant media attention. But the spotlight can magnify flaws just as it flatters; every home-state flareup or verbal miscue can go national in a flash.

And early indications are that Democrats, feeling feisty after victories in legislative races on Election Day, are going to be more of a roadblock to Christie than they were during his first term. (Haberman/Politico)




White House back to Obamacare sales mode

President Barack Obama will launch a coordinated campaign Tuesday by the White House, congressional Democrats and their outside allies to return attention to why the Affordable Care Act passed in the first place.

After two months of intense coverage of the botched rollout, the president will host a White House event kicking off a three-week drive to refocus the public on the law’s benefits, senior administration officials told POLITICO.

The White House will take the lead in emphasizing a different benefit each day until the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for Jan. 1 coverage. The daily message will be amplified through press events and social media by Democratic members of Congress, the Democratic National Committee, congressional campaign committees and advocacy organizations, officials said. (Brown and Allen/Politico)





Christie has tested and trusted team ready if he runs for White House

One is a trusted friend, with decades of national campaign experience. Another is a media consultant who worked on six of the last seven presidential races. Then there’s a trio of strategy and communications experts who have been together since George W. Bush’s 2004 run for the White House.

What they have in common are deep-seated relationships with Governor Christie and connections that reach across the country.

They form the nucleus of a political team so tight and loyal to the governor, that it’s difficult to get them to talk about anything – even their success in helping him win twice in a blue state.

When Christie decided to leave the U.S. Attorney’s Office and run for governor four years ago, he was able to quickly establish this team through existing relationships and connections they had to New Jersey. They were with him again this year when he broke records in securing a second term, and they’re viewed as people he will turn to if he runs for president.

With the governor winning more than 60 percent of the vote in a state dominated by Democrats – including a majority of Hispanics and women – speculation that Christie plans to run in 2016 has swelled. Every time he meets with a deep-pocketed donor or someone who worked on a presidential campaign, or appears on Sunday news shows, he makes headlines.

Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said Christie has an “A-list campaign team” if he seeks the White House. It consists of Bill Palatucci, a longtime friend and one of Christie’s closest advisers; campaign strategist Mike DuHaime; campaign manager Bill Stepien; communications director Maria Comella; and ad man Russ Schriefer. (Hayes/The Record) 




Sales tax decision could be windfall for New Jersey

WASHINGTON — On perhaps the busiest online shopping day of the year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to wade into a dispute over state sales taxes for purchases on websites like, an outcome that could pave the way for New Jersey to move to collect more than $200 million in annual sales tax revenue it is not now getting.

Advocates of a universal, national tax policy for online sales, including retail groups in New Jersey, cheered the decision.

“It’s clearly a defeat for online-only retailers,” said John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association. Holub said the group will use the ruling to “breathe some new life” into proposed state legislation that would broaden New Jersey’s ability to collect taxes on online purchases. “And, hopefully, it might actually spur Washington to once and for all get its act in order and pass the Marketplace Fairness Act.’’

The Alliance for Main Street Fairness, a coalition of business groups pushing for online sales tax collection, estimates that New Jersey lost $202 million in revenue in 2012 because of uncollected sales taxes and that it has lost $925 million between 2007 and 2012. The cost to all 50 states is estimated at $11 billion for last year, and $52 billion for 2007 to 2012, according to the alliance.  (The Record) 




 Speed May Be Cause of Metro-North Derailment, Cuomo Says

he deadly derailment on Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line probably resulted from excessive speed as the train rounded a curve along the Harlem River just north of Manhattan, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.  (Goldman/Bloomberg) 



Employers Fear ACA Mandate Will Push Healthcare Costs Even Higher

Two surveys find business owners in NJ have concerns about ability to provide health insurance to their workers

New Jersey employers are concerned about the rising cost of health insurance – and they worry that federal healthcare changes will make it worse.

While experts say these views – reflected in two recent surveys of business owners in the state — are rooted in long-term worries about rising health costs, they also pointed out that the impact of the 2010 Affordable Care Act on businesses remains an open question.

The national consulting firm Mercer, which has offices in Hoboken, Morristown and Princeton, found that New Jersey employers estimated their healthcare costs would rise by 8.4 percent if they made no changes to their plans, but that they could lower this increase to 5.1 percent by making changes in the coverage they offer.

In addition, 7 percent of business owners in the state said they were likely to drop health coverage entirely in the next five years. (Kitchenman/NJSpotlight)   





Assembly Bills Aims to Close New Jersey’s Energy-Efficient Gap

Singleton’s proposed law would create low-cost loan program to help low-income New Jerseyans finance energy-efficient technologies

Helping consumers reduce their energy use is a positive proposition, but unfortunately many residents cannot afford the upfront capital costs needed to achieve that goal.

To eliminate that barrier, a Burlington County lawmaker is pushing legislation (A-4533) that would establish a low-cost loan program to help residents without the money to install equipment like solar panels instead buy energy-efficient appliances and other green technologies.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), aims to address an issue long troubling to some. Those customers most in need of help in easing sky-high utility bills are least able to afford the technology or products to do so — even as they pay a surcharge on their utility bills to subsidize those efforts. (Johnson/NJSpotlight)   





Kean Sr. blames Christie for effort to oust son as Senate GOP leader

TRENTON — The relationship between Gov. Chris Christie and a political mentor, former Gov. Thomas H. Kean Sr., remains icy after Christie loyalists tried to oust Kean’s son from a leadership post in the state Senate after November’s election.

Union County Republican Tom Kean Jr. survived the coup, launched when he was blamed for the GOP’s failure to pick up Democrat-held Senate seats. Kean remains the party’s leader in the Senate.

The former governor said in a telephone interview Monday that he blames Christie for the dust-up.

“In my opinion it was wrong. Absolutely. You don’t start going after people who have been loyal to you,” said the elder Kean, for whom Christie served as a campaign volunteer in 1977 when Christie was 14 years old. (Jordan/Asbury Park Press)   





Christie: Early front-runner status ‘meaningless’

TRENTON — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he doesn’t think much about his status as front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

He describes the designation as “meaningless” in a race that’s three years away.

Christie appeared Monday at his first Statehouse news conference in Trenton since easily winning re-election. He says the early 2016 handicapping has no effect on him and “doesn’t matter” to him.

He says, “It’s December of 2013. It’s completely meaningless.”

The 51-year-old governor says the lead in the presidential sweepstakes can change “any number of times” between now and then.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Friday finds Christie leading with 24 percent, followed by Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul with 13 percent. (Associated Press/Asbury Park Press)   





NJ Bill Targets Early Steroid Use

Steroid testing among student-athletes has been allowed for years in New Jersey, but legislation advancing in Trenton would make the process perfectly legal for years to come.

Under the measure, a program of random steroid testing would be developed and implemented in the 2014-2015 school year for student-athletes who qualify to compete in championship tournaments sanctioned by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA).

An executive order for an identical initiative was signed in 2005 by acting Gov. Richard Codey.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood), a sponsor of the measure, said the pressures of using performance-enhancing drugs start well before the professional level. (Flammia/NJ101.5)   





Christie Names Kevin O’Dowd New State AG

Governor Chris Christie (R) announced that his Chief of Staff will become the new State Attorney General at a Statehouse press conference.

Kevin O’Dowd will take over the from John Hoffman, who stepped into the role when Christie named Jeff Chiesa interim U.S. Senator following the death of Frank Lautenberg.

Hoffman was praised by Christie and said the decision was not a reflection of his work. Minutes after the announcement, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) the “ultimate professional. He is courteous, responsive and willing to listen, even in areas where we have vigorously disagreed.”

Regina Eaga, Christie’s current Director of the Authorities Unit, is named the new chief of staff. (Alexander/NJ101.5)   





Newark appoints new fire director just days after ouster of Booker appointees

NEWARK — Less than a week after Newark’s acting mayor laid off most of Cory Booker’s administration on Thanksgiving Eve, the Newark Fire Department was given a new director today, according to union officials and a document obtained by The Star-Ledger.

James Stewart, a retired fire captain, was listed as fire director on a memo that was circulated throughout the department on Monday, according to the document.

Chuck West, the president of Newark’s firefighters union, confirmed the appointment in an interview late Monday night.

“To my knowledge, the move was made today. I look forward to it,” West said. “I’ve known the guy for quite a number of years and he’s always been a fair guy. I think they made a pretty good choice for an interim director.”

On Thanksgiving Eve, sources told The Star-Ledger that Acting Newark Mayor Luis Quintana had decided to lay off four city department heads who were appointed by Booker and four senior staff members from his administration. Booker left office in October, after he defeated Steve Lonegan in a special election to claim the Senate seat left vacant after the June death of Democrat Frank Lautenberg. (Queally/Star-Ledger)   





Christie speaks about his rift with Tom Kean Sr.

Gov. Chris Christie said that although he has not spoken to Tom Kean Sr. in the wake of the former governor’s well-publicized slap at him, he still has the utmost respect for his political mentor.

“I have enormous respect and admiration for Gov. Kean and I always will,” Christie said Monday.

Early last month, Kean Sr. swiped at Christie over the governor’s attempt to oust Kean’s son, Tom Jr., from his Senate minority leader post. 

“The governor and I have been pretty friendly over the years, and I’m surprised he’d do this without even calling me,” Kean Sr. told The Star-Ledger.

Kean Sr. then took aim at Christie’s lack of coattails in November’s election.

“You assume that if the governor wins by 20 points or more, you’d have coattails,” Kean said. “No governor I know in any state has won by 20 points and not had coattails.”

The comments reverberated nationally as pundits wondered if Christie, who names Kean as his longtime mentor and friend, had lost his mojo — first losing the leadership battle then angering the Republican elder statesman.

During a press conference, his first in a month, Christie also addressed the attempt to remove Kean Jr. from his leadership post. (Isherwood/   



 From the Back Room


Sharif Campaign attempts to tackle Newark’s homicide horror

To date, Newark Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif’s mayoral campaign has borne some resemblance to the 1984 Democratic Presidential Primary effort of astronaut John Glenn.

In other words, it has given the very strong impression of trouble on the launch pad.

But Sharif wants to change that evidently, and this coming weekend he has scheduled an anti-violence summit.

“The fatal shooting that occurred in the Central Ward over this holiday weekend underscores the need for us to up our investment in these at-risk neighborhoods,” said Sharif. (PolitickerNJ)





In WNY, Vega fundraising toward 2015

Former Mayor Silverio “Sal” Vega continues to try to build traction toward a 2015 return to West New York City Hall.

Vega has a fundraiser this week as he attempts to gain support to depose Mayor Felix Roque.

Roque dethroned Vega in 2011, and earlier this year beat federal hacking charges.

A second challenger, Commissioner Count Wiley, led a failed recall election ballot drive in the fall. (PolitickerNJ)






Will Chris Christie’s second term be a dud?

Sifting through the results of last month’s election, Gov. Chris Christie believes he has divined its true meaning: Voters want Democrats to yield to him.

“They ran on, ‘We will work with the governor.’ Okay, well, time to work with the governor,” he said last week on a radio call-in show. “Their mandate, to the extent they have one, is to work with me.”

That tells about half the story. It is true that voters want the two parties to cooperate. And it’s true several Democratic candidates in swing districts emphasized their eagerness to find common ground with Christie.

But voters did not endorse Christie’s agenda. The most striking result is that the governor won in a 22-point landslide but failed to pick up a single seat in the Senate or Assembly. That is unprecedented, and suggests that voters want Democrats to continue acting as a check on Christie’s conservative agenda.

More evidence: Voters overwhelmingly approved an increase in the minimum wage, despite Christie’s strong objections. And if gay marriage had been on the ballot, the governor would have lost that vote, too.

This was the ultimate status quo election. It did not tip the balance either way. (Star-Ledger Editorial Board)   Morning Digest: Dec. 3, 2013