Morning Digest: Feb. 19, 2014

Turner considering Congressional bid

Veteran state Senator Shirley Turner (D-15), Lawrenceville, is mulling over a run for Congress in the 12th District.

“I’ve been receiving all kinds of calls today urging me to run,” said Turner, a former longtime chair of the Senate Education Committee and leader in the Democratic Caucus.

“I will have to talk it over with my family and political advisers,” she added. “It is a Democratic district. I would be able to win the race by virtue of the fact that I already represent a large portion of the district.” (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Turner considering Congressional bid | Politicker NJ




Holt announces he’s leaving Congress, at least 9 people seek CD 12 seat

Congressman Rush Holt’s (D-12) announcement Tuesday afternoon not to seek re-election sent shockwaves through the New Jersey political circles.

The federal lawmaker’s surprise announcement and decision spurred lawmakers and other officials interested in possibly mounting a CD 12 congressional bid to get their names on record. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

Holt announces he’s leaving Congress, at least 9 people seek CD 12 seat | Politicker NJ




Christie addresses Republicans at even in New York City 

NEW YORK — Governor Christie spoke at a Republican Senate event at New York’s Harvard Club on Tuesday, the latest in a series of gatherings he has attended with top national Republicans even as his administration continues to battle scandal back in New Jersey.

The governor didn’t take questions on his way into the tony midtown club, where he met with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, other politicians and top GOP donors for the Majority Makers Policy Retreat held by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The committee, which announced Tuesday that it raised $4.62 million in donations last month, is trying to gain a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate in November’s midterm election.

Asked by a reporter to describe the message he planned to deliver to the group, the governor shot over his shoulder, “Seriously? Are you kidding me?” as he hurried into the club.

The governor was accompanied by his wife, Mary Pat, and Jeff Chiesa, former U.S. senator and state attorney general. (Linhorst/The Record) 




N.J. Transit chief stepping down; calls for removal began with Sandy failures

Jim Weinstein, who as executive director at NJ Transit has seen four troubled years that included communications breakdowns with customers, clumsy handling of Super Bowl transportation and the ill-fated decision to leave railcars in flood-prone areas during Superstorm Sandy, announced late Tuesday that he will be leaving as of March 2.

“I want to thank you for your dedication, hard work and support during a turbulent time,” he said in an email to agency employees. “Your efforts have gotten us through the challenges of these last four years, and for your efforts and commitment, I will always be grateful.”

His replacement will be Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim, who as head of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority the last 3½ years has pushed Governor Christie’s agenda to privatize toll collectors on the turnpike and Garden State Parkway. (Rouse/The Record) 




As Temperatures Drop, Energy Prices Climb for Third-Party Suppliers

Customers not locked into fixed-rate contracts see bills rise, despite promises of cheaper power. 

When Mark Gottlieb signed up to buy electricity from a supplier other than his utility, his promised savings on bills ranged from 5 percent to 15 percent. Instead, bills rose 34 percent over the past 12 months, including a whopping 214 percent increase in his most recent bill, he said.

That last monthly bill came in at $460.95, about $146.86 more than he would have paid if the Little Ferry resident had stayed with Public Service Electric & Gas, rather than switching to Systrum Energy, a relatively new supplier based in Fairview in Bergen County, according to Gottlieb. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 




Schools Development Authority Moves Ahead Under New Leadership

New chief McKenna says progress made possible by projects in pipeline before he took job. 

Within two months of his appointment, the Schools Development Authority’s new executive director Charles McKenna has cleared five new projects for construction, kick-started the long-stalled Trenton High School, and opened the way to fast-track school projects in Newark and Camden.

For a school construction agency accused of stalling, if not blocking work, in the past four years under Gov. Chris Christie, the appointment of McKenna this winter at least appears to have opened the spigot in a short time. (Mooney/NJSpotlight) 



Holt, Science Advocate From New Jersey, Won’t Seek Re-election to Congress

Representative Rush D. Holt Jr. of New Jersey, a research physicist who became Congress’s chief advocate for scientific research over eight terms, announced on Tuesday that he is not seeking re-election this year.

Mr. Holt, 65, joins 12 fellow Democrats, and 21 Republicans, in an exodus from the House. But in an interview, he said he was not bemoaning what he acknowledged was “a certain level of dysfunction” in Congress.

“Congress, even with its frustrations, is the greatest instrument for justice and human welfare in the world,” he said. “The stories trying to puzzle out why someone would do something else are based on this rather narrow way of thinking that the only purpose for a member of Congress is to be re-elected. I’ve never viewed it that way, and I think everybody who’s worked with me knows that I think there are a lot of things that I can and should be doing.”

Mr. Holt’s retirement is not expected to affect the Democrats’ chances in 2014; a seat that he barely wrested from a Republican in 1998 has been made reliably Democratic in two rounds of redistricting. (Zernike/New York Times) 



Chief of New Jersey Transit to Quit After a Rocky Tenure

The executive director of New Jersey Transit is resigning, bringing an end to a four-year run pocked by the agency’s often-maligned performance during Hurricane Sandy and the recent Super Bowl in East Rutherford, N.J.

The director, James Weinstein, 67, will be replaced by Veronique Hakim, the executive director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, Gov. Chris Christie announced. In an email sent to colleagues on Tuesday, Mr. Weinstein said he had submitted his resignation to the governor, effective March 2.

Since joining the Christie administration in 2010, Mr. Weinstein, the former New Jersey transportation commissioner, was known as a loyal cabinet member. Perhaps most significantly, he backed Mr. Christie’s polarizing decision to cancel a multibillion-dollar project to build a commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River; the governor cited the project’s high cost.

But Mr. Weinstein’s tenure is likely to be remembered mostly for the transit system’s performance in two critical moments. During Hurricane Sandy, trains and other equipment were stored in a vulnerable railyard, despite warnings that the space could flood, resulting in more than $100 million in damage. (FLEGENHEIMER/New York Times) 




AS Newark’s mayor’s race tightens, familiar tropes may not apply

NEWARK — He is a well-educated attorney running a reform campaign to bring New Jersey’s largest city into the 21st century.

His opponent is a fiery, charismatic city pol railing against the so-called “outsider.”

Sound familiar?

No, it’s not 2002. This is not Cory Booker vs. Sharpe James. But for many city voters, it may feel that way.

“We will not let a political machine shove someone we don’t know and don’t trust down our throats,” South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka said last week of his opponent, Shavar Jeffries. “We will not let them take over our city. … We will not be bought.”

Go back 12 years and you will find then-Mayor James saying the same thing about Booker. (Giambusso/Star-Ledger) 




Former governor’s son, longtime state lawmaker both considering bids to replace Holt in Congress

Two longtime Mercer County elected officials today said they are mulling a bid to replace U.S. Rep. Rush Holt in congress.

Holt (D-12) announced today he will not seek another term in the House of Representatives.

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes and state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-15) both are considering jumping into what will likely be a crowded field of candidates hoping to replace Holt.

“I think my name recognition would be as good as anyone in the race,” said Hughes, the son of former Gov. Richard Hughes.  “But you have to take all that into consideration and decide if it’s something you want to do,” he said.

Hughes said he’d hope to come out of Mercer County as the only candidate from the county and added that the run would be a free shot given that he is not for reelection until next year.

Turner said she already has received calls from people asking her to run and will make a decision after speaking with her friends, family and political advisors.

“I’m not one to ignore opportunity,” Turner said. “I believe when opportunity knocks I should at least open the door.” (Isherwood/ 




From the Back Room


Can Green and Turner Pascrell Greenstein?

Assemblyman Jerry Green’s (D-22) politically titillating Trenton-Plainfield united front suggests a Pascrellization of state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14), a suburban lawmaker who wants to run for the seat being vacated by the retirement of U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12).

Green said he’s open to an all-urban alliance.

That means “Shirley Turner’s the wild card,” said Patrick Murray, political scientist and pollster for Monmouth University, referring to the 15th Distict state senator from Lawrenceville who represents Trenton.

Or Green, if he decides to run and gets Turner to back him, in part in the name of greater representation for urban voters.

If Green and Turner forge a Union-Mercer partnership, state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) of Middlesex could find herself in the unwitting suburban role of Bergen County’s U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, paved over in the 2012 Democratic Primary by Paterson’s U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell. (PolitickerNJ)

Can Green and Turner Pascrell Greenstein? | Politicker NJ



CD12 By the Numbers

Here’s a look at the prospective candidates for Congress in the 12th District and the concentrations of voter strength, county by county.

It’s a heavily Democratic District, especially since 2011 redistricting.

There are 147,975 registered Democrats in the 12th against 57,679 registered Republicans (PolitickerNJ)

CD12 By the Numbers | Politicker NJ





Habitat for Humanity is building lives, communities in N.J. by building homes

There is spring at the end of this long tunnel through winter.

But like other stormy seasons, recent blasts have taken light, heat, utility from our homes.

Like most things in this world, it’s relative and, for most, it’s been a temporary inconvenience.

Many of the long-suffering souls whose homes were crushed by Hurricane Sandy have been waiting for more than a year for help.

And others have never had the luxury of a place to call their own.

The Habitat for Humanity of Trenton is doing its part to help families come in from the cold with development of a “sevenplex build,” a row of seven houses on the 500 block of North Clinton Avenue in Trenton.

The Trenton effort continues a mission that’s resulted in the construction, rehabilitation or repair of 800,000 homes around the world, a milestone reached late last year in Atlanta. (Times of Trenton Editorial Board)  

  Morning Digest: Feb. 19, 2014