Morning Digest: Mar. 3, 2014

Sources: Ocean GOP Screening Committee picks MacArthur in CD3 

he Ocean County GOP Committee’s screening committee gave the CD3 candidates the once over on Saturday and formally prepared a recommendation to the committee as a whole.

The screening committee will recommend Tom MacArthur, former mayor of Randolph, for the position of U.S. Congressman, sources told PolitickerNJ.

That means MacArthur has a leap on landing the coveted organization line in Ocean and complementing that support with the line in Burlington in the two-headed congressional district containing portions of Ocean and Burlington. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Sources: Ocean GOP Screening Committee picks MacArthur in CD3 | Politicker NJ




Majority of New Jerseyans support sending Booker to Senate for full term, poll finds

A new poll finds a majority of Garden State residents are in favor of giving freshman N.J. Sen. Cory Booker (D) a full term in Washington D.C.

According to a recent Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll, Booker enjoys a 47 percent approval rating from New Jersey residents compared to just 20 percent who disapprove. Fifty-five percent of voters say Booker should be re-elected in November, according to the poll.

New Jersey voters are just getting to know Cory Booker as their Senator and generally giving him positive reviews,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.  “They feel they have seen enough to say he deserves a full term.”

Booker’s job approval rating is up from 37 percent in December. (PolitickerNJ)

Majority of New Jerseyans support sending Booker to Senate for full term, poll finds | Politicker NJ




Rap lyrics at hear of N.J. Supreme Court arguments

NEWARK  — A New Jersey man whose rap lyrics boasted he would “blow your face off and leave your brain caved in the street” will have his attempted murder case considered by the state’s Supreme Court, which will decide whether the words he penned should have been admitted at trial.

Vonte Skinner’s case is being watched closely by civil liberties advocates who contend the lyrics should be considered protected free speech under the Constitution. In an amicus brief in support of Skinner, the ACLU New Jersey contends that rap lyrics, because of their violent imagery, are treated differently than other written works.

“That a rap artist wrote lyrics seemingly embracing the world of violence is no more reason to ascribe to him a motive and intent to commit violent acts than to … indict Johnny Cash for having ‘shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,'” according to the brief.

After an initial trial ended without a verdict, Skinner was convicted at a second trial of shooting Lamont Peterson multiple times at close range in 2005, leaving Peterson paralyzed from the waist down. Peterson was reluctant initially to identify Skinner as the shooter, but eventually testified at the trial that Skinner was the assailant. Peterson testified the two men sold drugs as part of a three-man “team” and developed a dispute when Peterson began skimming some of the profits for himself. (Porter/The Record) 




Secret toll-hike plan draws fresh criticism of Christie, Cuomo

Governor Christie, who has been attempting to move past the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, is now confronting new allegations that his top appointees at the Port Authority proposed a series of inflated toll hikes in 2011 designed to make the governors of both states look good when they opposed them.

An article published in The Record on Sunday, which was based on interviews with eight people involved with the Port Authority and New Jersey politics, suggests that Christie aides David Wildstein and Bill Baroni stage-managed the Port Authority’s toll hike proposal to the advantage of Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Wildstein and Baroni resigned from the agency amid the lane closure scandal. (Cowen and Linhorst/The Record) 




A Promise to Renew: Try, Try Again at Quitman Street Renew School

Hidden successes, public shortfalls and a make-or-break year for one Newark school. 

Erskine Glover was home recovering from hip replacement surgery last summer when the scores arrived.

The principal of Quitman Street Renew School knew based on internal assessments that more than 80 percent of his students had shown growth during the 2012-2013 academic year. But he also knew that most were still not performing at grade level, and the state’s standardized tests are grade-level exams. So he was hoping for the best but bracing for bad news. (Neufield/NJSpotlight) 





Lawmakers Looking to Keep Wildfires From Setting NJ Woodlands Ablaze

Bill would establish certification program for controlled burns, reducing risk of forest fires and better protecting lives and property.

Wildfires are a fact of life in forests, particularly in the Pinelands, where they contribute to a healthy ecosystem. But they also can threaten lives and homes when not contained.

To reduce the hazards posed by wildfires, not an infrequent occurrence in South Jersey, lawmakers are renewing efforts to allow forestry officials to conduct prescribed burns in the state’s woodlands. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 




In Plan to Dump Contaminated Soil, Classic New Jersey Politics Emerge

CARTERET, N.J. — We slip slided, a zoologist, two environmentalists and I, across ice, snow and mud toward a wire fence with a sign: Environmental Investigation Cleanup.

Beyond this fence, a 125-acre expanse of yellow swamp reeds, vines and cottonwood trees extends north to the Rahway River. Decades ago, American Cyanamid ruined this wetlands expanse, once home to rich oyster beds, with cyanide-contaminated sludge, the chemical detritus of the past century.

Years ago, it was partially cleaned and covered with a few feet of topsoil. With the passing of the seasons, nature has commenced its repair work.

But the Christie administration has another idea for this land. It appears poised to let a company, Soil Safe, truck in millions of tons of petroleum-contaminated soils and dump it on this site, which lies directly west of Staten Island and the Arthur Kill.

When Soil Safe is finished, a mound 29 feet high would cover most of this acreage. (Powell/New York Times) 




From the Back Room


Did Bridgegate jinx American Hustle?

New Jersey came up empty-handed as a subject Sunday night, with any number of kooky and crusty political portraits flushed into Oscar oblivion with the failure of American Hustle to score an award.

We waited all night long for Hustle to get at least one best something, weathering the procession of supporting actor, supporting actress, actress, director, actor and picture all going into other hands before the final curtain came down on the 2013 Oscars. 

We especially suffered the Academy’s rejection of Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence, whose dysfunctional wife and husband routine seemed to accurately convey the state’s collective affliction.

Was it bad timing?

After looking like a favorite to land at least a handful of Oscars, Hustle got outhustled by nearly every other movie in play.

Did Bridgegate tire out the subject matter? (PolitickerNJ)

Did Bridgegate jinx American Hustle? | Politicker NJ



Pezzullo prevails in Union County

The Union County GOP on Saturday awarded the line to U.S. Senate candidate Rich Pezzullo.

Pezzullo was one of four candidates who screened at the Republicans’ convention at Kean University.

He won the county line on the first ballot over Murray Sabrin, Robert Turkavage and Jeff Goldberg.

Newly relocated to New Jersey in pursuit of a U.S. Senate, Jeff Bell – who lost to Bill Bradley in 1978 – was not present at the convention and received no votes.

Pezzullo was one of four candidates who screened at the Republicans’ convention at Kean University.

He won the county line on the first ballot over Murray Sabrin, Robert Turkavage and Jeff Goldberg.

Newly relocated to New Jersey in pursuit of a U.S. Senate, Jeff Bell – who lost to Bill Bradley in 1978 – was not present at the convention and received no votes. (PolitickerNJ)

 Pezzullo prevails in Union County | Politicker NJ







Christie plays blame game ahead of visit to conservative gathering 

Maligned in the national press as a bully whose aides inflict traffic jams on those who displease them, Governor Christie now finds himself in the position of having to pick some political fights to change the conversation, get the public back on his side and halt his drop in the polls.

In his budget speech last week, Christie returned to a familiar refrain, attacking the retirement benefits promised to state and local employees — benefits he said were put back on track in 2011 after he signed a reform bill — apparently in the hope that state taxpayers will see him fighting for them against Democrats defending state bureaucrats.

Prior to that, he stepped up criticism of the federal government, with Christie blaming Congress and the White House when he was confronted by angry victims of Superstorm Sandy, who say they have received little money to rebuild their homes. And his transportation commissioner came out swinging against federal officials, saying they thwarted efforts to get a quick delivery of road salt from Maine, even though New Jersey did not meet the criteria to have a long-standing federal law set aside.

It’s a far cry from the Christie who welcomed President Obama to the Jersey Shore on Memorial Day weekend to tout the progress of Sandy recovery. It also marks a reversal from the Christie who said the bipartisan pension reform law he signed was a national model that could be translated into entitlement reform in Washington.

The blame wave comes as Christie is scheduled to appear this week outside Washington at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual huddle of the party’s right wing to which he was not invited last year. (Jackson/The Record)    Morning Digest: Mar. 3, 2014