Morning Digest: April 30, 2014

Princeton debate forum proves agreeable to perceived no-hoper Zwicker in CD12 D Primary

PRINCETON – It’s difficult to imagine plasma physicist Anrew Zwicker running for Congress without discerning a mathematical formula that somehow gives him a way to beat the odds.

Having said that, his most consistent underlying theme in this 12th District Democratic Primary – that a district thoroughly spoiled by Rush Holt deserves another braniac who can deep-six Deep Blue – is hardly reinforced by Zwicker’s lack of a single primary line in a district made up of sections of four Democratic-leaning counties.

That’s even before one considers (see below) the money factor.

As two of his political rivals in this contest engage in a Godzilla v. Mothra county organization beat-down, the detail-oriented Zwicker tonight appeared to delight in simply trying to win a debate sponsored by the local League of Women Voters.

People could see how this was going to go right away when the moderator asked a question about Internet neutrality.  (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Princeton debate forum proves agreeable to perceived no-hoper Zwicker in CD12 D Primary | Politicker NJ

Newark mayor’s race: South Ward council candidates spar after attack on Baraka

NEWARK – The war of words between rival council candidates in Newark’s South Ward escalated on Tuesday when Brian Logan, the South Ward candidate on mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries’ slate, launched an attack against Jeffries’ rival, South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka.

The focus of Logan’s diatribe against Baraka was the allegation that Baraka failed to deliver a promised economic stimulus plan for the South Ward after he was elected to the city council in 2010.

Baraka’s plan reportedly included initiatives to boost police patrols, clear vacant lots and abandoned houses and support small businesses throughout the South Ward.

But Logan, a former Newark Police Department detective and the football coach at Weequahic High School, said in a written statement that Baraka has failed to come through with these plans.

“In four years, Ras Baraka has not produced a stimulus plan for the South Ward,” Logan said. “We can see the tragic results of his failed leadership all over the South Ward. You just can’t believe the promises made by Baraka.”

Logan also pilloried Baraka for key council votes that he claimed the incumbent South Ward councilman missed, including a Sept. 1, 2010 council vote that provided $3.5 million in state and federal funding to support job-training programs, which passed 7-0. Logan also claimed that Baraka abstained from a vote to provide $5 million to provide training and employment opportunities through the One-Stop Career Center.  (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark mayor’s race: South Ward council candidates spar after attack on Baraka | Politicker NJ

Citing Wallace case, Lesniak disapproves of Christie’s pick for Port chairmanship

Veteran state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-20) panned Gov. Chris Christie’s selection of a replacement for Bridgegate-stained Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman David Samson.

“Not a good choice,” said Lesniak.

Samson resigned last month amid a highway of brutal headlines.

Today, following Christie’s announcement of his decision to nominate former Attorney General John Degnan to succeed Samson, Lesniak issued an early thumbs-down ruling.

“John Degnan went in the tank when he participated in Christie’s hand chosen group of attorneys to support a replacement for Justice [John] Wallace,” said Lesniak, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Just like Dave Sampson, another former AG, he can’t be expected to be an independent watchdog of an agency that has been exploited for political and personal gain,” the senator added.  (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Citing Wallace case, Lesniak disapproves of Christie’s pick for Port chairmanship | Politicker NJ

New Jersey affordable housing board to meet

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey’s Council on Affordable Housing is expected to reveal its latest plan for how much housing should be made available to lower-income people in every town.

The council is scheduled to meet Wednesday and take action on the plan, which has not yet been made public.

Gov. Chris Christie has tried to disband the state agency, but courts have said that he cannot do so unilaterally. They have ordered the council to come up with a new allocation of affordable housing to replace the one that expired more than a decade ago.

The state Supreme Court has given the council until November to adopt the new rules.  (Associated Press)    






Christie: ‘Nothing off the table’ in filling New Jersey’s $807M budget gap

Governor Christie said “there’s nothing off the table” as he considers ways to plug a projected $807 million budget gap with just two months left in New Jersey’s fiscal year.

“We’re just going to have to dig in and deal with the problem,” Christie said on Tuesday during a State House news conference, his first public comments since his administration disclosed the shortfall late Monday.

“I’m going to use every tool at my disposal to get a balanced budget,” he said. “There’s nothing off the table.”

Christie, a Republican who preaches fiscal discipline, has had to close a series of revenue shortfalls since taking office in early 2010 as the state’s economic recovery from the last recession has lagged behind his projections.

But because this latest shortfall comes with only weeks before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Christie and lawmakers have few options left to find savings. New Jersey’s constitution requires a balanced budget, so a deficit cannot be carried over into the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

The governor cut roughly $700 million in spending earlier this year to plug another shortfall, using a series of lapses and other departmental budget adjustments. It’s likely more could be trimmed, though probably not enough to cover the full $807 million shortfall.  (Reitmeyer/The Record)  

NJ ranks 7th for hospital safety, new report card says

TRENTON — New Jersey ranked seventh in the nation in protecting hospital patients from mistakes, infections and injuries, with nearly half of the state’s medical centers earning a grade of A, according to a study released Tuesday.

The hospitals have improved since the Leapfrog Group, a health care consumer educational organization, began issuing periodic report cards in 2012. New Jersey started in 14th place and climbed to sixth in May, with 28 hospitals earning A’s, before dropping to ninth place in October with 27 top-rated hospitals.

With the help of medical experts, Leapfrog developed its rating system based on 28 categories of preventable issues from infections and mistakes like operating on the wrong body part to such avoidable problems as falls and bedsores.

The New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a nonprofit health care consumer advocacy group, urged people to consult the report and discuss its findings with their doctors before choosing a hospital.

“Every day, nationwide, more than 1,000 people die because of preventable hospital errors.” said Linda Schwimmer, the institute’s vice president.

Of the 66 hospitals evaluated, 45 stayed the same and 13 improved, including Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank and Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, which both jumped from a C to A. Eight hospitals dipped in the rankings. (Livio/Star-Ledger)  

Gov. Chris Christie Nominates New Port Authority Chairman

Gov. Chris Christie appointed a Democrat and former state attorney general to be chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Tuesday, replacing an embattled ally who resigned under scrutiny last month.

John Degnan will succeed David Samson, who resigned March 28 after he came under intense scrutiny for the intersection of his business interests and the authority’s affairs. Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed records related to Mr. Samson’s business dealings. He hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing.

Mr. Degnan served as attorney general under former Democratic Gov. Brendan Byrne.

The authority, made up of officials from New York and New Jersey, has faced criticism and calls for changes in recent months, after the George Washington Bridge scandal escalated in January. Legislators in both New York and New Jersey are considering moves that would force the agency to be more accountable, and Mr. Christie has said he is open to changes.

Tuesday’s move comes as Mr. Christie attempts to move beyond the bridge scandal, in which a crippling traffic jam was caused by lane closures to the bridge from Fort Lee, N.J It was his third news conference since emails revealed a top aide played a role in the closures. Several Christie aides and allies have resigned, but New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and a state legislative committee are investigating the closures. (Dawsey and Haddon/Wall Street Journal)  


From the Back Room

Christie’s RGA schedule

Gov. Chris Christie’s Republican Governors Association schedule for April 30:

Wednesday, April 30

10:00 a.m. RGA Chairman Chris Christie celebrates Gov. Rick Scott’s work to eliminate the tax on manufactures in Florida. at the ConMed Linvatec.

Press: OPEN, Availability to follow

Noon: RGA Chairman Chris Christie attends a lunch fundraiser for Rick Scott for Florida and the RPOF in Lakeland, FL


Christie’s RGA schedule | Politicker NJ




Degnan’s ill-fated run for NJ Governor

Nominated by Gov. Chris Christie this afternoon as the next “General” to shoulder the mantle of leader of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, John Degnan is a former candidate for governor – and, like Christie, a lawman.

Hand picked by then-Governor Brendan Byrne, Degnan resigned his position as Attorney General in 1981 to pursue his own shot at Drumthwacket.

He failed to get traction in a field of 13 Democratic contenders, including U.S. Rep. James Florio, Newark Mayor Ken Gibson, U.S. Rep. Bob Roe and Senate President Joe Merlino.

Degnan finished in fifth place in a field bested by Florio, who would go on to lose to Republican Thomas Kean, Sr. in the general election.

That Democratic Primary also included Jersey City Mayor Tom Smith, prodded into an ill-fated run by Hudson County powerbrokers looking to relieve him of duty as mayor.

Degnan’s ill-fated run for NJ Governor | Politicker NJ

Gibson backs Chivukula in CD12

Frank Gibson, the chemist from Hopeful who competed in the pre-primary process and failed to get Democratic Party support from any of CD12’s four county organizations, wants Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17) to succeed U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12).

Gibson did not file to run in the CD12 Primary and chose instead to support Chivukula, who’s competing in the Democratic Primary against state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14), Assemblywoman Bonnie watson Coleman (D-15) and Princeton University plasma Physicist Andrew Zwicker.

The winner of the primary will face Republican Dr. Alieta Eck in the general eelction.

Gibson backs Chivukula in CD12 | Politicker NJ

‘Folks are human beings’

The proliferation of the word “folks” in public life presents a troubling trend of an electorate content to be simplified and countrified in order to lower any expectation of a sophisticated and detail-responsive government.

But Richard Constable, head of the state Department of Community Affairs, took the well-worn term (preferred by everyone from President Barack Obama to Gov. Chris Christie to denote citizens) and produced this gem today in his testimony before the Senate Budget Committee:

“Folks are human beings.”

‘Folks are human beings’ | Politicker NJ

LD35 Sidebar: 2015 implications

There is considerable speculation this morning in the caverns of 35th District politics about the 2015 impact of Passaic County Democratic Committee John Currie’s decision to go all in on this year’s mayoral election in Paterson.

Disunity this year could prove a unifer next year, say sources connected to local campaigns nursing wounds today in the aftermath of Currie and his assemblypeople announcing support for Council President Andre Sayegh for mayor.

So far, state Sen. Nellie Pou (D-35) has attempted to stay out of the fracas, but any intensification of political ugliness between now and Election Day could ultimatley force Pou to pick a side.

If Sayegh wins two weeks from today, there are several key questions in play.

First, does former Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres summon the will to challenge Team Currie off the line for a legislative seat next year?

Would Torres be able to break bread with his old 2nd Ward nemesis Aslon Goow (if Goow also loses to Sayegh) in the name of forming a renegade ticket?

Or would Torres pair up more naturally with activist David Gilmore, another mayoral candidate who has shown an affinity for Torres and vice versa on the mayoral campaign trail.

With Torres in the race and her own re-election upcoming in 2017, where would Pou go?

She’s close to Torres, always has been.

She’s also an organization person.

Pou right now likely feels the nascent stages of angst visited onto her ticket mate Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter (D-35), who felt pulled between godfather (literally) Currie and incumbent Mayor Jeff Jones, whose campaign Sumter ran in 2010.

The alpha male frenzy that would inevitably ensue between Torres and Goow in a war for the top spot on 2015 anti-establishment lawn signs would have to be settled by a simple contest: Torres gets more votes in loss to Sayegh and he’s in the top position; Goow gets more votes, he commands the spot.

The dislike Torres and Goow have for each other may prevent them from summoning sufficient common cause outrage, however.

In that case, Torres could turn to Gilmore in pursuit of a ticketmate.

But if Goow substantially outduels Gilmore in a May 13th loss, it is hard to picture the volatile former 2nd Ward councilman sitting on the sidelines of a 2015 showdown with the Democratic establishment.

Would he forge his own ticket, splitting the legislative contests three ways?

If Sayegh wins and the depth of frustration with the party among the losers does not abate, but in fact increases, the danger for those antis, of course, would be a repetition of this election cycle if the resistant parties divide themselves again.

But both Torres and Goow see a way to win the mayor’s race on May 13th.

LD35 Sidebar: 2015 implications | Politicker NJ

Morning Digest: April 30, 2014