Morning Digest: May 13, 2014

Newark mayor’s race: walking with Baraka in the West Ward, slate mate John Sharpe James ready to win in the South Ward 

NEWARK – At first glance, John Sharpe James might have seemed out of place striding the streets on Newark’s West Ward on Monday afternoon. After all, not long after daybreak, the current councilman-at-large will be locked in election combat with Brian Logan for the South Ward council seat. 

Councilman-at-Large James, the son of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, is on Newark mayoral candidate Ras Baraka’s council slate. Logan, a former Newark Police Department detective and the football coach at Weequahic High School, is on the council slate of Baraka’s rival, Shavar Jeffries.

But when asked by why he was rolling down the West Ward’s streets with Baraka instead of focusing on the South Ward, James replied that he marching with his slate leader through the West and the Central Wards all afternoon on his way home to the South Ward. 

Then, Councilman James, no stranger to literal firearms because of his previous work history, took rhetorical aim at Logan. And he verbally pulled the trigger.

“I think a combat veteran trumps any coach,” James, who served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, told “The bottom line is that I let my pedigree and my record speak for itself.” (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark mayor’s race: walking with Baraka in the West Ward, slate mate John Sharpe James ready to win in the South Ward | Politicker NJ





May 13th Campaign Flashpoints and Trail Tidbits


There is considerable speculation in Newark/Irvington about the Election Day role of CWA Local 1039 President Lionel Leach.

Leach serves as the campaign manager of Newark Central Ward candidate Gayle Cheneyfield-Jenkins, who stands at ground zero of a battleground ward in the contest to control Newark.

Incumbent Councilman Darrin Sharif and Central Ward Democratic Committee Chairman Andre Speight (running on the Shavar Jeffries ticket) are also vying for the Central ward council seat.

While running operations for Cheneyfield-Jenkins, Leach is simultaneously trying to nail down an Irvington council seat on incumbent Mayor Wayne Smith’s ticket.

Will Leach’s own personal war for survival in Irvington hinder his ability to help Cheneyfield-Jenkins survive in Newark?


A man who survived as an ally of both Newark Mayor Sharpe James and later Mayor Cory Booker, Acting Newark Mayor Luis Quintana wants to re-secure his at-large council seat.

But he’s in uncharted territory as he goes after one of four in-play at-large seats.

He ran with James and he ran with Booker when those brand names exuded popularity.

But now, scratching a path back to the campaign trail out of city hall, Quintana’s having a harder than usual time finding a home in the warring campaigns and straddling the city.

Neither ticket created space for him, which means he’s trying to cozy up to both sides as needed, or reject either side when called for, making it a very slippery game this season for the veteran Quintana. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

May 13th Campaign Flashpoints and Trail Tidbits | Politicker NJ







Newark mayor’s race: In campaign’s final hours, Baraka makes his case to the people in Newark’s streets

NEWARK – Less than 24 hours before Newark voters decide his political fate, mayoral candidate Ras Baraka scorned the normal ballroom rally for his final appeal to city voters. 

Instead, Baraka took to Newark’s streets, knocking on doors on the ground in deep defiance of an airwave bombardment dropped on his head, funded by the independent expenditure allies of rival Shavar Jeffries. 

Earlier on Monday, Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo publicly backed Jeffries for the first time, calling his favored candidate “a real Newarker” who was better qualified that Baraka to take over Newark’s top spot. DiVincenzo also made other statements regarding Newark’s progress.

“You put the gear to the letter R, that means reverse. That means going back,” DiVincenzo said during his speech earlier on Monday in which he declared his support for Jeffries. “I don’t want to go back. And the only way that we’re going to go forward is if you elect Shavar Jeffries as our next mayor.” 

But Baraka, getting shout-outs from drivers stuck in rush hour traffic on Newark’s South Orange Avenue, directly challenged DiVincenzo’s donation of Newark legitimacy to Jeffries.

“You mean reverse like the Democratic Party has gone in Essex County supporting Chris Christie for governor?” Baraka asked as he walked through Newark’s West Ward’s streets, backed by dozens of supporters and a sound truck blaring the Bob Marley reggae anthem “Get Up, Stand Up.”  (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark mayor’s race: In campaign’s final hours, Baraka makes his case to the people in Newark’s streets | Politicker NJ






Christie Vetoes Sandy Bill of Rights, Attaches Numerous Caveats and ‘Modifications’

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s “Sandy Bill of Rights” legislation — which would simplify the application process for Sandy recovery programs, require “plain language” explanations to storm survivors of their status, and give people greater rights to appeal if they’re denied funding — was conditionally vetoed Monday by Gov. Chris Christie, setting off criticism from advocates who say the governor has a “blind spot” when it comes to Sandy victims.

For its part, Christie’s office out a news release stating that Christie had made “changes that improve upon the original legislation” and “ensure the continued distribution of federal recovery and rebuilding aid in a manner that is legally consistent with federal laws and requirements.” Among the modifications, Christie got rids of parts of the bill that would have could have made it easier for Sandy aid applicants to find out how long they’d have to wait and the specific reasons if they were denied funding.

Critics said the changes essentially gut the original proposal and “lack commonsense.” Sweeney issued a statement saying “this veto may be one of the biggest blunders yet.” The bill, which was passed with bipartisan support, will die if Christie’s changes aren’t adopted. Sweeney is calling for the Legislature to override the governor’s veto, although the Democrats do not have a veto-proof majority and Republicans have yet to join with Democrats against Christie. (Gurian/NJSpotlight) 







With Bipartisan Support, Senate Passes Bill Banning Fracking Wastewater

Reviving a fight with the Christie administration, the state Senate yesterday with bipartisan support easily approved a bill (S-1041) barring the processing and discharge of waste from drilling operations to extract natural gas from shale deposits in neighboring states.

The bill is similar to one approved by the Democratic Legislature in the past legislative session. That was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, who said it would not pass legal scrutiny because the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from enacting discriminatory laws governing interstate commerce.

With huge deposits of natural gas found in Pennsylvania and other states, the process by which drillers extract the fuel has emerged as a bitter point of contention between environmentalists, administration, and business advocates.

The process, known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” as is it more commonly called, pumps huge amounts of water and smaller amounts of chemicals into shale deposits to gain access to the fuel. Environmentalists argue that the practice threatens drinking water supplies in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other states.

But the newfound discoveries of natural gas so close to the state have led to a steep drop in gas and electric bills, a fact welcomed by many business interests who have long complained about the high costs of energy in New Jersey, which are among the highest in the nation.

The bill approved yesterday by 32-5 vote does not dealing with drilling per se — there are no in New Jersey — which is free from fracking — but with the disposal of waste, some of which is already being disposed of in state, according to advocates of the bill. The bill passed on the consent agenda, where bills are put up for a vote without any debate from lawmakers.

“Dumping fracking waste in New Jersey waterways is still legal, and that’s why today’s bipartisan Senate majority to ban fracking waste is so needed,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. (Johnson/NJSpotlight) 








N.J. agencies may begin selling online ads to private firms

People looking for train schedules might get gift ideas. Bus riders could see deals on cable service. And for people searching for a town hall’s address, perhaps credit card offers.

New Jerseyans already accustomed to finding advertisements at every turn on the Internet might see them somewhere new: Government websites they’ve already paid for through their taxes and fees.

It’s unclear how much cash those ads might bring in. Advertisements sold on a Massachusetts transit website earn the state less than $100,000 a year. But every dollar counts in New Jersey, supporters of the proposal say, at a time when the state faces a revenue shortfall of more than $800 million.

“This is a sensible concept that could prove beneficial to taxpayers, with no downside besides a few ads on a website, which we’re all used to seeing at this point,” Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said Monday. “This makes sound fiscal sense.”

Coughlin is sponsoring a bill that would let three state agencies with high-traffic websites — New Jersey Transit, the New Jersey Lottery and the Economic Development Authority — sell online ads to private companies. The two-year trial program would culminate in a report examining whether the ads brought in enough money to make them worth the state’s effort.

The legislation was unanimously approved in the Assembly’s State and Local Government committee on Monday. It still has to make it through a Senate committee, and win approval in the full Assembly and Senate, before it lands on Christie’s desk. (Linhorst/The Record) 







Lawmakers counting on Drewniak to help explain GWB scandal

With key players refusing either to testify or to provide information, lawmakers investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal are calling people close to those who apparently ordered two access lanes closed last September, to find out why the lanes were blocked for four days.

Today’s scheduled witness offers lawmakers a direct link to both Governor Christie – having served as his spokesman for more than a decade – and the Port Authority executive blamed for the closures.

The witness, Michael Drewniak, is also the first to come before the legislative panel who has acknowledged making an appearance before the federal grand jury reportedly investigating the lane closures.

Drewniak was in regular contact with David Wildstein, the Port Authority official whom Christie’s team of internal investigators blames for the closures.

Wildstein provided documents to the committee in response to a subpoena but has refused to testify, citing his Fifth Amendment rights. Bridget Anne Kelly, the deputy chief of staff who sent the now infamous email, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” to Wildstein, has refused to provide documents, as has former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien. Both fought the committee’s subpoenas in court, citing their constitutional rights to protect themselves against self-incrimination. (Hayes/The Record) 







Christie nears decision time on NJ gun magazine restriction

TRENTON — After refusing for months to say what he’ll do about a bill that would make New Jersey’s already strict gun control laws even tougher, Gov. Chris Christie will have to show his cards soon.

The politically charged legislation (A2006), which would reduce the permitted capacity of ammunition magazines from 15 to 10 rounds, passed the state Senate Monday by a vote of 22-17.

Supporters and opponents of the bill said they believe the Assembly will vote a week from Thursday, finally sending it to Christie. The bill’s fate is no mystery in the lower house, where it passed in March, 46-31. The bill will get a second vote only because the Senate made technical changes.

“If and when a final version of legislation reaches his desk, it will be carefully reviewed in the 45-day period he has prior to taking any action,” said a spokesman for the governor.

Parents of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings have come to Trenton twice to push for the legislation, and may show up again for the expected final Assembly vote, said Bryan Miller, executive director of the faith-based anti-violence organization Heeding God’s Call.

But Christie is facing intense pressure from gun rights advocates, who have packed legislative hearings and suggest his potential 2016 presidential bid will end early if he signs it.

“Christie will either veto magazine restriction bill, or kiss his presidential aspirations goodbye,” read a headline on the gun rights website (Friedman/Star-Ledger) 






Bridge scandal committee set to hear from Christie’s chief spokesman

Testimony on the George Washington Bridge controversy will continue Tuesday with the appearance of administration chief spokesman Michael Drewniak before the state Legislature’s joint investigative committee.

Drewniak, who has served in administration of Gov. Chris Christie since his 2010 inauguration and before that worked for Christie when he was U.S. Attorney, is the second witness to testify before the joint committee.

Last week, former administration aide Christina Renna faced more than five hours of questioning from committee members.

Lawmakers say they hope to hear from Drewniak about the administration’s response once details of the lane diversions, which backed up traffic in Fort Lee during the second week of September, began to emerge.

Some lawmakers also aren’t convinced that the planning and execution for the lane closures were limited to just former Christie Administration Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly and former Port Authority official David Wildstein, as was suggested by the internal investigation commissioned by the administration. (Isherwood/   






From the Back Room


Roque fundraiser features HCDO stalwarts; and a glimpse of what’s to come…

In the middle of their own war in North Hudson that does not (newsflash coming up) involve a High Noon showdown between state senators Nick Sacco and Brian P. Stack, West New York Mayor Felix Roque welcomed the main players from the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) to a Secaucus fundraiser on Friday night.

In a sign of wary goodwill built around the common purpose of destroying a political foe, the room at La Reggia included Speaker Vinny Prieto (D-32), Sacco, and Hudson County Executive Tom (up for re-election in 2015) DeGise, all backing former toxic mess turned rehabilitated local figure of gravitas Roque.

Since beating hacking conspiracy charges last year, Roque – in full warpaint mode – has teamed up with the HCDO to get behind the freeholder candidacy of Commisisoner Caridad Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is trying to unseat well-funded but establishment-drop-kicked Freeholder Jose Munoz, the feds’ star witness last year against Roque.

“I don’t know you, so I hope you kinow what you’re doing,” DeGise was heard to tell operative Pablo Fonseca, a Newark-branded player who’s now running Rodriguez’s campaign under the auspices of Roque world.

Once we get beyond the May 13th election, PolitickerNJ will be in Hudson covering the Munoz v. Rodriguez June 3rd Democratic Primary contest. 

Roque fundraiser features HCDO stalwarts; and a glimpse of what’s to come… | Politicker NJ







Jackson’s lead slips in Trenton, according to opponent’s internal poll

Supporters of a county backed Trenton mayoral hopeful say internal polling indicates the race to succeed the former disgraced mayor of New Jersey’s capital city is a battle against three candidates.

Walker Worthy, who’s running with the support of the Mercer County Democratic establishment, is tied with fellow mayoral hopeful Jim Golden, according to an internal Worthy poll showing both men garnering 15 percent of the vote.

Eric Jackson, who has the city establishment’s backing, continues to be the race’s frontrunner, according to the poll, which puts Jackson at 19 percent.

Jackson’s camp dismissed the poll and its findings that were released a day before the Trenton election. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

Jackson’s lead slips in Trenton, according to opponent’s internal poll | Politicker NJ Morning Digest: May 13, 2014