Morning Digest: May 19, 2014

City Hall insiders arrange meeting of old foes Baraka and Booker at Newark diner

Some of Cory Booker’s biggest area financial backers, including public schools overhaul champions, hoped Ras Baraka would be toast in Tuesday’s election.

Instead, the U.S. Senator shared a plate of it with Newark’s mayor-elect this morning, when Baraka’s brother, Middy, and Booker’s statewide director, Mo Butler, managed to cram the two outsized politicos into the same booth of a local Newark diner.

The two men don’t have a cozy political past.

Baraka ousted Booker’s heavily funded ally in the 2010 South Ward race, then used three years on the council to carve out a dedicated opposition to the upwardly mobile mayor, which he used to springboard himself to victory this past Tuesday.

The post-election topic of the breakfast discussion this morning, according to a source, was “how they can work together to address Newark issues in a general sense.” (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

City Hall insiders arrange meeting of old foes Baraka and Booker at Newark diner | Politicker NJ







Randy Sandifer, Roselle Councilman and JC Police Detective, has died

Roselle 3rd Ward Councilman Randy Sandifer died yesterday of a heart attack, leaving behind a grieving community of family, friends and constituents.

A resident of Roselle for 20 years, Mr. Sandifer was a detective with the Jersey City Police Department, a 24-year veteran of the force.

Married to Arlene Sandifer, the couple had four daughers.

Mr. Sandifer coordinated the Roselle Everett Hatcher Municipal Drug & Alcohol Alliance, which funds and operates 13 Roselle programs, including the Borough’s D.A.R.E. program, Cops In Schools, National Night Out Against Crime, Camps for Kids, Project Graduation, NJ State Elks Leadership, Red Ribbon Week, Youth Community Education, and various senior citizen activities.

According to the Alternative Press, Mr. Sandifer died surrounded by family at Trinitas Regional Medical Center.

He was a lover of camping, cooking, travel, classic cars and his family. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Randy Sandifer, Roselle Councilman and JC Police Detective, has died | Politicker NJ






Bayonne mayor’s race: Zanowic endorses Smith over Davis in June runoff election

BAYONNE – Former Bayonne mayoral candidate Anthony Zanowic endorsed incumbent Mayor Mark Smith and his council team over insurgent candidate Jimmy Davis in the upcoming June runoff. 

“After careful consideration and after meeting with both Mayor Smith and Jimmy Davis, I have decided to endorse Mayor Smith and his team,” said Zanowic, the manager of the Hudson Lanes bowling alley, in a written statement. “As a conservative, my most important concern is making government smaller and less expensive. Mayor Smith shares these goals. He has a solid plan with demonstrable results like this year’s zero tax increase while Mr. Davis offers no governmental or management experience whatsoever.” 

“Mr. Davis’ promise to settle the teacher contract without explaining how he would pay for it is fiscally irresponsible and would cost the average taxpayer over $1,100 a year in higher property taxes.” added Zanowic, alluding to a controversial issue in the contentious race to run the Peninsula City. “Mayor Smith cares about our taxpayers and is being fiscally responsible with our money. We don’t agree on everything, but Mayor Smith is the clear choice in this election.” 

“Anthony Zanowic is a good man who loves our city and I appreciate his endorsement very much,” says Smith, who was first elected in 2008, in response to Zanowic’s endorsement. “Above all else, Anthony speaks out for taxpayers and we are both committed to efficient, affordable government. I look forward to working with Anthony and his team in the future.”

Smith and Davis, a retired and an active Bayonne police officer respectively, were separated by a slim 49 percent to 47 percent margin after the May 13 Bayonne municipal elections. Zanowic received 4 percent on the vote. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Bayonne mayor’s race: Zanowic endorses Smith over Davis in June runoff election | Politicker NJ






N.J.-N.Y. casino competition heats up

Under a pledge he made in 2011, Governor Christie won’t consider expanding casino gambling beyond Atlantic City to the Meadowlands or anyplace else in New Jersey before 2016. By that time, however, a new front will likely have opened in the regional battle for betting dollars that has left the oceanside resort reeling.

Officials in New York are scheduled to issue four licenses this fall for casinos in upstate locations, with a planned opening in 2016. Among the bidders are five for sites in Orange County, all within 10 to 35 miles of the Bergen County border.

The frenzied competition in New York — 22 companies have paid license application fees of $1 million each, including Caesars Entertainment, which owns four Atlantic City casinos — comes against the backdrop of the deal Christie struck more than three years ago with state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the South Jersey Democrat. The agreement delays any formal discussion of in-state competition until at least 2016 in the hope that struggling Atlantic City will show it can still compete.

But some North Jersey officials say the pending events across the border prove that the thinking behind the deal no longer makes sense. They worry that continuing with the stand-down could undercut the economics of a casino at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, where a new grandstand for horse races opened last fall and the adjacent American Dream shopping and entertainment complex is scheduled to open in 2016. (Brennan/The Record) 






Always excel, Booker urges Ramapo College graduates

EAST RUTHERFORD — Ramapo College graduates were told by Sen. Cory Booker to do more and push themselves a little harder in a rousing address Friday morning at the Izod Center.

“You were not born for mediocrity,” he said at the school’s 56th commencement. “You were not born to get by. You were not born to fit in. You were put on this earth to stand out, to excel, to be better than the norm.”

Booker, D-N.J., told the 1,526 cap-and-gown clad members of the class of 2014 that hard work and love are the keys to success.

“The degree you hold is paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of your ancestors. I know this because, as I look around, all of our families have something in common … somewhere in your background people have faced insurmountable odds but persisted anyway,” he said.

For many of the graduates, his message resonated. (Pries/The Record) 





Beleaguered Chief Justice Wins Fiery Defense From Republican Former Justice

hief Justice Stuart Rabner — whose term on the State Supreme Court will run out in just six weeks — won an extended standing ovation from Democratic and Republican lawyers alike last week, speaking prior to a panel discussion on the influence of politics on the judiciary.

Although he did not participate in the panel, it was an appropriate topic for Rabner.

His reappointment, which would have been pro forma under any other governor in modern times, instead hinges on backroom negotiations between Gov. Chris Christie and legislators.

That situation helps explain why the encroachment of politics on the justice system was more than a just a panel discussion at the annual convention of the New Jersey State Bar Association in Atlantic City. It was a common theme.

It also explains why many of Rabner’s supporters back a constitutional amendment to essentially give justices and Superior Court judges tenure on appointment until retirement unless they are deemed unfit.

But that amendment, first proposed by retired Justice Gary Stein, does not yet have a legislative sponsor. In fact, there are pending amendments that would shorten a justice’s initial term from seven to five years, eliminate tenure by renomination, and require justices to sit for a retention election at the end of an initial term — something no judges in New Jersey face today (O’Dea) 





Friend’s Death Leads Christie to Underscore Overdose Concerns to Doctors

The death of a close friend, apparently from a combination of drugs and alcohol, recently led Gov. Chris Christie to emphasize his concern about reducing overdose deaths in the state.

The friend, who Christie did not name, had become addicted to a prescription painkiller eight years ago, at which time Christie participated in an intervention. The man would go on to seek treatment at 12 facilities in three different states, but would die alone at 52 years old in a West Orange hotel, with empty bottles of the prescription painkiller Percocet and vodka on his nightstand.

The governor wants to see doctors willingly use a state prescription database to prevent those with addictions like his friend from “shopping” for opioid painkillers.

Christie said his friend left no note, so “we don’t know whether he did this intentionally or whether it was just the next step in his addiction.” At a May 2 speech to the Medical Society of New Jersey, Christie said he had attended the funeral of his friend three weeks earlier. (Kitchenman/NJSpotlight) 






New Jersey Rating Cut by Moody’s as Christie Pledges Fix

New Jersey’s credit rating was lowered one step to A1 by Moody’s Investors Service because of revenue shortfalls as Governor Chris Christie said he would release a plan to address the issue next week.

The downgrade to the fifth-highest level applies to $2.4 billion of general-obligation debt and $29.8 billion of appropriations-backed and general obligation-related debt, Moody’s said yesterday in a statement. The action matched downgrades by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.

The sixth ratings cut since Christie took office in 2010 leaves the Republican tied with Democrat James McGreevey for the most credit reductions for a New Jersey governor. The three major rating companies have all cited recurring deficits as revenue fails to meet Christie’s projections.

“The downgrade to A1 reflects the weakened financial position resulting from recurring revenue shortfalls and ongoing reliance on non-recurring resources that have deferred structural imbalances into future years,” Moody’s analyst Baye Larsen said in the report. She said the state’s outlook was negative, meaning it may face a further downgrade. (Dopp and Kaske/Bloomberg) 






Ras Baraka win in Newark changes political landscape in Essex and beyond

NEWARK — On election night in Newark last week, newly elected mayor Ras Baraka stood before a cheering crowd to declare victory in the bitterly contested race, with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and state Sen. Richard Codey by his side.

“Watch out, America,” Baraka called out to those gathered in the ballroom at the Robert Treat Hotel. “Here comes Newark!”

Baraka, the 45-year-old councilman and former high school principal who is now mayor-elect of the state’s largest city, emerges from the hard-fought campaign with more than a mandate and a month of sleep deprivation. It gave him political juice.

The son of the late poet Amiri Baraka and a controversial activist in his own right who was once arrested at a city council protest, Baraka bucked the powerful county Democratic organization that worked hard to defeat him. He was heavily outspent in the race by newcomer Shavar Jeffries, but still won by nearly 8 points.

Like him or not, observers say he comes out of the election as a major player now in state and county politics — with his own organization and his own power base that will make him a future force to be reckoned with in New Jersey. (Sherman/Star-Ledger) 







From the Back Room


Currie’s state party appointments

New Jersey Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie over the last 48 hours selected four vice chairs for the state party’s executive board.

The chair’s picks are: Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34), Garden State Equality founder Steven Goldstein, and Atlantic County Freeholder Colin Bell. 

Currie’s state party appointments | Politicker NJ

’s Bonamo on weekend TV reporter Mark Bonamo will appear on a weekend public interest television program. 

Bonamo will appear on New Jersey Now on My9/WWOR TV with host Jim McQueeny on Sunday, May 18 at 12 noon.

Bonamo will appear with fellow panelists Bill Anderson of Chasing NJ, political consultant Adam Silverstein and political science professor Alan Steinberg. 

Topics will include the outcome and aftermath of the Newark mayoral election and the latest update of the ongoing Bridgegate investigation.’s Bonamo on weekend TV | Politicker NJ






Sweeney puts millionaires’ tax on the table to help fix budget 

Newark Mayor-Elect Ras Baraka still stands behind the two members of his council slate who face runoff elections in June, according to his mayoral campaign spokeswoman. 

“Mayor-Elect Baraka is firmly behind Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins in the Central Ward and Joe McCallum in the West Ward,” said Baraka spokeswoman Tai Cooper. “He firmly believes that they are the best people to help him move Newark forward.”

McCallum will face off against independent candidate Patricia Bradford in the West Ward, while Chaneyfield Jenkins will take on incumbent Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif, an independent.

The Newark council runoff elections will be held on June 10. Council members will be sworn in for a four-year term on July 1, along with the mayor. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ) 

Baraka stands by Newark council team members going into June runoff | Politicker NJ




Morning Digest: May 19, 2014