Morning Digest: May 6, 2014

Newark mayor’s race: West Kinney Street diary – after years elsewhere, man comes home to Newark, wants new mayor to “be here”

NEWARK – The outcome of the Newark mayoral election will be decided, in large part, by whether the competing teams led by candidates Ras Baraka and Shavar Jeffries wage effective political war on two fronts: on the airwaves and on the ground. 

But at a hot dog stand located at West Kinney Street and Quitman Street in the city’s Central Ward, possibly the most critical battleground in the upcoming municipal election, one Newark resident declared his disdain for one of these two fronts on Monday, just eight days before the May 13 municipal election. 

“Those commercials and advertisements ain’t nothing but networking. That’s all just the gift of the gab,” said Mikail Ramadon Healy, 42. “We live this 24-7. Come out here and live where we live. Then you’ll see what changes need to be made. We need people here that are going to give back. I want to see a guy as mayor who’s going to be around. Stay here. Be here.”

Healy, who grew up on Prince Street, returned to the Central Ward recently after living in Texas for several years, where he ran a cab service and a cleaning service. He hopes to start a moving service soon. But what he really hopes for is a better neighborhood, led by an engaged community.  (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Newark mayor’s race: West Kinney Street diary – after years elsewhere, man comes home to Newark, wants new mayor to “be here” | Politicker NJ





Newark mayor’s race: With political spotlight focused on Newark, Hollywood star Eva Longoria endorses Jeffries

NEWARK – On a day when a new poll indicated a tightening Newark mayoral race, the intensifying contest between South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka and former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries got an added spotlight when actor Eva Longoria came to Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood to endorse Jeffries.

“This is a race that everybody is paying attention to. When a city like Newark makes national news, people are listening,” said Longoria to a crowd of close to 800 people in the Mediterranean Manor catering hall on Jefferson Street, after she was introduced by Tenagne Jeffries, the mayoral candidate’s wife. “He’s not here because of his [public policy views]. He is here because he has strong women in his life.”

A critical part of Jeffries’ life and campaign narrative is the murder of his mother as a result of domestic violence when he was ten years old. His grandmother then raised him, helping Jeffries as he prepared to graduate from Seton Hall Prep, Duke University and Columbia Law School. 

“I don’t support candidates who treat women as a special interest group,” added Longoria, who announced that she was backing Jeffries in his newly-announced #honorthymother campaign, a week-long series of events culminating in Mother’s Day intended to remind people to honor their mothers by working for a better Newark. “I support candidates who recognize that women are half the population of this country, and we have a say.”

Newark mayor’s race: With political spotlight focused on Newark, Hollywood star Eva Longoria endorses Jeffries | Politicker NJ 






If Baraka were to lose on May 13th, what would it mean for Fulop?

NEWARK- Establishment forces backing Shavar Jeffries continue to full-court-press a close contest storyline in the Newark mayor’s race, sending, if not a shiver up the spines of Ras Baraka allies, gut-check phones calls, at the very least, concerning the broader implications of a Baraka loss.

One well-known name comes immediately to mind as someone who would end up in the loser’s column, writhing under the equivalent of a locker room pink belly gleefully administered by those party enemies not so much of Baraka but of one of his most aggressive backers – Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop.

An independent expenditures group backing the former state assistant attorney general released a towel-snapping poll memo today showing a tightening contest with South Ward Councilman Baraka barely clinging to a lead over an air war-aided Jeffries.

Ground game-wired Baraka allies dismiss the polling memo as the desperate, 11th hour dispatches of an overrun army – although it should be noted that pollster Jeff Plaut did Fulop’s polling last year.

If the May 13th race is close, and indeed if Baraka finds himself swamped down the stretch by a successful Jeffries bomb run, what would that mean for Fulop, Baraka’s most visibly politically aspiring ally, who went all-in with Baraka? (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

If Baraka were to lose on May 13th, what would it mean for Fulop? | Politicker NJ






New Jersey Senate committee OKs bill to reduce rounds a magazine can hold

A legal restriction on the number of cartridges a gun can hold, a proposal that has bounced around the State House for more than a year, has just one hurdle left before it lands on Governor Christie’s desk.

A Senate committee cleared the bill Monday after a hearing that saw gun control supporters and opponents of firearm restrictions make the same emotional arguments they’ve used since the debate over magazine capacity restrictions began.

But the politics behind the bill have shifted, following the changing priorities of the state’s top lawmakers.

Christie, who is positioning himself for a presidential run in 2016 and has boasted that he never has to face New Jersey voters again, is noncommittal on the magazine limit. But he faces intense pressure from firearm supporters around the country – including in key primary states like Iowa – to reject any new gun restrictions.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, meanwhile, has done an about-face on the measure. When some Democrats first pushed it last year after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, Sweeney refused to post the bill for a vote. But after he won reelection in November, Sweeney met with the parents of Sandy Hook victims and became a staunch supporter of the measure. Sweeney is one of several Democrats eyeing a run for governor in 2017.

If it becomes law, the bill would mean that gun magazines in New Jersey could hold only 10 rounds of ammunition, down from the current 15-round limit. It’s a restriction that supporters say will help save lives in mass shootings by forcing attackers to change magazines more frequently, giving people more time to escape. Opponents argue it’s tantamount to confiscation of their weapons. (Linhorst, Phillis, and Reitmeyer/The Record) 






US Supreme Court rejects appeal on N.J. gun rights case

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to New Jersey’s gun laws that require an individual to show an urgent need in order to obtain a permit. Monday’s action means that a lower court’s decision to uphold the laws will stand.

New Jersey requires residents to show they have a specific need to carry a firearm outside the home. This challenge touched on whether the constitution protected the right to carry outside the home. The Supreme Court had previously rejected Washington D.C.’s outright ban on handguns.

“I think this was probably a very important result for the maintenance of gun violence prevention regulations nationally,” said Bryan Miller, executive director of Heeding God’s Call, a group that seeks to end gun violence.

“The fact that it has not been heard that makes it to me very clear that the Supreme Court believes regulating who and when and where people can legally possess guns is settled,” Miller said.

There is a challenge to the carry law pending before the state Supreme Court but oral arguments have not yet been scheduled.

Governor Christie asked the Supreme Court not to take the case, Drake v Jerejian, but many conservative lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance of Hunterdon wanted the Supreme Court to schedule oral arguments. (Phillis/The Record) 







Supreme Court declines to review New Jersey’s handgun permit law

The Supreme Court Monday decided once again to stay out of the legal battle over whether some states are too restrictive in issuing permits to carry a handgun outside the home.

The justices without comment turned down a request to review whether New Jersey’s law requiring “justifiable need” to get a handgun permit infringes on Second Amendment rights.

The court has not accepted a major gun case since its twin decisions that found there is a right to gun ownership in the home and that it applies to both federal and state government attempts at gun control.

All states allow handguns to be carried outside the home, but some are more restrictive than others. Gun-rights supporters said New Jersey’s law, similar to ones in Maryland, New York and elsewhere, make it nearly impossible for anyone who is not a member of law enforcement to get such a permit.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit upheld the law, saying the legislature’s decision was a “presumptively lawful, long-standing regulation and therefore does not burden conduct within the scope of the Second Amendment’s guarantee.”

The issue is still being debated in lower courts, however. (Barnes/Washington Post)   







Aid Payments Due to Schools May Bear Brunt of State Budget Crunch

With the state facing an $800 million shortfall in its fiscal 2014 budget, there are only so many places that the money can be found to close the gap — and state aid to schools is among the most obvious.

After all, state education aid makes up more than one-third of the overall budget, totaling more than $12.8 billion.

But in a sometimes testy hearing before the Assembly budget committee yesterday, acting Education Commissioner David Hespe offered few clues about whether the answer might simply be delaying school-aid payment until the next fiscal year or eliminating the aid payments outright — or something in between.

“At this point in time, I cannot say what the impact will be, although we can certainly assume given that school funding, both direct and indirect payments, makes up a third of the budget, we can certainly assume there will be some impact,” Hespe said in response to repeated questioning that opened the hearing.

“I just cannot say what that is,” he said. “The goal would be to limit impact to as little as possible. . . . At this point in time, everything is on the table, and I don’t have the ability to take anything off the table.”

State Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), chairman of the budget committee, prodded Hespe further, sometimes sounding like a lawyer in cross-examination.

“Forgive me, I don’t mean to put you on the spot, and I understand the governor will do what he believes what he needs to do to have the less disastrous effects,” Schaer said. (Mooney/NJSpotlight)   








DRPA Chief Calls Reform Bill ‘Not Transformative,’ Says Change Already Made

The Delaware River Port Authority needs to do a better job of regaining the public trust, which has been eroded by claims of mismanagement and profligate spending.

But its acting chief executive believes it is already pursuing some of the policies being proposed in new legislation to reform the embattled agency.

John Hanson said the agency, which operates four bridges across the Delaware River between South Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as the PATCO subway line and a ferry, had already decided in 2010 to end its support for economic development projects that the bi-state legislation says are outside its mandate.

“This legislation is not particularly transformative,” Hanson said, in response to a bill introduced in both states’ legislatures calling for a ban on DRPA’s involvement in economic development, to prevent what critics have called an inappropriate use of toll-payers money.

The bill, introduced in New Jersey by state Republican Sen. Joe Pennacchio on April 28, also seeks to end what its backers see as cronyism that has led to lucrative contracts for people connected to the agency. If it is passed by both state legislatures, the bill must also be approved by Congress.

Proposed reforms include bans on political activity using DRPA time or resources; on the acceptance of any gifts that could affect the conduct of the agency’s business; and on DRPA managers receiving their salaries before audits are complete.

Sen. Pennacchio and cosponsors in Pennsylvania said the agency spent more than $440 million over two decades on development projects unrelated to its transportation mandate, and incurred “significant debt” to do so. (Hurdle/NJSpotlight) 








Rupert Murdoch says Christie’s presidential hopes could fade

Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, took a shot at the Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential aspirations this weekend as he hobnobbed with another potential challenger for the 2016 GOP nomination.

Murdoch was at Churchill Downs in Lexington, Ky. to watch the Kentucky Derby alongside Rand Paul, the state’s Republican U.S. Senator.

Like Christie, Paul is often mentioned as a potential 2016 challenger for the Republican presidential nomination.

According to The New York Times, Murdoch had favorable words for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, both on the short list of potential candidates for the nomination.

He also had kinds words for Paul’s political acumen.

But he was less effusive about Christie.

“He’ll be a very strong, fighting candidate in the primaries, but there will be more and more stuff coming out, I think,” Murdoch said, referring to the George Washington Bridge lane diversion controversy currently roiling the administration. “Not him but, you know, on his aides. There will be more stories.”

Murdoch’s backing is highly sought after by Republican candidates because of his vast media holdings, which cater to the country’s Republican base.

Two years ago, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried and failed to gain Murdoch’s backing and instead found himself on the receiving end of blistering criticism from the Fox News owner. (Isherwood/ 








NJ lawmakers want more tax breaks for movie, TV sudios

TRENTON — Lights. Camera. Legislative action.

The state Senate’s Economic Growth Committee today approved a bill intended to make New Jersey more attractive to film and video production companies by expanding a tax credit program.

The bill (S1952) would remove a $10 million limit on incentives for film production, as well as a $5 million incentive cap on digital production.

The advance of the legislation by a vote of 4-0 comes less than a week after industry insiders, speaking on a panel at the Montclair Film Festival, said New Jersey is losing its appeal as a filming location because it is not offering competitive incentives.

Christine Peluso, an attorney with Tax Credits LLC – which helps studios secure tax credits – told lawmakers that incentives were her clients’ “number one consideration” when considering shooting locations.

“In order to attract filming, you have to have an incentive,” Peluso said.

New York, by contrast, offers $420 million a year in credits. (Friedman/Star-Ledger)   



From the Back Room



Will Longoria’s presence in the Ironbound engage Fontoura on behalf of Team Jeffries?

There is considerable speculation tonight about the political impact of Eva Longoria’s presence in the East Ward and whether it will prod Sheriff Armando Fontoura into the race on behalf of Shavar Jeffries.

The most famous politician from the Ironbound section of Newark, Fontoura to date has – in the words of one Essex pol – “disappeared to Switzerland” when it comes to the Newark mayor’s contest.

But the sheriff is a Longoria fan, based on the actor’s appearance on the campaign trail here last year.

If Fontoura has any designs on getting into the endorsement game, they were not visible at the Lonegoria event today, where Ironbound pols had expectations of a Fontoura sighting. 

The sheriff was obstinately a no-show.

Will Longoria’s presence in the Ironbound engage Fontoura on behalf of Team Jeffries? | Politicker NJ




Rice on the Newark Mayor’s race

West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice offered one of the season’s most compact analyses of the closing days of the Newark Mayor’s race on his Facebook page.

We have reprinted it below:

“The optics of the Newark Mayoral race for the last week are becoming quite clear,” Rice wrote. “The Jeffries campaign needs an almost Booker size Latino voter turnout to make this race close and still needs to introduce himself to late deciders, hence the emphasis on themes, endorsements, etc that would appeal to that community at the same numbers it took Booker years to cultivate.

“At the same time, Jeffries needs to bring Barakas numbers down as much as possible, so the negative media will keep coming and go multi platform. At the same time, Jeffries will go to as many voters personally as possible until next Tuesday, he has no choice. Baraka has to push for turnout, turnout, turnout in his base in what I think will be a low turnout election, somewhere between 2006 and 2010, so expect activities and media designed to make that happen and personal outreach in areas where the negative lit hits. Baraka needs and should have the biggest GOTV army in Newark history for this weekend all the way to Tuesday. Just my two biased, but I still think correct cents.”

Rice on the Newark Mayor’s race | Politicker NJ






CD12 Update: Watson Coleman gets backing of Minnesota congressman 

Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15) today landed the support of  U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).

If you don’t know who he is, neither do we.

But he issued the following quote on behalf of the woman who hopes to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12):

“Bonnie is working hard to join me in Congress, and I know that when she gets here she will bring her strong, progressive values with her,” Ellison said in a statement. “With the Tea Party threatening to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare, instead of expanding them, it’s critical that Bonnie joins me to fight for our progressive values on Capitol Hill. 

“Bonnie is the only candidate in this race that has been endorsed by national progressive organizations like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), Blue America and the Progressive Democrats of America,” he added.

CD12 Update: Watson Coleman gets backing of Minnesota congressman | Politicker NJ





Gov. Kean to give Rutgers commencement address

Former Gov. Tom Kean will deliver a commencement address at Rutgers University later this month, the college announced.

The former governor is slated to speak to the Rutgers University-New Brunswick/Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Class of 2014 on May 18, Rutgers President Robert Barchi announced in a statement.

“Gov. Kean’s career as a public servant, educator and statesman speaks to the civility, integrity, and vision that we hope will guide our graduates as they pursue their careers or further their studies,” Barchi said.

“Gov. Kean is a national role model as a statesman who built bridges across partisan, racial, ethnic and ideological divides for the sole purpose of improving the quality of life for the people he served,” he said. “We are honored that he has accepted our invitation to address our graduates.”

Kean served as governor from 1982 until 1990.

He received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Rutgers University in 1982. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

Gov. Kean to give Rutgers commencement address | Politicker NJ






The Payne-Baraka Back Story

NEWARK – As the Newark mayor’s race intensifies, it’s worth noting a critical point in the twisting and divided political paths of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., (D-10) of Newark and South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka, a candidate for mayor.

When then-mayoral candidate Cory Booker formulated his game plan for taking over City Hall, he did so in part by making an argument to the younger generation of Newark leaders that the elders had dominated the halls of power for too long.

The charismatic Booker assembled a team of next-generation Newark names, including Ronald C. Rice, the son of state Sen. Ronald L. Rice, who was with Booker going back to his original 2002 campaign for mayor.

He also appealed directly to educator Baraka – son of the poet and Newark political leader Amiri Baraka – and to Payne, Jr., son of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne.

Both South warders were reluctant to saddle up with Booker.

Baraka said no outright. Distrustful of the Central Ward councilman and his big dollar ties, he didn’t want to be part of the Booker Team and defined himself right away as a Booker opponent.

Payne initially for an at-large council seat unsupported by Booker in 2006; but in the runoff, with Booker dominant over Rice Sr. in the mayoral election and his council candidates surging, Payne allied himself with Team Booker.

He won the runoff and an at-large seat.

Baraka, running against the Booker Team, lost.

The Booker/Payne relationship was not always rosy over the course of the next six plus years. The Paynes and Booker fought over turf in the South Ward, and the old political family unsuccessfully supported Bill Payne for senate against the Booker-backed state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) in 2007.

But Booker and Payne were back together in time for 2010, when the at-large councilman ran on the Booker ticket.

Running against the Booker Team, Baraka won that year, defeating the only member of the Booker Team who did not survive re-election: the South Ward’s Oscar James, Jr., another political family scion who had aligned with the young mayor.

As soon as the election was over, Payne sided with the Baraka forces against Booker’s plan to monetize the local waterworks, infuriating the mayor and his allies.

But the Payne/Baraka alliance would not last long.

Emergent politically each in his own way, with Baraka a firebrand like his father before him and Payne, like his father, more willing to work within the framework of the Democratic Party establishment, both men lost their fathers within two years.

The congressman died in 2012 and the poet died last year.

Now the younger Payne – no longer a councilman but a congressman, the replacement for his father – backs Shavar Jeffries against Baraka, lending a strong citywide family name to the Jeffries cause – going so far as to anchor Jeffries’ first television ad as the two men attempt to stop Baraka.

The Payne-Baraka Back Story | Politicker NJ Morning Digest: May 6, 2014