One Action-packed, Drama-filled Week in Trenton

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It was an action-packed four-day week in Trenton. Let’s recap some highlights!

 

Monday. Sweeney’s Big Presser 

 

On Monday, Senate President Steve Sweeney kicked off a busy week in Trenton with a well-attended, surprisingly policy-driven press conference on economic development. It wasn’t the most sizzling presser in memory and things were a bit lean on specifics, but Sweeney gets props for promoting topics like college affordability, retirement security, and a world-class transportation infrastructure. It’s boilerplate stuff no matter who’s taking about it, but Sweeney still managed to pack a room with TV-, radio-, online-, and print media types to share his priorities. All this, while flanked by top lieutenants, including Senator Loretta Weinberg who was quick to highlight how lack of investment hinders economic potential.

“New Jersey residents spend an additional $600-a-year on car repairs” due to roads which rate “near the bottom,” Weinberg told the scrum. Oh and by the way, that’s $600 not going towards your retirement. Or your Atlantic City Party Fund for that matter.

An all-Democratic press affair, Monday could serve as preemptive salvo in next year’s budget battles which, if he retains his current chairmanship, will be led by Senator Paul Sarlo. Like Weinberg, Sarlo hails from Bergen County. And he’s practically quivering with ambition to become our next Senate president if/when Steve Sweeney runs for governor. Which means Sweeney has a powerful advocate in the mix deciding who gets the much-coveted, oft-decisive party line on the Bergen County ballot.

Steve Sweeney comes from the southerly part of the Garden State that remains relatively sparsely populated. Sweeney needs the all-important Party Line in (at least) one big North Jersey county just to make his electoral math work. Bergen’s a rich prize. With roughly 933k residents, it’s NJ’s most populated county.

 

Tuesday. Moran’s Mea Culpa (part 6) 

Listening to someone complain about a mess they created gets old fast.

United by their antipathy towards teachers unions (which I get) and a zeal to promote charter schools (which I don’t) Tom Moran enabled Governor Chris Christie’s assault on New Jersey when the Moran-led Star Ledger editorial board endorsed Christie’s reelection campaign.  And Moran has been doing a journalistic “walk of shame” pretty much ever since.

Moran’s latest attempt to un-ring that bell continued Tuesday with a regrets-laden column about Governor Chris Christie’s “doomed” presidential campaign. Moran highlighted what everyone (save Chris Christie) seems to grasp: the gov’s lousy poll numbers, NJ’s high rates of poverty and distressed mortgages, anemic job growth, a gazillion credit downgrades et al. But the real message permuting this column is that Tom Moran remains profoundly ashamed for endorsing Chris Christie for Governor and can’t stop reminding us about it (while simultaneously telling us all how crappy Christie’s performing.)
Tom Moran is a great writer whose thoughtful prose usually hits the mark. But bemoaning the consequences of a monster he helped to create is like a child who ate too much candy whining about a bellyache.
Wednesday. SaveJersey calls out Chris Christie for neglecting NJGOP
“Plenty of GOP committee-types would be happy to see him out there (on the trail.)” 
When your own (republican) people urge you to jump ship, it’s more credible advice than coming from from, say, BlueJersey. Or Tom Moran for that matter. But Wednesday served up more plaintive cries for Chris Christie to call it quits, at least temporarily. This, in a blunt message from conservative blogger Matt Rooney, founder of SaveJersey.com: “the Governor should come home, now…and spend the next two weeks trying to elect as many NJ GOP candidates as possible.”
“His NJ numbers stink, it’s true,” Rooney tells PolitickerNJ. “But it’s a low turnout election. A Base battle. Christie could target (hardcore) GOP’ers in districts for GOTV.” Unlike Tom Moran, whose column focused on Christie’s policy failures, Rooney suggests Christie’s poor team play in NJ might be why he’s polling so badly in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“Coming home and being a team player? It might cause folks in important primary/caucus states to see him in a different light if he succeeds in helping pull a few extra GOP Assemblymen across the finish line.”
But since the only truly competitive assembly races this year are in down South Jersey, Christie must break his presumed nonaggression pact with George Norcross to meaningfully help his own party on election day. And I don’t see anyone holding their breath for that.
Thursday. Sweeney Snaps Christie’s Streak.
For the first time in 53 Tries, a Christie Veto Rejected
Governor Christie’s lousy week pretty much cratered on Thursday as his (admittedly impressive) veto-proof win streak finally screeched to a grinding halt. More than a loss for Christie, the Senate’s vote to override the Gov on a gun safety measure was a huge win for Senate President Steve Sweeney. (And should the Assembly follow suit, which must happen for the override to stick, the winners IMHO will be the residents of New Jersey.)
Sound background: last summer, in the wake of one mass school shooting or another, a bill intended to keep guns from mentally ill people sailed through in Trenton. The bill passed unanimously in both the Senate and Assembly. Then, in an unsurprising move to anyone paying attention, Governor Christie vetoed the bill despite overwhelming bipartisan support. This, presumably, to appease the GOP base and become his party’s next presidential nominee. As if.
To ensure all 40 members showed up to vote, Sweeney took the unusual step of invoking an old procedural rule placing all senators “under call.” This basically meant Sweeney could send the state police to fetch any truant senators, if necessary. It was a dramatic flourish that raised the already considerable political stakes of Thursday’s vote. Which made the subsequent takedown of Governor Christie all the more dramatic. And the best part for Sweeney was the deft strategic touch he showed along the way, thereby increasing the override chances in the lower house, too.
The fight now goes to the assembly where the GOP leader Assemblyman Jon Bramnick is already in a quandary. Does he (and his GOP caucus) kowtow to the governor for the umpteenth time? Or does Bramnick actually fight for his own bill? I’ve a hunch enough GOP assembly members will find the cajones and stand up to the Governor on this one. Frankly, sources tell PolitickerNJ there will likely be a lot less kowtowing happening moving forward on account of Christie’s one-sided relationship with fellow Garden State Republican.
Don’t look for Chris Christie repeat his streak, either. Increasingly yolked by his own political baggage, Governor Christie won’t come close to his previous record of 52 straight wins.
Jay Lassiter is a New Jersey political gadfly with strong opinions about basically everything. When he’s not ending the death penalty or legalizing gay marriage and medical marijuana, he’s probably on Twitter @Jay_Lass.
One Action-packed, Drama-filled Week in Trenton