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  Top Headlines: AD WATCH

June 9, 2009

The New York Times took a look at the accuracy of Gov. Corzine's two new television commercials.

Bottom line: The ads had more than one misstatement of facts, and are designed to paint Republican Chris Christie -- who is still unknown to a large percentage of New Jersey voters -- as out of the mainstream. According to the Times, "The commercial’s intent seems mainly to let liberal-minded voters know — and never forget — that Mr. Christie is a Republican, which in New Jersey these days may be baggage enough. But if voters come to see Mr. Christie as a habitat-destroying, woman-hating tool of the gun lobby, then, presumably, all the better for Mr. Corzine."

The complete analysis of the ads is here.

Message and Media, which produced these ads, has painted every New Jersey Republican running for statewide office in the last decade as a "habitat-destroying, woman-hating tool of the gun lobby."  It will be interesting to see if that message -- now that George Bush is no longer in office -- still resonates with the New Jersey public, or whether Corzine's record trumps what up to now has been a surefire winning strategy for N.J. Democrats.

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  Top Headlines: ASK A DOZEN PUNDITS

June 8, 2009

Interesting article in Sunday's Washington Post.  They asked 12 experts to weigh in on the 2009 governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia, and its national implication.

Their take:  Should the GOP win, it would signal a comeback for the party.

Here, for example, is Karl Rove's view:

To the victorious party will go the spoils of framing the 2010 elections in a more optimistic light.

Democratic defeats in Virginia or New Jersey -- or even narrow victories -- would be discombobulating for the Obama White House and signal trouble in 2010. With unemployment likely to grow through perhaps the middle of next year and the federal government's red ink likely to become even more visible to increasingly anxious voters well before then, Democrats would be in for a rough time in the midterms, especially in races for the House and governorships.

Republican victories in one or both states, on the other hand, would embolden more good GOP candidates to enter the lists for 2010, energize party activists and prompt donors to open their wallets (more widely). Virginia and New Jersey may elect Republican governors for local reasons, but the implications would be national.

Democrats have big tactical advantages in this year's contests: a White House that can raise money and grab attention, volunteers jazzed by last fall's sweep and, in New Jersey, a Goldman Sachs zillionaire willing to spend tens of millions on attack ads. Despite this, Republicans are clearly competitive in polling in both states. Let the general elections begin!


Other experts include: Christine Todd Whitman, Douglas E. Schoen, Catherine A. "Kiki" McLean, Mark Sanford, Norman J. Ornstein, Tom Davis, Ed Gillespie, Ed Rogers, Brian Schweitzer, Karen Finney and Tom Kean.

You can read the whole piece here.



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  Top Headlines: SEN. LESNIAK ROBBED AT ELIZABETH HOME

April 19, 2009

State Sen. and political powerbroker Ray Lesniak was apparently robbed by two men who broke into his home early Saturday and demanded cash in the home-invasion style robbery.

From the Ledger (which has the full story here):
He opened his eyes to two figures standing a few feet away in his darkened bedroom. The young men had appeared as surprised as he was, Lesniak said -- perhaps because they had expected the house in a quiet residential section of Elizabeth to be empty.

"Shoot him," one robber said. The other disagreed. "No, no, stay cool," Lesniak recalled him saying.

Lesniak, 62, who said he never saw a gun, lost cash, a cellular phone and the keys to his car, before the pair fled.

Police labeled the home invasion "highly unusual." Lesniak's neighborhood, consisting mostly of stately colonial homes near Kean University, is usually peaceful, although it borders a high-crime area around the Oakwood Plaza apartment complex.

Lt. Andrew King said the two men had broken in through a basement window, removing its plastic cover and smashing the glass. They apparently rummaged through several basement closets before climbing to the ground floor, when they encountered Lesniak.

"We just want some money -- just don't do anything crazy," Lesniak recalled one saying, as he lay in bed. "We're good people, we're just in a bad place right now."

Recounting the robbery, Lesniak said he told the robbers he had a few hundred dollars in the kitchen.

"It was the first time in my life that I followed anybody's orders since I got out of the Army," the high-powered politician said as he recounted the incident Saturday.

He said he offered his expensive Rolex watch, but they declined it. Taking the money, they told him not to "go calling the cops." Then they grabbed his BlackBerry and his house and car keys off the counter, and ran out. He later found they left his Lexus hybrid untouched in the garage.


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  Top Headlines: BREAKING: SPITZER LINKED TO PROSTITUTION RING, MAY RESIGN

March 10, 2008

Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been linked to a prostitution ring, several media organizations are reporting. 

Fox News is reporting that Spitzer will resign tonight, although Spitzer did not say anything about a resignation during a brief public appearance, during which he apologized for his behavior in a “private matter.”

“I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong,” said Spitzer, who appeared with his wife Silda. “I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better.”

“I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”




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  Top Headlines: REPORTS: CONIGLIO TO BE INDICTED

Feb. 14, 2008

Both the Star-Ledger and The Record (Bergen County) are reporting this morning that the feds are seeking an indictment today of former state Sen. Joseph Coniglio, D-Bergen.

Prosecutors have been presenting evidence for months to a grand jury investigating whether there is a connection between Hackensack University Medical Center's decision to hire Coniglio, a plumber by trade, as a $5,000 a month plumbing consultant, and the hospital receiving $1.6 million in state grants.

Coniglio was expected to turn himself into authorities today.

He dropped his bid for re-election in September.





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  Top Headlines: DRAFT TOLL HIKE BILL NOW ONLINE

Feb. 4, 2008

Nearly a month after he first unveiled his plan, Gov. Corzine has finally released the text of his 80-page asset moneetization bill. You can link to it here.

Maybe now the Chamber of Commerce and those 33 members of the governor's steering committee can read the plan that they've already endorsed.

For the rest of us, now we'll get to see the fine print.

Nothing like a little light reading.




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  Top Headlines: MAYBE IT'S WALL STREET MATH

Feb. 4, 2008

We confess, we're not Wall Street wizards, and we don't even play one on TV.

But we don't understand the "fiscal sanity" behind this:

Assemblyman Richard Merkt put out a statement today saying that according to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, Gov. Corzine's proposed toll hike plan will cost New Jersey "more than $196 billion in future toll road revenue over the life of the plan."

"Our multimillionaire governor, the former Goldman Sachs CEO, proposes giving up future toll revenue worth more than five times the one-shot, up-front cash payment he is so desperate to grab. Even a high school economics student would tell you that is a raw deal," stated Merkt in the release. "In fact, it's beyond unconscionable; it is outright stealing from future generations of New Jersey residents."

Maybe some one can ask the governor how losing $196 billion is good for the taxpayers of the state,

Meanwhile, unlike the state Chamber of Commerce, the Commerce and Industry Association has come out opposing the toll hike plan:

"CIANJ based its opposition on the impact the toll increases will have on the cost of doing business in New Jersey, the continued borrowing of state government, the loss of state control of a critical function of government, and the availability of other options – such as spending cuts – that would allow the legislature to correct the problems it created. " 




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  Top Headlines: FRANKLY MY DEAR

Jan. 10, 2008

They say that politics makes strange bedfellows.

But few seem stranger than this. There they were at a press conference, Gov. Corzine and the man he spent $60 million to defeat, former U.S. Rep. Robert Franks, standing together side by side. All that was missing was the clasped hands raised above their heads.

Franks, who is now an uberlobbyist as the president of a pharmaceutical trade organization, was there to announce that he has agreed to help Corzine win passage of his controversial asset monetization    fiscal restructuring  financial restructuring and debt reduction  toll hike plan.
 
Franks, saying he was a fiscally conservative Republican, said he decided to help Corzine because the governor’s plan  has “broken with the tradition of Trenton.”

He said he liked the spending freeze, an end to the one-shot budget gimmicks, and giving the public more oversight on borrowing. And so Franks will now lead a public relations blitzkrieg to get the plan, which features four 50 percent toll hikes over a 12-year period, approved.
 
Now we would note that we have been telling you all along how Corzine and his people have been quietly meeting with targeted special interest groups to get their buy-in for the campaign.  Their strategy: Overwhelm the state with a six-week campaign and get the plan approved before opponents get a chance to get started.

They've been effective.  The Chamber of Commerce seems ready to jump on board; so do the labor unions. By tapping Franks, Corzine is hoping to blunt Republican opposition.

Corzine is also planning a  “political campaign-style effort”, according to the Ledger, that includes paid TV and radio ads, regular opinion polling and endorsements from a coalition of backers that includes business leaders, labor unions and construction companies.

Corzine’s already gone to the Star Ledger for an editorial board; today he went on NJ101.5, where he said he would agree to “frequent driver” discounts for commuters. He also promised to release that consultant report that he went to court to keep secret in a week.
 
But he got testy, even a bit defensive, when talking to morning host Jim Gearhart. He dismissed talk of spending cuts with warnings about bankrupt hospitals and dire conditions about psychiatric hospitals. He never, however, mentioned the fact that the budget doubled in 10 years, or that he planned to look for duplicate or inefficient programs and eliminate them.

And he didn’t have great answers for the callers, either, especially the woman from Point Pleasant, who said it wasn’t fair that those who live near the toll roads would bear a disproportionate burden.
 
But he’ll have a chance to hone his stump speech when he goes on his 21-county tour to promote the plan.  We hear hundreds have signed up for the meetings – and we wonder, how many will be folks whose Corzine's PR campaign have recruited to pack the room with supporters.  And how will that affect “regular” New Jerseyans who might want to object to the plan, but would feel intimidated by a large show of support.

Or maybe that’s the point.  Sort of like asking people to register in advance.
 
But we would note that even a well-orchestrated PR campaign can't stop a determined New Jersey electorate. And that's the key.  For the governor is smart, and they've developed an effective strategy to get their plan through the Legislature.

It's now up to the rest of New Jersey to say whether this plan goes through E-ZPass, or if it stalls in heavy traffic.



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  Top Headlines: BREAKING NEWS: TOLLS MAY RISE 75 PERCENT

Nov. 21, 2007

Now this could explain why Gov. Corzine has been so secretive about his asset monetization  fiscal restructuring   toll hike plan.

WNBC's Brian Ross is reporting tonight that tolls on the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike "would go up as much as 75 percent in the year 2010, and then 75 percent more on an "every four year" schedule after that. In addition, any inflation would be factored into those increases.

The bottom line, a trip from Bergen County to Newark Airport that now costs $1.70 would be at least $5.20 by the year 2014. A 70-cent toll on the Parkway would be $2.13 that same year."

Thompson said he has learned the details of what he called the "leading" plan, which Corzine is set to unveil in January. It would also include money for bridge and road repair.

Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts was said to be initially supportive and challenged critics "to look honestly at this idea and if you don't like this, tell me what your idea is."

Bottom line -- it's going to be a bumpy ride come January.



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  Top Headlines: LET THE JOCKEYING BEGIN

Nov. 19, 2007

It's only been a few hours since Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-7th, announced his intention to retire from Congress, and already Republicans are scrambling all over each other to line up for the seat.

Two legislators are pushing themselves for the head of the pack: soon-to-be ex-Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance of Hunterdon County, who told the Associated Press he was "seriously" considering it, and Assemblyman Jon Bramnick of Union County, who said he is "very seriously" considering it.

One name that most people thought likely has already taken himself out of it:  soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr.

"I look forward to working with the Republican nominee for Congressman Ferguson's seat with the confidence that our nominee will be victorious in November,'' he said.

Other names that are being tossed about include Assemblyman Christopher Bateman, former Congressman Bob Franks. Bridgewater Mayor Patricia Flannery, Somerset County Freeholder Jack Ciattarelli and Scotch Plains Mayor Marty Marks.

But Democrats are clearly energized by Ferguson's announcement. They already viewed his seat as the one most likely to be picked up in the congressional race, given his close race last time against Democrat Linda Stender, when Ferguson won with less than 1 percent of the vote. 

Combined with Jim Saxton's retirement in the 3rd District, Ferguson's decision makes it more likely that national Democrats will pour more money into New Jersey to pick up some GOP seats, to offset any losses nationwide, in order to keep the House in Democrat hands.  

The 7th District is the most competitive congressional district in the state. As the national political website politico.com noted, the district gave "President Bush 53 percent of the vote in 2004, but only 49 percent of the vote against Al Gore in 2000." 

Ferguson said he is resigning because he wants to spend more time with his family. Some politicos, however, speculate that Ferguson didn't want to face the prospect of running for re-election against Stender, especially if Hillary Clinton is at the top of the Democratic ticket. Republicans insist that isn't the case, and maintain the 7th District will remain in GOP hands.

Ferguson is the second Republican congressman to announce his retirement this year.  Rep. Jim Saxton announced earlier this month that he would be retiring, due to health reasons.

Should Bramnick decide to run for Ferguson's seat, that would take him out of the running for Lautenberg's seat. Besides Bramnick, the other Republicans who have expressed interest in the seat are businesswoman Anne Evans Estabrook and Assemblyman -- and newly elected state Senator -- Joe Pennacchio.


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  Top Headlines: BREAKING NEWS: JUDGE 'INCLINED' TO LET TOLL ROAD REPORT STAY PRIVATE

Nov. 16, 2007

So much for openness in government:

From the Associated Press:

"A Superior Court judge said Friday that she's inclined to let Gov. Jon S. Corzine's administration keep private a report detailing how the state can get more money by increasing highway tolls on
some of the nation's busiest highways.

Corzine's administration claimed the $800,000 report should remain private because it wasn't complete.

Assembly Republicans argued it's public information that will shed light on Corzine's plans to hike highway tolls to cut mounting state debt. Corzine has refused to say how much he may hike tolls.

After a Friday morning hearing, Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg said she was inclined to agree with Corzine, but said she wouldn't issue a ruling until after Thanksgiving on whether the report was exempt under state open public records laws."

Well, isn't that fabulous. The government can spend $800,000 of our money and then not release a report that is going to impact the wallets of every one of us.  It seems appropriate that Feinberg is waiting until after Thanksgiving to issue her ruling, since it seems like it's going to be a turkey of a decision.

And people wonder why less than 30 percent of New Jerseyans turned out to vote Election Day.

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  Top Headlines: OUT ON THE TRAIL

Nov. 2, 2007

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES
Joe Donahue of the Star Ledger took an interesting look at who's giving money to who in this election cycle. Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, has donated $290,800 to Democratic candidates in battleground districts  -- outpacing even Gov. Jon Corzine, who has given $281,800. Other big donors: Rep. Frank Lobiondo, Anne Evans Estabrook, the GOP Senate hopeful, and even former Sen. William Gormley.

RUDY BACKS BECK
GOP presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani stumped in Monmouth County yesterday, giving the Republican 12th District slate a boost, and giving himself a plug along the way. He took note of the huge fundraising advantage that Democrat Ellen Karcher has over Jennifer Beck, saying "This is a really important election here. It sets the stage for next year. You have great candidates. They're being outspent and they're ahead. They may have more money, but we have more quality." He told the enthusiastic crowd of 300 that he wanted a hat trick: a win in the 12th District next Tuesday, and for himself, a win in the February primary, and again next November. The Press has video of the event here. For her part, Karcher held a press conference to highlight her support from unions, and to hit Beck for not supporting family leave. Karcher dismissed Giuliani's visit: "Rudy doesn't live in New Jersey or the 12th District. His (war) agenda has been rejected by most. By embracing Giuliani, she (Beck) is embracing future involvement in Iraq."

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
Alfred Doblin of the Bergen Record takes a hard lookout at the fallout from the war between Bergen Democratic Chair Joe Ferriera and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, and how its first victim may be Assemblyman Gordon Johnson.

TRAIL TIDBITS
Thousands of angry state workers -- 4,100 over two days -- have flooded the governor's office with calls protesting his decision to make state employees work the day after Thanksgiving, instead of giving them the day off as an unofficial paid holiday. He also got two calls in favor. But the Ledger noted that state Democrats were worried that state workers would be so angry that they wouldn't work the polls on Election Day, which prompted an interesting comment from Rae Roeder, the president of CWA Local 1033:  "If I was in their position, I'd be a little worried, too."

In the continuing battle over that $800,000 toll road report that the governor refuses to release, the GOP filed more briefs in support of their argument that the report should be public. The GOP argues that it needs the report in order to prepare legislation that would restrict the administration's ability to "sell, lease or monetize" the toll roads, according to the Asbury Park Press. They also say that if the administration's argument that the report is not public because it is a draft is allowed to stand, it would "turn OPRA on its head."

Those four municipal judges were on the other side of the bench yesterday, entering first appearances on official misconduct charges. The Star Ledger has the story here

The Asbury Park Press has a report on a 9th District candidates debate, where attendees bemoaned the partisanship of the candidates.

Republican 12th District Senate candidate Jennifer Beck goes 3 for 3, picking up the endorsement of the Trenton Times.

Pleasantville City Councilman Maurice "Pete" Callaway -- one of the 11 public officials caught up in a federal bribery probe -- pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to accepting bribes as a member of the Pleasantville Board of Education.

After three hearings, the state's civil rights director has found that the state's civil unions law is a "failure", according to the Star Ledger, which also notes that "(Gov.) Corzine is open to discussing gay marriage in 2009 but does not want to confront the issue during the presidential campaign, when it could be 'hijacked by the right wing,' in the words of his press secretary, Lilo Stainton."

The Trenton Times takes a look at the 15th District race.

TODAY'S ENDORSEMENTS

10th District:
Senate
GOP incumbent Andrew Ciesla: Ocean County Observer

Assembly
GOP incumbents David Wolfe and James Holzapfel: Ocean County Observer

12th District
Senate
Republican Jennifer Beck: Trenton Times

Assembly
Democrat incumbent Michael Panter: Trenton Times
Republican Declan O'Scanlon: Trenton Times

14th District
Senate
Republican Bill Baroni: Trenton Times

Assembly
Democratic incumbent Linda Greenstein: Trenton Times
Republican Tom Goodwin: Trenton Times

16th District:
Senate
Republican Christopher "Kip" Bateman: Bridgewater Courier News

Assembly
Republican Denise Coyle: Bridgewater Courier News
Democrat William Koyle: Bridgewater Courier News

23rd District:
Senate
GOP incumbent Leonard Lance: Bridgewater Courier News

Assembly
GOP incumbents Marcia Karrow and Assemblyman Michael Doherty: Bridgewater Courier News

25th District:
Assembly
GOP incumbent Richard Merkt: Morristown Daily Record
Democrat challenger Dana Wefer: Morristown Daily Record


30th District
Senate
GOP incumbent Robert Singer: Ocean County Observer

Assembly
GOP incumbents Joseph Malone and Ronald Dancer: Ocean County Observer

40th District:
Senate
Republican Kevin O'Toole: Bergen Record

Assembly
Republicans David Russo and Scott Rumano: Bergen Record

STATE BALLOT QUESTIONS

No on the sales tax dedication, yes on open space: The Asbury Park Press


Click "read more" for the complete list of endorsements to date.

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  Top Headlines: NOT SO RETIRING

Nov. 1, 2007

State pension officials are looking into whether a deal crafted by former Assembly Speaker – and New Brunswick City Attorney -- William Hamilton violated state pension laws.

The 74-year-old Hamilton announced his resignation in August as city attorney, and began collecting pension payments, only to return to the same job a month later, state Treasury officials told the Star Ledger.

Under state pension rules, a person cannot retire and return to the same position as an employee while collecting pension checks.

In Hamilton’s case, although he retired in August, he returned to the city attorney job in September. When he returned, however,  his base salary was reduced from $86,600 to $15,000. According to the Ledger, he told the council the cut in pay was “necessary to meet state rules limiting salaries for those eligible for pension payments. He started receiving $4,781 a month last week, retroactive to Aug. 1.”  But even though his salary was reduced, Hamilton can still charge $180 an hour for litigation or other types of legal issues on behalf of the city. He earned an extra $165,800 in legal fees from the city last year.

Hamilton, who was Assembly speaker in 1977, told the Ledger, “My conscience is clear. I suggested I could put in for my pension, but I didn't want to stop working."

Mayor James Cahill said Hamilton, who he said was “a really nice guy who really cares about the city of New Brunswick", offered this as a way to cut costs in the city. He added that if there were any issues with Treasury they would be fixed.
 
Treasury officials said about a dozen people are under a pension review for similar circumstances.

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  Top Headlines: OUT ON THE TRAIL

Oct. 31, 2007

Plenty of tricks and treats out on the campaign trail:

HANDS OFF MY ASSETS

State Republicans traveled to Monmouth County yesterday to warn that Gov. Corzine might unveil his asset monetization plan to voters during the lame duck session. Instead, they want any proposal to wait until the new Legislature is seated on Jan. 8, according to the Asbury Park Press.

"I predict that magically after the close of the polls on Nov. 6, details (of the governor's plan) will appear," said state Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, R-Hunterdon.

Codey dismissed their concerns.

"I think we should talk about this after the election, when we can have an intelligent conversation outside of the political arena," Codey said. "Contrary to GOP wagers, I can assure you that the governor has no plans to announce anything regarding asset monetization the day after the election."

OK, but what about the day after the day after the election?

 
THE $2 MILLION WOMAN

Any one who doubts how much the Democrats want incumbent Ellen Karcher to win the 12th District Senate seat just has to look at the campaign reports.

Karcher raised a total of $2.3 million, compared to the $341,969 amassed by the campaign of her Republican rival, Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck. The joint campaign of Assemblyman Michael Panter, D-Monmouth, and businesswoman Amy Mallet has raised $1.137 million, according to the Asbury Park Press.
 
The newspaper notes that of Karcher’s $2.3 million, “a total of $1.715 million has come from the Senate Democratic majority and $233,155 from the Democratic State Committee, some of which was "in-kind donations" for printing mailers and fliers. In a three-week period in October, Karcher's campaign spent a total of $1.144 million for media buys of TV and radio airtime for ads.”

Meanwhile, in an editorial, the Asbury Park Press has slapped back at Karcher for implying in her recent advertisements that the newspaper said Beck’s attacks on Karcher over her Christmas tree farm were “wrong” and a “mistake”:
 
“The words "wrong" and "mistake" referred to a story in the Press that noted Beck's original allegation that Karcher and her husband satisfied the minimum threshold for qualifying for the farmland assessment tax break by selling only six Christmas trees was in error. It was a minor point that in no way undercuts Beck's argument, or ours, that the tax break, though legal, is unwarranted and unjust. Ten days ago, we endorsed Beck for Senate. The campaign conduct of the "ethics candidate" this week has strengthened our conviction that Beck — not Karcher — was the right choice to fix the sorry ethics mess in Trenton.”

 
Ouch.

 
TRAIL TIDBITS

A new Rutgers-Eagleton poll finds New Jersey voters evenly divided on the subject of gay marriage: 48 percent of the adults who responded favored gay marriage, while 44 percent opposed it.

A federal judge has blasted a GOP campaign flyer as "despicable" for trying to tie 8th District candidate Tracy Riley to the fact that her lawyer-husband is representing one of the Fort Dix Six.

The Home News Tribune takes a look at the 17th District race.
 
The Camden Courier Post looks at whether ties to indicted state Sen. Wayne Bryant could be hurting local candidates.

The Courier Post takes a pass at endosing Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, noting that he wouldn’t come in for an editorial board meeting without certain ground rules.
 
The Ledger goes for Jennifer Beck in the 12th District showdown.

Tom Moran of the Ledger takes a look at the ballot questions.
 
TODAY’S ENDORSEMENTS

1st District
Senate

Republican incumbent Nick Asselta: Vineland Daily Journal

Assembly:
Democratic incumbent Nelson Albano: Vineland Daily Journal
Republican challenger Michael Donohue: Vineland Daily Journal

 
5th District
Senate
No endorsement: Camden Courier Post

Assembly
Republican Jonathan Mangel: Camden Courier Post

12th District
Republican challenger Jennifer Beck: Star Ledger

18th District
Assembly
Democratic incumbents Pat Diegnan and Peter Barnes: Home News Tribune

36th District
Senate
Republican challenger Michael Guarino: Bergen Record

Assembly
Republican challengers Don Diorio and Carmen Pio Costa: Bergen Record

 
State Ballot Questions
Yes on property tax, open space and voting language, No on stem cell research: Gloucester County Times


Click "read more" for the complete list of endorsements to date.



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  Top Headlines: OUT ON THE TRAIL

Oct. 30, 2007

THE TWELFTH OF NEVER

Today, the 12th District Senate race debate is about driver's licenses -- specifically, whether or not Republican Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck's license was suspended. It was, according to the Asbury Park Press, three times back in the 1990s.

The charges were first raised in a new campaign commercial by Democrat incumbent Sen. Ellen Karcher, which is her campaign's response to Beck's apparently effective commercial hitting Karcher over her farm. You can see Karcher's latest commercial, the fifth she's released, here. To compare, here's Beck's commercial against Karcher for the use of the farmland assessment program.

But back to the driver's licenses. Apparently, Beck's license was suspended by the courts twice in 1994 and once in 1995 for failure to appear. Beck told the paper that she had just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and moved to New Jersey, and, in the course of several moves, lost track of the summonses. Beck has not received a moving violation since 1996.

Meanwhile, Beck plans a press conference later today with Republican leaders, calling on Senate President Dick Codey and Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, Karcher and Assemblyman Michael Panter, not to move a monetization bill during the lame duck session of the Legislature.

RIGHT TRACK, WRONG TRACK

Interesting poll out today. A new Fairleigh Dickinson Public Mind Poll found that by a 2-1 margin (59%-30%), New Jersey’s likely voters say the state is headed in the wrong direction. Despite that, 9 out of 10 (89%) Democrats and 8 of 10 Republicans (80%) say they will vote for their own party’s candidates for Assembly and state Senate.

But here's what we found interesting: among all those who say the state is on the wrong track, the split is even, with 39% preferring Republican candidates and 40% preferring Democrats.  Among those who say the state is on the right track, Democratic candidates for the legislature are preferred by better than 2 to 1 (61%-24%). If those numbers are correct, then the type of voter who turns out next week could be critical. If more right track voters show up, Democrats should be in a for a good night.  But if more wrong track voters arrive at the polls, then this election could be a lot more interesting.

TRAIL TIDBITS

Charlie Stile of the Bergen Record takes a look at the "hyperbole and distortions" out on the campaign trail today.

Given our belief that everything becomes fodder for the campaign trail in the final days leading up to the election, we note that Gov. Corzine has decided to make state workers work the day after Thanksgiving, instead of giving them the usual four-day paid holiday, according to the Star Ledger. He tried this last year, as you recall, but eventually backed down in the face of union pressure.  The unions are asking their members to flood the governor's office with telephone calls to voice their displeasure. Our guess is taxpayers will rejoice. On a side note, we find the timing of this annoucement interesting: Just before an election, and while Corzine is overseas in Portugal.

The Courier News takes a look at the 16th District race.

The Vineland Daily Journal has a profile of Sen. Nick Asselta.

TODAY'S ENDORSEMENTS
1st District
Assembly
Republican challengers Norris Clark and Michael Donohue: Atlantic City Press 

6th District:
Senate
Democratic incumbent John Adler: Camden Courier Post

Assembly
Democratic incumbent Pamela Lampitt: Camden Courier Post
GOP challenger JoAnn Gurenlian: Camden Courier Post


35th District:
Assembly
Democrat incumbent Nellie Pou: The Bergen Record
GOP challenger Chauncey I. Brown III: The Bergen Record

The Trenton Times is urging a yes vote on all four ballot questions.

Click "read more" for the complete list of endorsements to date.

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  Top Headlines: OUT ON THE TRAIL

Oct. 29, 2007

THE FARM BELT

In the wake of the flap over state Sen. Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth, and whether or not she really has a farm, the Asbury Park Press took a look at the state's farmland assessment program and some of the other gentlemen -- and gentlelady -- farmers in the state.  We had no idea, for example, that rock star Jon Bon Jovi was also a bee farmer, which allows him to pay just $71 in property taxes on 6.5 acres of property. (That doesn't include the $177,000 in taxes he's paying on the other 8.4 acres.)

"We've been out to his place. He's into bees. He has clover and flowering trees and stuff that the little bees need," said Middletown Township tax assessor Charlie Heck.

But with such a honey of a deal, we have to ask, why is he moving to Manhattan?

Also a farmer; Six Flags Great Adventure, which sold  20 cords of firewood last year — and paid $5,443 in property taxes on almost 1,250 acres of woodland in Jackson. The amount they paid on the other 900 acres they own in Jackson Township? $3.7 million.

Like Bon Jovi, Judith H. Stanley Coleman, former head of the N.J. Highway Authority, is also a bee farmer. She sold 540 pounds of honey last year on her bee farm off the Navesink River. She pays $125 a year in taxes for the farm, and more than $47,820 on her house and the acre that surrounds it.

And let's not forget state Sen. Robert E. Littell, R-Sussex, a part-owner of 63 acres of farmland that sold $1,200 worth of alfalfa in the past year. The annual property tax on the land is $328.

But our favorite is still Vernon Hill, the founder of Commerce Bank, who pays $296 in property taxes for the 43-acre farm that surrounds his six bedroom, 10-bath mansion. He pays $270,000 in taxes on the house and 7 acres of property that surround his farm.

THE MONEY RACE

So much for getting the money out of politics. The Asbury Park Press reports that the 12th District legislative race, arguably the most competitive district in the state right now, may top out at more than $4 million, making it the most expensive contest in state history. Final ELEC figures are expected this week.

TRAIL TIDBITS:

The Atlantic City Press details some interesting claims being made by the candidates in the 2nd District Assembly race in their direct mail pieces.

About 500 hunters, anglers and sportsmen rallied in Monmouth County against a bill being sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Panter and state Sen. Ellen Karcher, both D-Monmouth, that would change the makeup of the state Fish and Game Council and eliminate wording that recognizes the recreational use of animals and fish for hunting and fishing. Just what the already-hot 12th District race needs.

We know that not many Democrats had asked for him out on the campaign trail, but did he really have to go this far away? Gov. Corzine is at an international climate change forum in Portugal today.


WEEKEND ENDORSEMENTS
2nd District
Senate
Democratic challenger Jim Whelan: The Press of Atlantic City

3rd District
Senate
Democrat incumbent Stephen M. Sweeney: Gloucester County Times

Assembly
Democrat incumbents John J. Burzichelli and  Douglas H. Fisher: Gloucester County Times

7th District
Senate
GOP incumbent Diane Allen: Camden Courier Post

Assembly
Democrat incumbent Herb Conaway: Camden Courier Post
GOP challenger Nancy Griffin; Camden Courier Post

8th District

Senate:
Republican challenger Phil Haines: Camden Courier Post

Assembly:
Democrat challenger Tracy Riley: Camden Courier Post
Republican challenger Dawn Addiego: Camden Courier Post


13th District:
Senate
GOP incumbent Joe Kyrillos: Asbury Park Press

Assembly
GOP incumbents Sam Thompson and Amy Handlin: Asbury Park Press

38th District:
Senate
Democrat Robert Gordon: Bergen Record

Assembly
Democrat incumbent Joan Voss and challenger Connie Wagner: Bergen Record

39th District:
Senate
Democrat challenger Joseph Ariyan: Bergen Record

Assembly:
Republican incumbent Charlotte Vandervalk: Bergen Record
Democrat challenger Esther Fletcher: Bergen Record

Click "read more" for the complete list of endorsements to date.


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  Top Headlines: OUT ON THE TRAIL

Oct. 26, 2007

DRIVING MS. SINGH

The Asbury Park Press today has a story about 14th District Senate candidate, Seema Singh, who apparently had a clerk in her office drive her to "events such as gala receptions on New York's Upper East Side, Asian cultural celebrations and an event with India's prime minister in Washington, according to a review of travel vouchers from 2003 through 2005." Singh had been previously chided in 2006 by the state auditor for using a clerk as a "chaufferur."

For her part, Singh insists the trips were all business. She told the paper "the employee accompanied her to events to help with presentations and that they traveled in one car to save money. In instances that did not directly involve the ratepayer advocate's office, such as an Indian film festival at Lincoln Center and an India Day parade in Jersey City, Singh said she was attending as a representative of then-Gov. James E. McGreevey."

We didn't know that presentations were needed to walk in a parade.


TRAIL TIDBITS

Tom Moran of the Star Ledger profiles the hot 12th District race.

Bergen Record columnist Alfred Doblin has a biting critique over why the Lyndhurst GOP may have changed its colors from red to blue.

First District Republicans -- state Sen. Nicholas Asselta and Assembly candidates Michael Donohue and Norris Clark --  have asked the state attorney general  to review whether the funneling of campaign money to their Democratic opponents violated state law, according to the Press of Atlantic City. The newspaper had a story that detailed how two unions and the Camden County Democratic Committee effectively circumvented contribution limits by passing contributions and loans through the Cape May County Democratic Organization to Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew and his running mates.

The man behind Common Sense America -- the outside group targeting Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein -- has ties to a syndicated columnist who was paid by the government in 2005 to write favorable columns about marriage, and who is also anti-gay marriage, according to the Star Ledger.

Voters will get to vote on the stem cell research ballot question. An appeals court ruled this morning that the vote can go forward, according to the Associated Press.

The Bridgewater Courier News has more on that lawsuit against former Gov. Donald DiFrancesco and Assemblyman Kip Bateman.

The Asbury Park Press has an overview of the 30th District legislative race...

The Morristown Daily Record has a recap of their 26th District editorial board debate.

TODAY'S ENDORSEMENTS

12th District
Assembly
Republicans Declan Scanlon and Caoline Cassagrande: Asbury Park Press

17th District
Senate
Democrat incumbent Bob Smith: Bridgewater Courier News

Assembly
Democrat incumbents Upendra Chivukula and Joseph Egan: Bridgewater Courier News

19th District
Assembly
Democrat incumbents Joseph Vas and John Wisniewski: Home News Tribune

Click "read more" for the complete list of endorsements to date.


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  Top Headlines: OUT ON THE TRAIL

Oct. 25, 2007

DONNIE D

In the final weeks before an election, almost everything becomes fodder for the campaign trail. And an explosive lawsuit that charges a former governor with sexual harassment and names an assemblyman who is running for senator is certain to be one of the most talked about topics among politicos this week.

Former GOP Gov. Donald DiFrancesco's law firm, which includes Assemblyman Christopher "Kip" Bateman as a partner, was hit with a civil suit by Michele D'Onofrio, 48, a single mother of four who served as municipal prosecutor in Warren Township, her hometown.

According to the New York Times:

"The suit, filed by Michele D’Onofrio, 48, a former partner in the law firm DiFrancesco, Bateman, Coley, Yospin, Kunzman, Davis & Lehrer, contends that she “was regularly subjected to unwelcome and sexist comments and advances” by Mr. DiFrancesco. The suit also contends that she was wrongfully dismissed.


In particular, the suit says that in November 2002, at a convention in Atlantic City, Mr. DiFrancesco asked Ms. D’Onofrio “to stay an extra night in his suite and to attend a Beach Boys concert with him.” She said she refused.


According to the suit, Mr. DiFrancesco, 62, also made what Ms. D’Onofrio said were lewd comments in connection with her plans to have reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. And the lawsuit claims that other female employees have complained of “unwelcome comments and touching” by Mr. DiFrancesco.


Reached by phone on Wednesday, Mr. DiFrancesco said, “It’s a whole bunch of nonsense,” and deferred to his lawyer, Christine A. Amalfe. In a statement, Ms. Amalfe said Ms. D’Onofrio was upset because the firm “asked Plaintiff to take her practice elsewhere because of several issues, including Plaintiff’s account receivables.”


Although not addressed in the New York Times article, DiFrancesco told the Star Ledger "his wife, Diane, was with him at the Atlantic City convention and he was only trying to be nice by offering D'Onofrio and his other partners the chance to use an extra room in their suite."

Here's more from the Star Ledger:

"She claims she was fired last month "in retaliation" for filing a judicial ethics complaint against a local judge after being warned not to do so.

The lawsuit says D'Onofrio had learned that Warren Township Municipal Court Judge Richard Sasso was "inebriated" on the bench and had abused his powers. It claims Assemblyman Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-Somerset), a partner in the firm, warned her not to file a complaint.


D'Onofrio contends that during her six years at the firm, she was "regularly subjected to unwelcome and sexist comments and advances by Donald DiFrancesco" and "experienced a pattern and practice of sex discrimination."


Reached last evening, DiFrancesco, 62, said: "Let me just say this: Kip and I are public figures so we're easy targets. This person was asked to take her business elsewhere -- not just by me, but by the owners of our business for business reasons. What she's alleging is absolutely false, both as to myself and as to Kip. It's just a matter of trying to collect."

You can bet this story will be Topic 1 today.

VIDEO REEL

One of the most entertaining aspects about the campaign season so far is the ability to watch the campaign videos from candidates across the state, thanks to our friends at YouTube.com.  As the election nears, more and more candidates have been putting their commercials up on the Web. Here's a sampling from the state's hottest races:

District 12:

After weeks of watching Sen. Ellen Karcher, D-Monmouth, dominate the air waves, Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck is up with two ads. The first deals with what has proved to be Beck's most potent weapon this season: Karcher's use of a farmland assessment tax on her property.  You can view the video here. The second involves taxes; view the video here.

Not to be outdone, Karcher has her fourth ad, which attacks Beck for her former job as a lobbyist. You can view the video here. Did you miss Karcher's other ads? Here's her first campaign ad; the second, and finally the third.

District 2:
Sonny McCullough has an ad attacking Assemblyman Jim Whelan on taxes and links to Camden County. You can view the video here.

Jim Whelan has three ads: the most recent, No Secret, is here; "Getting Tough on Corruption" is here;  and "A Record of Service" is here.

District 38:
Sen. Gerald Cardinale has a new ad against Democrat Joe Ariyan, comparing him to a puppet. You can see the ad here. Cardinale has two more ads; both attack Ariyan and his running mates, you can see the first here; the second here.

TRAIL TIDBITS

COMMERCE: BANK UNDER SEC PROBE

The Courier Post is reporting that Commerce Bancorp Inc, which agreed this month to be acquired by Toronto-Dominion Bank, "faces a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission probe into insider business dealings that led to the resignation of CEO Vernon W. Hill II.

Commerce said it is cooperating with the SEC probe into transactions with current and former officers, directors and related parties, including transactions involving bank premises.

Commerce CEO Bob Falese said the bank would not take questions on the investigation, the TD deal or the bank's agreement to sell its insurance division to its chief executive, George Norcross III, a Democratic powerbroker. "


VOTERS LIKE DEMS, STEM CELL RESEARCH

The latest Rutgers-Eagleton poll found 42 percent of likely voters support Democratic Assembly candidates, compared to 32 percent who back Republicans, according to the Associated Press. It also found 46 percent support Democratic Senate candidates, compared to 34 percent who support a Republican. But a large 20 percent are said to be undecided. Voters also approve the stem cell research question by 57-36, according to the poll.

Gov. Corzine's approval rating, meanwhile, has fallen 10 points since August, according to the poll, down from 57 percent to 47 percent.  Echoing results from other polls, Eagleton also found that a majority -- 66 percent -- believe New Jersey has a lot of political corruption, up from 47 percent in 2004. More people also find the state a fair or poor place to live, 39 percent, up from 24 percent in 2003.

IT'S STILL SPEEDY, FOR NOW

The Atlantic City Council postponed voting on a new mayor last night after the Democratic State Committee and Councilman John Devlin filed suit challenging the process used by the city Democratic Committee to decide who should be nominated to replace resigned Mayor Bob Levy, according to the Atlantic City Press.
The city has until Nov. 9 to make a decision. Until then, William "Speedy" Marsh will serve as acting mayor and city council president.

HE'S NOT BUSH-LEAGUE

Several unions have come the defense of 14th District Republican state Senate candidate, Bill Baroni, according to the Trenton Times. The NJEA, the Teamsters, and the AFL-CIO have all called on Democrat Seema Singh to stop advertisements that refer to Baroni as "Bush-lite." The unions have all endorsed Baroni; Singh yesteday stood by her ads.

TODAY'S ENDORSEMENTS

The Press of Atlantic City is recommending no votes on 3 public questions, and a yes vote on one.

Click "read more" for the complete list of endorsements to date.



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  Top Headlines: STEELE ADMITS GUILT

Oct. 19, 2007

Former Assemblyman Alfred Steele pleaded guilty to attempted extortion in federal court in Trenton this afternoon, according to the Star Ledger.
 
Steele said he accepted $15,500 in bribes to steer local government contracts for insurance and roofing to a phony business set up by federal authorities. He faces between 37 and 46 months in prison, under federal sentencing guidelines.

The former assemblyman, who is also a reverend, resigned from the state Legislature after he was one of 11 public officials arrested on federal corruption charges in September. He is the first of the 11 officials to admit his guilt.

Maybe it's time Mike Pesca added another line to his song.



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  Top Headlines: NOTEWORTHY

Oct. 15, 2007

There were a number of interesting stories this weekend that we'd like to bring to your attention:

1) The Auditor has two interesting tidbits: First, the column reports that the federal investigation into Kay LiCausi, the lobbyist who was once Sen. Menedez's chief of staff, is bubbling along. Officials at the Jersey City Medical Center have received a subpoena; the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken -- which paid LiCausi's firm $123,750 -- has also received a subpoena, according to the Auditor.

2) The Auditor is also reporting that two Democratic leaders said some people want Senate President Dick Codey to send more cash to Democratic candidate Joseph Ariyan, who's challenging Sen. Gerald Cardinale in the 39th District, and Gina Genovese, who's running against Republican incumbent Sen. Tom Kean Jr. in the 21st District, and less to Sen. Ellen Karcher, D-12th, in the wake of her Christmas tree kerfuffle. The Dems think Cardinale is beatable, and Codey said he would send Ariyan more money. Codey said no one has talked to him about Genovese, but said he still thinks Karcher can win. But the fact that some Dems are urging Codey to back away from Karcher, who has a significant fundraising advantage over her opponent, Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, is likely good news for the Republican.

3) Mike Kelly of the Record has a scary story about the fact that are several people living in north Jersey with ties to al-Qaida.

4) More pay to play: The Asbury Park Press used the new pay to play disclosure computer links to discover that "a dozen state lawmakers worked for companies that received more than $104 million from New Jersey government agencies last year, according to new state pay-to-play documents. The companies include law firms, construction companies and engineering firms, which together reported contributing $739,000 in 2006 to various political committees, parties and election campaigns across the state."



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