Archive for the ‘Gov. Jon Corzine’ Category

It’s that time of the year again. The New Jersey Press Association presents the Legislative Correspondent’s Club annual show.

Basically, the state’s  ( now dwindling ) press corps performs a series of skits and songs that mock the political and media elite of the Garden State. It is often quite funny replete with costumes, wigs and other flamboyant accessories that would make even Elton John blush.

As for my role…well, I am El Presidente this year. That means I don’t actually have to sing ( which is not my strong suit ). I have to deliver the introductory speech which is supposed to be funny and slightly mean spirited. Well, I don’t know how funny it shall be, although I’m working on it. It will most certainly be biting, and of course familiar.

Then of course, after the show is over, people get to stand around and hang out in a cocktail party-type atmosphere which is even more fun. And the whole evening is off the record. So, if you are remotely interested, I urge you to purchase tickets. Proceeds go to charity.

Contact Peg Stephan 609-406-0600 ext. 14. or pastephan@njpa.org

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There is an old story about Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York who ( during one of his infamous rants ) grabbed a stenographer by the shoulders and while violently shaking this poor guy said “If you were any stupider, I’d make you a Commissioner.”

The joke of course, is that sometimes under-qualified people get nominated for top cabinet posts in government ( I know…hard to believe, right? ). Well some Democrats feel as though that might be the case with Hal Wirths, the Sussex County Freeholder who was put up by the Christie Administration to serve as Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

The Wirths hearing before Senate Judish last month ended without a vote. That was in part because the Administration asked the committee to hold up when it became apparent that Wirths may not have the votes. Senator Loretta Weinberg for example asked why Wirths continued to serve as a Freeholder while accepting the interim post of Acting Commish. In short she cried conflict, and an answer was sought by legal. ( btw – Wirths has agreed to forgo his salary…but appears to be running for re-elec. )

But the primary objection seems to have come from other Dems who feel Wirths is “completely unqualified.” And some say it is not unprecedented to reject a nominee based on the fact that he or she has very little experience in a particular field.

Then of course, like with every good story there is a subtext. There are some Dems who believe Christie played too active a role in “slapping Spicuzzo around” during his lame duck confirmation hearing. Joe Spicuzzo  was the Middlesex County Democratic Chairman and Sheriff appointed to Sports and Expo by Governor Corzine. Spicuzzo ( if you remember ) had a bit of a rough time during that hearing over his knowledge of the Meadowlands, and  what his future job would be as an NJSEA Commissioner. Christie called Spicuzzo “the most unqualified candidate” one could find.

So, critics of Wirths may see some opportunity for payback here. They are asking: If Spicuzzo is so unqualified ( and many agree that he is ), how can Christie turn around and nominate this guy ( Wirths )?!!? Does someone need to call the hypocrite police?

Janet Rosenzweig for Children and Families is a whole other traffic jam. She was recommitted after some info was circulated about her role in an organization connected to the study of sexuality ( see earlier post ). But she is eager to go before Judiciary and set the record straight, even though critics ( in this case Republicans ) are skeptical.

I predict it will be an exciting and educational month of May when the committee reconvenes.

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Here is my prediction: sometimes Christie will overshadow his own accomplishments. For example, on his first day in office Christie signed eight Executive Orders aimed ( mostly ) at improving the state’s business climate.

But on the same day in a press conference he took some shots at Corzine and his Treasurer for failing to provide the Christie transition team with revenue projections through June. Yes, Christie asked for them many times. And yes, Rousseau stonewalled. and yes, that is really annoying. But let’s not forget that they are merely projections from a guy who is no longer the state Treasurer. The now infamous spreadsheet predicts a $1.2 billion shortfall. OK, we’ll see what happens but remember that’s not the same as an actual hole. We have no idea what revenues will look like next month, let alone in May. Meantime, Christie makes substantive governmental changes with the EO’s which wind up not being the headline because conflict always trumps substance in the news game.

So, lemme be the exception here and draw attention specifically to one of these orders. It’s number six which makes the Casino Control Commission employees “essential.” That means if there is ever a government shutdown, Atlantic City casinos do not have to close their doors as they did in 2006.

I remember this well. When Corzine and his fellow Dems in the Assembly went to war over how to spend a 1 cent tax hike, the casinos were forced to shut down because Control Commission workers were furloughed. I literally interviewed people on the boardwalk over that six day period who had planned their yearly family vacations around a visit to AC. Then, they get there ( over July 4 weekend ! ) and the casinos are closed because politicians in Trenton can’t agree on some issues. It’s kinda like the Griswolds driving all the way to Wallyworld only to learn from a  talking moose that the park is closed. That is an outrage, and Christie changed it on his first full day in office after promising Assemblymen Amodeo and Polistina he would during the campaign. OK, so he promised them it would be EO number two and it wound up being number six, but he still followed through by signing it on day one.

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“The system worked.”

Those words by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano raised more than a few eyebrows shortly after a Nigerian man tried to take down an airplane over Detroit on Christmas day.

Dick Codey took it upon himself to call for the Secretary’s resignation. He did so with a letter that he signed “Acting Governor, Dick Codey” since he was serving in that capacity last week while Governor Corzine was away.

Let me begin by saying he may very well be right. “The system worked,” is not exactly what a frightened public wanted to hear from the President’s Cabinet Officer charged with our safety so soon after an incident. But when Codey said what he said as Acting Governor it rubbed some people the wrong way.

Governor Corzine was said to be “appalled.” He was trying to contact Napolitano by phone ( although I hear she is a tad busy ), so now the office of the actual Governor is drafting a letter of apology. Napolitano’s staff was blindsided by the letter, and immediately reached out to their contacts in New Jersey to ask about it.

Another person who was reportedly “livid” was Richard Canas who heads the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. He too knew nothing about Codey’s letter, described as a “breach”, until he heard from the Secretary’s office.

Canas and Napolitano go back 20 years. He was the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge for Arizona while The Secretary served as Attorney General there and then Governor. So a letter like that on behalf of the Governor of New Jersey which by extension represents the cabinet level offices and the people of New Jersey, probably didn’t sit well with the local leaders here.  Especially someone like Canas who goes way back with the Secretary.

Morever, critics say there are practical considerations. New Jersey shared in nearly $80 million worth of federal homeland security grants this year. Money that is very much needed ( because as we saw on Christmas day…the threat is still out there ). Why offend the Secretary? She is certainly not going to step down because the Acting Governor of New Jersey told her to.

Finally, should New Jersey’s Acting Governor be piling on a Democratic President’s Administration? Most people I spoke with said no. Sure, Obama took a black eye on this one…but he doesn’t need an additional  kick in the face from a state that voted overwhelmingly for him in 2008. And the same logic applies here: NJ is going to need the Federal Government these next few years when it comes time to dole out resources.

Hence the letter.

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On Monday, Chris Christie’s public comments on the behind-the-scenes battle over last minute appointments and nominations were muted. By Thursday, distinctly less so.

Here is what we know…several meetings a week have been taking place behind closed doors between the Christie team and the Corzine group. Apparently those meetings have been cordial if not productive.

So, let’s go back. On November 12, Christie and Corzine met face to face for the first time since the election. They were joined by the ArchBishop of Newark, because the meeting took place after the blue mass. There, they discussed transition and according to Corzine some appointments the Governor was hoping to make in the coming weeks before leaving office.

Was there an actual agreement? hard to say. But if there was at least a gentlemen’s agreement, at some point it deteriorated. Perhaps it was the sheer number of nominations and appointments Corzine asked for: 180.  The Christie people feel that this is an attempt to jam through unpopular appointments at the 11th hour. Or perhaps it was the nomination of Chief of Staff Ed McBride to a judgeship. Here is where this gets tricky. The Corzine camp says it was made clear as early that Newark meeting that McBride was one of the appointments he’d like to make. They think for Christie’s people to object now is disingenuous.

On the flip side, Christie’s people say they are not actually opposing McBride or any judgeships necessarily. They declined to give their version of what was said during what they emphasized was that private meeting.

So let’s move beyond McBride for a moment. This week, Republican Senator Phil Haines withdrew his name from consideration. He had been nominated to the bench, a position he has sought for years. So clearly the message is out. Christie doesn’t want these appointments to be made under this cloud. Whether he sent a directive to Senators asking for them to block certain nominations is unclear. The Christie camp says no. But either way the message has been sent.

And that brings me to Phil Alagia. Christie appears to have an alliance with Steve Adubato Sr. Alagia is a Joe DiVincenzo and Adubato guy. But he also served Corzine on the campaign. Corzine has rewarded him with a seat on the Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield Board of Directors ( which by the way pays an annual stipend of $37,500 plus a bonus of $1,500 for each meeting you attend ).

Initially, the thought was that a Senatorial courtesy block on Alagia might come from within the Dem party either by Codey or Rice. Codey has his own ax to grind with Adubato which goes back to the leadership fight in the state Senate ( see earlier posts ). But the word is that Codey’s objection may be thawing. That would put the onus on Republican Senator Kevin O’Toole of Essex County, who seems to be taking a wait and see approach. O’Toole is also an opponent of Codey and closer to the Adubato crowd.

So, where does that leave us? Not sure I can even keep track. I suppose the Governor could just go around Christie and appoint people from Hudson or Middlesex counties where there is no Republican Senator to block them. that has been referred to as the “nuclear option.” Or, everyone can play ball and work out a deal. I was told that conditions are “ripe” for an arrangement to be reached. Of course, that doesn’t mean it will.

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It wasn’t an overwhelming victory for gay rights advocates ( at least in terms of the score ), but it was a victory nonetheless. And I think there is a famous quote along the lines of  “A win is a win is a win.” Ok, perhaps it’s not famous, but you get the idea.

Supporters need to get to 21 in the full Senate, and they are simply not there yet. Some say the number is as high as 19 ‘yes’ votes, but I am told it’s more like 16 and possibly 17.

Behind the scenes is where most of the action is taking place. Although publicly he hasn’t said much, incoming Governor Chris Christie has apparently had quite a bit to say privately on this issue. Sources say Christie met with the Assembly Republican Caucus yesterday and the Senate Caucus last week. His message was the same to both: Don’t vote for this bill.

There are a couple of theories here as to why he cares so much. Some say Christie feels strongly that civil unions provide adequate protections for gay and lesbian couples. The other postulates that he is trying to hold the party together and needs and wants them to speak with one voice. Remember the NJ Republican Leadership Committee? They were that new group that coalesced largely around this issue to force Repubs to vote no on gay marriage and pull members rightward. It was/is spearheaded by Ginny Littel and Steve Lonegan. Well, we haven’t heard much from them lately, have we?

It appears as though the party is coming together to embrace Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commendment, “Thou shalt Not Speak Ill Of Another Republican.”

We’ll see if that holds true for Bill Baroni. He was the one ‘R’ to vote for the bill in committee and sources say will be the only ‘R’ voting for it in the full Senate.

Then there are the Democrats who appear to be ready to go to war ( against each other ) over this issue. First it was reported that Senator Dana Redd would not meet with Julian Bond yesterday which prompted more than one Democrat to snipe about Camden receiving millions of dollars from Dem Governors and her failure to stand with the party at a critical time.

Sources say Governor Corzine who feels strongly about this issue has been working quietly but feverishly behind the scenes to get the bill passed. It was he who got Bond here to testify yesterday, and he who secured a letter of support from civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.

But others speak of a more corrosive “generational divide” within the party. Many of the younger people want the Dems to take a stand on this issue which they consider a matter of civil rights, whereas some of the older party stalwarts are a little more conservative. Primaries are being threatened. For example, There is already talk about backing Assemblywoman Nellie Pou in a bid to unseat Senator John Girgenti who voted against the bill in committee on Monday night.

And another thing, If progressives stay home in the next couple of election cycles, The Dems will have a problem on their hands whether they admit it or not. And here is the final question I will leave you with…if the Republicans can get their troops in line, why can’t the Democrats???

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I don’t put too much stock in the polls, because frankly they have been all over the place. Suffice to say, that almost anyone you talk to agrees: this race is too close to call.

Democrats have been saying privately that their internals show them up by five or more, but some of their faces tell a different story.

Here are some numbers to consider. In 2005 Corzine bested Forrester by 200,000 votes. But a lot’s changed since then. According to the Division of Elections, there are nearly 500,000 new registered voters since that last gubernatorial election. There were 4.8 million then, and there are 5.2 million now. Obviously, a lot of those new voters registered specifically to vote for Barack Obama in the historic 2008 election. So, is there any evidence that they will…

a) have the same level of enthusiasm and vote again


b) even vote Democratic.

Tough to say. Democrats are hoping it breaks for them. Certainly the numbers are there for a win if the motivation blossoms.

But now consider this…since June 2 of this year there are 76,294 new registered voters(!). Of those  12,349 are Dems, 7,082 are Repubs and 55,759 are unaffiliated. Those unaffiliated’s could be the difference in this race. And here’s the thing: they are not registering to vote for Obama.

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