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Archive for the ‘Republicans’ Category

So, now that there is a somewhat nebulous bill to perhaps briefly extend the life of NJN, I have been approached numerous times  by people who say, “did you hear??!!” Six more months!!! Alright!!!!”

Forgive me, for failing to share their enthusiasm. But the fact that a possible six month reprieve engenders such excitement gives you a sense of how far the terms of this debate have shifted.

I say “possible” because the legislation to figure out NJN doesn’t technically include a funding source. Money will have to be moved around elsewhere  in order to keep this place alive.

As I have noted several times, the model here is outdated and needs to be changed. However, a transition that insures some kind of continuity would be ideal. Unfortunately, the lack of certainty has left people who work here confused and scared and that makes getting the product on the air more and more difficult each day. That is a sad state of affairs for a group of people who have devoted so much time and energy to the State’s New Jersey Network, which ultimately belongs to the people.

But there is another angle here which is worth noting. The legislators seem inclined to go along with a rapid transition, once the interested parties can figure out the new structure. They should be very cautious here. NJN covers the Legislature like a glove. There is tremendous value in that. Our coverage is comprehensive and fair. The individual bills and causes that are pushed by members may fall off sharply when NJN changes. That goes for both Republicans and Democrats.

Our Governor has often been described as a “rock star.” There is a lot of truth in that. He is able to get exposure elsewhere, including at his series of Town Hall Meetings…highlights of which are cleverly uploaded to youtube. This basically bypasses the local media by going straight to the people. The world of communications allows that today, and the Governor’s press shop has proven very adept at capitalizing on it.

Legislators with smaller bully pulpits still need local media to get exposure. And that is something to consider when the plans for NJN start to emerge.

After all, you never give away the store without at least getting a fair price.

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Is it take 3, or take 4 now on women’s health funding? I have sorta lost count. Christie knocked $7.5 million for women’s health funding outta the budget, and Dems ( particularly women legislators ) have been trying to get it restored ever since. They have gotten no help from their women counter-parts in the Republican caucus.

Well, now it appears as though the coalition is fraying in the Dem caucus as well. After the last override, advocates decided on a new approach. they would move some money around, but split the bills in two. One bill would restore the state’s portion, the other would once again go after federal matching funds that would otherwise be lost.

Senator Weinberg signed on for the first bill, and she approached Senators Ruiz and Gill for the second one. Both lawmakers agreed to sponsor it and had their names attached to it…until yesterday when they were mysteriously withdrawn.

So, what is going on here? I have sought the reason, but have not gotten it, which has left others to speculate. Some believe that once again we are seeing the Joe D-Essex County influence here. By now, the closeness of Gill and Ruiz to the Essex machine in terms of gainful employment have been well documented. We also know about the strong alliance between those Essex Dems and Christie. Could this be an attempt by the Governor to snub this issue out once and for all?

Possibly. And while it may not prevent a vote, the Governor can certainly flex his muscle and make sure that his allies in Essex don’t help the process along. Both bills are supposed to go before committee Monday.

Is this all idle speculation??? Enquiring Minds Want to Know!!!

Programming Note: Remember those National Enquirer ads? Ah, those were the early days before magazine tabloids came to be mandatory poolside reading for the younger set.

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My alarm went off at 4 am. I snoozed. The alarm went off again ten minutes later. I snoozed again. But at 4:20, I rose.

I was on my way to Reading Pennsylvania Friday for the Chris Christie Road Show starring Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour and of course, the man of the hour – Chris Christie ( who btw, rolled up  in a private jet I watched land that taxied and came to a stop just a  few hundred feet from the event stage. Diplomatic parking indeed ).

So, you hearda these guys? Probably yes. That’s because Pawlenty and Barbour are the oft mentioned names among the Punditocracy as possible Presidential contenders in 2012. Today, in what was likely not an accident, Christie literally joined them. And I don’t just mean for the campaign tour.

The Fab Three will hit six states in two days for GOP gubernatorial candidates. Who wouldn’t want them as campaigners? These guys are literally the stars of the party which is in the midst of a nationwide comeback after stumbling off a cliff when the economy went bust two years ago. But as Hendrik Hertzberg acutely points out, it was Obama who was in office when the worst of this recession hit. And voters are about to let him know just how much it’s been hurting with these Mid-term elections.

So, give Christie his due. Right now the Republican party needs leadership, and he is very much filling that void by getting away from divisive social issues and bringing the GOP back to it’s core message: fiscal discipline.

But after delivering such strong soundbites ( I recall something about him saying “no” to the “Gods of the Republican party” ) that he is not seeking the nod in two years, will the NJ Gov be able to change his mind??? I suppose that is what makes this mystery tour so magical.

Programming Note: I feel a little bad about slamming  Emilio Estevez so hard the other day in light of this week’s developments. Please note, that I made those comments prior to his brother’s meltdown at the Plaza Hotel. After all, I would never step on someone’s head while they are down…like that dude at the Rand Paul rally.

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“A tireless campaigner.”

“An army of true Believers.”

“Supporters who would walk into a wall for her.”

These are just some of the phrases I have heard to describe the upstart Tea Party campaign of 6th Congressional District candidate Anna Little.

In as much as the Tea ( Taxed Enough Already ) Party has momentum in New Jersey…it might very well be this race. The incumbent Frank Pallone was a key backer of the Obamacare legislation, so a win for Little would be a huge symbolic victory for the movement. It would also create the odd dynamic of putting New Jersey on the forefront of an upstart grassroots conservative movement for change.

I am told that the numbers don’t lie. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 6th and that, as they say, should be all she wrote….Right? Not necessarily. This is no ordinary election. Dems may very well stay home. And those who are motivated to vote might very well be the kinds of people who are – well, motivated to vote for someone like Anna Little. Not to mention that Christie ( a more traditional Republican…but a Repub nonetheless ) won the district by 8%.

And we know that The Governor himself who has been campaigning for out of state races all over the country has suddenly taken an interest in Little. Perhaps his team knows something. Scratch that, they definitely know something. The Governor’s own pollster has Little within 1 point and he allowed that poll to be leaked. These are all signs that there could be a seismic shift here on election night. And Christie doesn’t want to be seen as shunning The Tea Party candidate even though he backed The Gooch ( who was apparently too busy beating up Arnold Drummond and his two sidekicks Dudley and Robbie ) to win this race.

So, while Pallone has traditionally had a safe and comfortable ride here, we don’t yet know who the Tea Party is, so we shouldn’t count them out.

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I was recently reminded of what is easily my favorite political story of the last five years. It involves Democrat Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts candidate for Senate who was running in a special election earlier this year.

Toward the end of what was universally panned as one of the most neglected and worst run campaigns in MA Democratic political history, Coakley made some comment ( and I’m paraphrasing here ) along the lines of, “what do you expect me to do??!! stand outside Fenway Park to shake hands??!! In the cold?!! I don’t think so.”

Really. Well, we all know what happened next. Scott Brown the Playgirl centerfold went on to defeat her with his simple retort about the seat they were both seeking not belonging to Kennedy ( Teddy, who held it for about 176 years ) but to the people of the Commonwealth.

I’m reminded of this for a couple of reasons. First off, Repubs have begun a  whisper campaign that both Holt and Pallone are in trouble in their normally safe districts. That may be true. But the real danger for the Democrats is in the 3rd which we recently learned was not underestimated at all by the South J Dems. According to the implication in Jane Roh’s excellent stories…the Dems took Runyan so seriously, the created a fake Tea Party candidate to siphon off 5% of the vote…which might be just enough for Adler to win.

The 3rd is one of the three races State House people have been watching closely. the others are the 14th Legislative District and The Bergen Exec race.

Governor Christie has not been very visible in any of these. That’s not to say he is not doing what he can behind the scenes…but it is slightly odd. The 3rd is a high profile Congressional race in a year pundits are predicting a “Republican Tsunami.” The Bergen race is key to a large county that I am sure the Governor would like to win in 2013. And the 14th is the first true test of the Governor’s positions and policies in a swing district.

Here is what I have been told. Up in Bergen, Christie is still annoyed he didn’t win the county and has not been thrilled with some of the positions Kathe Donovan has taken. Meantime, At least one Dem says they are happy over in camp McNerney that Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club has decided to be so vocal for Donovan because that might actually help The Democratic ticket in a county fed up with environmental regs.

As for the 14th…it’s a bit more of a mystery. Insiders tell me that Goodwin is up more than 10, according to internals. That might explain why Greenstein went so negative about women’s health ( the ad actually features a pink ribbon on a gravestone ). Christie may not want to rehash that debate on the campaign trail even if it’s for a fellow Repub and not himself.

Or perhaps the Governor will jump into all three with both feet in the next coupla weeks. After all, he has been jetting all around the country for fellow Republican Gov candidates in other states.

So, I guess the message is this…don’t take anything for granted. These three races are significant for the Republican party and Christie doesn’t want to be seen as the guy who goes on MSNBC but refuses to shake hands outside the local stadium.

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In Memorium

It has been nearly six months since the passing of Bob Franks and I haven’t said much about it publicly other than how sad it is that he is gone, and what a tremendous loss it is for the state he cared so much about. Last month marked his birthday, and I wanted to relay an anecdote that imparts some of his wisdom.

He and I were talking in Washington DC at the annual Chamber Trip two years ago. I covered his Senate race versus Jon Corzine in 2000. It was the first major campaign I ever covered for NJN. So, it was an exciting time for both of us. I enjoyed spending time with him that Fall…in a couple of instances aboard John McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” which was bequeathed to the Franks campaign after McCain’s ( first ) failed Presidential run.

Anyway, Congressman Franks and I were standing at the bar ( actually, he wasn’t drinking…which is fine because I somehow managed to drink enough for both of us ), and discussing the future of the Republican Party. At one point Franks said, “my fear is that Republicans are becoming the party of old, white men.”

It was a brilliant observation from a visionary Republican, demonstrating how much he cared about the party’s future viability. Franks was openly concerned about the ability of the Republicans to adapt to the changing electorate in the years to come.

Far be it for me to give advice to anyone, let alone a political party. But there is something to note in his critique. The Democratic Party looks like New Jersey – there are more women, and a lot more people of color.  So, it occurs to me that if  Republicans could diversify their ranks, even a little, the Democrats could conceivably  never win another election.

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A caucus united can never be defeated. Especially if they are in the majority. Second time was a charm for the Senate Dems who have now subpoenaed Bret Schundler and Wireless Generation for an October 7 meeting of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee.

Originally, Chair Barbara Buono was gonna subpoena members of the Christie Administration. However, the Gov and Sweeney cut a deal that would require the Executive Branch to turn over some documents while avoiding a constitutional you-know-what match over Exec privilege. However, Buono took a week and built support again for a resolution…this time limiting the scope of the Subpoenas. However, I am told there were still some behind the scenes machinations. The Governor appears to still be in damage control mode on this.

When Dems went into caucus to discuss the resolution, they came down to the floor ready to vote for it. However, sources say that Senator Teresa Ruiz began to waiver. Apparently, someone from the Gov’s office reached out to Joe D in Essex who urged Ruiz to abstain. However, a handful of Democrats told Ruiz that was unacceptable especially after they agreed to stay united in caucus. One insider says Senator Loretta Weinberg spoke to Ruiz sharply, warning her on the floor that she would “not be welcome in the caucus any longer” if she abstained. At least two other Democratic Senators backed Weinberg up saying to Ruiz in effect, “you can’t do that.”

In the end, Ruiz did vote for the resolution but then left the Senate Chamber “visibly upset.”

Another interesting development was on the Republican side yesterday. The two women Republican Senators – Diane Allen and Jen Beck abstained on the resolution. Beck had been summoned to Christie’s office before the vote. Some have floated the theory that Beck and Allen took an awful lot of hell for voting against the override on women’s health. Perhaps they were sending a message to the Gov’s office that they will NOT be in lockstep on everything with him, and he needs to not take them for granted.

In fact, Allen went so far as to make a speech on the floor regarding women’s health claiming there simply was no money in the budget for the $7.5 million appropriation. $7.5 million is not all that much in the grand scheme of things. After all, the budget is roughly $30 billion. But, if every penny is going to be scrutinized these days, one could certainly make a fair argument that it’s hardly chump change. But let’s not also forget that in April, The Christie Administration managed to give a $45,000 grant to the “Cake Boss” in Hoboken. That’s right, according NJ Policy Perspective, Carlo’s City hall bake Shop in Hoboken which is featured in the TLC reality show secured a grant through the state’s Business Employment Incentive Program. These are the same guys who donated Christie’s inauguration cake….and more state money may become available to the Cake Boss, depending on how they use the money. Consistency is a virtue.

For now, the Republican caucuses have remained tighter than the respective Democratic ones. But it sounds like the Dems got it together this week and now have an issue that motivates and unifies them. According to Christie, he has told his staff that in politics, everything is temporary. You gotta let the caucus know that you appreciate their support…and don’t automatically expect it.

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