In the latest episode of the year-long saga over Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf’s stalled nomination in the Senate, Cerf has rented a LBI home for the summer. In doing so, he hopes to avoid the longstanding hold on his nomination from Sen. Ron Rice, who is concerned about his prior role as an outside consultant paid by the Newark schools.
The move, adding to his longtime residence in Montclair, Essex County and a rental in Rocky Hill, Somerset County, has veteran political observers scratching their heads.
“What does this move mean for senatorial courtesy considerations?,” asked former Region IX EPA Director Alan Steinberg. “I remember a time when I visited a Superfund site with former Governor Whitman on one side and President George W. Bush on the other…”
The remainder of Steinberg’s hour-long remarks did not appear to have anything to do with Cerf.
Other commentators speculate that Cerf’s move may have something to do with little-known Senate Rule 24(a), instituted during the last time Senate Republicans had a majority, which gives the power of senatorial courtesy in Ocean County solely to county boss George Gilmore, and also gives him the power to directly approve any nominations from the county without the customary Judiciary Committee review.
“Cerf has been surprisingly effective at putting the Democrats in a bind,” Patrick Murray, Monmouth University pollster, said. “Do they ignore time-tested Senate rules? Or do they simply cede their power to George Gilmore?”
Further complicating the matter is Cerf’s bizarre remarks to the Save Jersey editorial board, which make his prior comments to the Asbury Park Press, which had scotched his last confirmation hearing, look mundane in comparison.
In response to a question about where he sleeps at night, Cerf offered the following answer:
“It really depends. Some nights, I start by sleeping on LBI. But then I get up in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and drive up the Parkway to Montclair. I stop in and get something to eat, and then I go to my apartment in Rocky Hill, because that’s the closest for my commute to my job in Trenton. So basically I’d say that my domicile is in Somerset County.”
Ultimately, it is up to Senate leadership to determine when, or if, to bring Cerf up for a hearing.