Author Archive: Blue Jersey

Pallone asks Justice Department for answers regarding Christie gathering

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone sent a letter to Acting Attorney General Mark Filip regarding First Assistant United States Attorney Michele A. Brown’s attendance at a recent gathering at the home of former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, which included Republican party leaders and staffers.

The full letter, which cites “a troubling pattern of misconduct” and “increased politicization of the office of United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey,” is below.

Lesniak wins international human rights award

Sen LesniakCongratulations to state Sen. Ray Lesniak who today won the Memorial de Caen International Human Rights Competition for his role and leadership in abolishing the death penalty in New Jersey.

“I hope and believe this award will help efforts to abolish the death penalty where ever it exists,” said Lesniak. “I’m am also proud as an American to receive this award for the defense of human rights at Le Memorial de Caen, the famous museum dedicated to honoring the D-Day invasion and the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.”

Lesniak said he will contribute the award of $9,740 to The Road to Justice and Peace (http://www.theroadtoabolition.com/), a non-profit he created whose purpose is “to advance the abolition of the death penalty around the globe, to support the families of murder victims, and to promote humane alternatives to incarceration.”

“The death penalty is a random act of brutality,” said Lesniak during his speech before a panel of international judges, which can be viewed online. “Its application throughout the United States is random, depending on where the murder occurred, the race and economic status of who committed the murder, the race and economic status of the person murdered and, of course, the quality of the legal defense.”

He continued, “I’m proud of the people of the State of New Jersey for electing political leaders who ended this random act of brutality.”

Shining a light on state government

Since January 1, 2009, the state has been in violation of state law mandating a voter-verified paper trail on voting machines. On Monday, Assembly Democrats (it’s unclear who the sponsors are) are expected to introduce A3648, legislation which will indefinitely suspend the requirement that New Jersey’s voting machines have such a paper trail until the federal government provides the funding to retrofit the machines.

The text of the bill is not yet available online, yet it is expected to be introduced, assigned to the Assembly State Government committee, heard, and voted on — all on Monday. This is not the way government should function.

Assembly Republican Leader Alex DeCroce noted a similar situation with the pension deferral legislation in the budget committee.

We don’t have the text of the pension legislation (contact us if you have it), but this is the statement describing A3648, and below the fold is a draft of the the entire bill (subject to last minute changes):

The purpose of this bill is to suspend the requirement in current law that by January 1, 2009 the voting machines used in this State produce an individual permanent paper record for each vote cast.

Specifically, the bill provides that the January 1, 2009 deadline is suspended until: a) the Secretary of State and the State Treasurer certify in writing that sufficient funds have been provided by the federal government and received by the State to offset the entire cost of ensuring that each voting machine used in this State produces an individual permanent paper record for each vote cast; or b) the annual appropriation act contains an appropriation of sufficient funds to ensure that each voting machine used in this State produces an individual permanent paper record for each vote cast and such appropriated funds have not been reserved by the Governor under a spending reduction plan; or c) the Secretary of State and the State Treasurer certify in writing that sufficient funds have been provided by the federal government and received by the State, and the annual appropriation act contains an appropriation of sufficient unreserved funds, to ensure, when such funds are combined, that each voting machine used in this State produces an individual paper record for each vote cast.

This suspension is necessary because of the dire economic situation in which the State finds itself currently.  Recent estimates reveal that the State will need to close a $2.1 billion budget gap in the 2009 fiscal year and a more severe gap in the 2010 fiscal year.  Although $19 million in State funds had been set aside to help pay the costs of retrofitting the direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines used in 18 of the State?s 21 counties, this money is no longer available for this purpose.  The funds have been placed in reserve to help the State meet its most urgent fiscal obligations and balance its budgets, as required by the New Jersey Constitution.  Without this $19 million, there are insufficient funds available currently to pay for a retrofit of all the DRE voting machines or to change to any other alternative voting system that produces a paper trail of the votes cast by a voter in an election held in this State.

Anatomy of a Win & End of an Era

For the first time since 1882, a Democrat will be sworn in as the next Congressman from New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District.  The perfect political storm known as the 2008 election has broken a 126-year drought and turned an impressive state Senator into a promising Congressman-Elect. But it was not a storm that “just happened”.  It was a storm that was planned and executed with precision.

State Senator John Adler announced his campaign for Congress to challenge then sitting Congressman Jim Saxton very early, on September 20, 2007.  From the beginning, Adler waged his campaign on progressive values; his decision to challenge Saxton came shortly after Saxton voted against expanding S-CHIP. This would have been his second time challenging Saxton (Adler ran in the then 13th Congressional district in 1990), but on November 9, 2007 Congressman Saxton announced he would not seek re-election due to health reasons.  Now the race was for an open seat, an easier proposition for Adler.

To understand the political dynamics at play, you first have to understand the geographic composition of the district. The 3rd District includes Cherry Hill in Camden County, most of Burlington County and a sizable chunk of Ocean County.  On the Democratic side, the field cleared for Adler and he received the early support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  On the Republican side, many wanted Burlington County native State Senator Diane Allen to run. When she declined, Chris Myers emerged as the Burlington County Candidate.

Much more on the flip.

… And the Rest

Before the Professor and Maryann got their due in the Gilligan’s Island theme song, they were known collectively as “the rest.” And that’s about how some of NJ’s House races, and the Senate race, must have felt this year.

With the Obama campaign sucking up so much of the oxygen (and money, and energy, and ultimately the very PA-bound volunteers themselves), most of what was left over was focused on the “hot” races in NJ-3, NJ-5, and NJ-7. Like so often in the past, if you weren’t running in one of the hot races, then you found yourself with scant attention being paid to your campaign.

In the case of Senator Lautenberg, and our 7 Democratic House incumbents, no news was good news. New Jersey’s voters delivered a solid double-digit win to its senior Senator, and sent the Magnificent 7 back to Washington with an average margin of victory of over 40%. But for Congressional Challengers in NJ-2, NJ-4, and NJ-11, it was a different story altogether.

We look at each of these races in more detail below the fold.  

What happened in the Fifth?

With one of us being a resident of the fifth district and having to be represented by the odious Scott Garrett, we had hopes that this may be the year that he would be sent home for good.  However, even with polls indicating that the race was closing and closing fast over the last few weeks, as well as a pretty unfavorable view of the incumbent Garrett, major endorsements for challenger Dennis Shulman (a candidate with one of the best backgrounds, personalities and personal stories of this entire cycle) and events with prominent and popular Democratic Congressmen and Senators, three debates where Garrett looked the damn fool and a final week influx of $85,000 by the DCCC, the final results ended up being closer to 2004 than continuing to close the gap that 2006 challenger Paul Aronsohn was able to cut to near single digits.

And with this, we started to wonder how a race that, by many accounts, was potentially a tossup, ended up a 14% rout.

While trying to analyze the results, the campaigns that both Shulman and Garrett ran – including the late-in-the-game influx of disgraceful ads paid for by the NRCC and the results of past races, we came up with more questions than answers. The biggest and first question is whether this district is even remotely winnable by a Democrat.  We say this not as fatalists, but as people who have realized the value that building up a sustainable infrastructure can bring, as people who know how very different each county is within the district and as people who can sense some very basic flaws in what little infrastructure has been built up in the district.  On a more fundamental level, we wonder if the Fifth has earned the respect to receive an earlier endorsement as a “Red to Blue” district or earlier financial support from the DCCC – both of which could have certainly helped, but the distinction and funds may have also been better served in more winnable races earlier in the cycle.

Before looking at the vote breakdown, and trying to see where things could have changed in this cycle, it is fairly evident that the district will be extremely tough to win in one cycle – especially if we don’t start to build up critical infrastructure now.  In Bergen County, the BCDO is a mess, to say the least, with Ferriero in, shall we say, “hot water,” and no indication as to if or when he will step down from his Chairmanship.  With this matter still in limbo, it would be very difficult for a Democrat to run on a “clean government” platform and be taken seriously enough to flip a 53/47 deficit to a 52/48 win in the county.  It isn’t an accident that there was such a disappointment that even the top Democratic Freeholders saw a near 20% dropoff in her votes from Obama, as noted today in the Bergen Record.

How Linda Stender Lost

Post-mortems are a sad duty in any world, in no small way because it means “after death.”  The death in this case are the hopes of thousands of volunteers, donors and staff to send Linda Stender to Congress to represent New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District.

This has been a four year effort for many of us, starting before Linda even decided to run in 2006.  It is hard for some of us because we know Linda personally and like her very much, and worked so hard and invested so much in getting her to the finish line.

In 2006 we came within 1.5 percent of the vote against a three term Republican named Mike Ferguson.  It was a stunningly unexpected effort that shocked the national party which gave secondary support to the campaign while dumping millions in others where the margin was seven points or more.

In 2008 Linda lost by a little less than nine percent, a stunning defeat in a race where we saw polls putting Stender even or just behind State Senator Leonard Lance in the days before the election.  It was made all the more stunning in that 2008 was a better year for Democrats than 2006, yet the Stender campaign fell far behinds its previous result.

How could that happen?  Lance didn’t run a great campaign.  Stender had lots more money.  The DCCC dropped over a million dollars into the district, while the NRCC walked away and focused on NJ3.  Registration for Democrats jumped dramatically.  And then there was that guy running for President who brought Democratic turnout to amazing levels.  The environment couldn’t have been better.

But she lost anyway.

Because, as near as we can tell, they forgot all the lessons of 2006 that got them close.  Instead of building on the energy and volunteers from the previous election they brought in an entirely new team from outside the district, ignored the organizations like Democracy for America that supported Stender in 2006, and blew off local expertise in favor of a cookie-cutter campaign.

Statement in Response to Chris Myers’ Temper Tantrum

Defense industry lobbyist Chris Myers seems intent on focusing his entire campaign for Congress on progressive activists and netroots bloggers. To quote the President, of whose failed Iraq strategy Myers seems so fond, we say “bring it on.”

The claims Myers has made regarding a recent Blue Jersey diary are a desperate attempt at rallying our opponents on the right to the side of his faltering campaign. The simple fact is that in terms of fundraising, organizing, and the ever-elusive “buzz,” John Adler is running circles around Myers and will continue to do so. Instead of running against a group of bloggers, perhaps he should be spending a bit more time on his actual opponent.

To address the content of the Blue Jersey diary Myers takes issue with, it seems to us that Thurman Hart, himself a veteran, brings up a legitimate set of questions. Chris Myers’ campaign repeatedly refers to their candidate as a “decorated combat veteran.” Based on the facts put forth by Hart, that does indeed seem to be a questionable claim. This matter can be put to rest if Myers answers the call to “display on your website the actual letter of award that comes along with the medal.” We’re sure even John Kerry would advise that the best way to handle such a situation is not to attack the messenger, but to get out ahead of the story. We will gladly post an item on the front page of Blue Jersey updating our readers as to such developments.

In the meantime, we thank Mr. Myers, the defense industry lobbyist and Bush loyalist, for helping to promote our website. He is welcome to attack us instead of Senator Adler whenever he likes.

Special News Roundup- Election Edition

The Passion of the Beck

  • Yes, the insufferable Jen Beck has defeated Ellen Karcher in a Republican sweep of district 12. We can all look forward to another four years of her constantly playing the martyr in Trenton.

    Other News

  • Well, when your paper endorses Republicans almost exclusively, of course you’d describe a string of Republican victories as a “sweet night.”
  • Voters have rejected the ballot questions on dedicated property tax relief and stem cell research.
  • Democrats picked up a Senate seat, and will hold on to a sizable majority in the Assembly.
  • Check out our results thread.
  • Results are still coming in in the 2nd District Assembly races, but it’s not looking good for Democrats Joe Wilkins and Blondell Spellman.
  • While final results in the Somerset County freeholder’s race haven’t been tabulated, it looks like Melonie Marano has lost a tight race.

    Any more election stories/results? Leave them in the comments! This is an open thread.

  • News Roundup/Open Thread 11/1/07

    Election 2007

  • Rudy Giuliani will be will be campaigning for Jennifer Beck today. Beck debated Ellen Karcher last night.
  • Bill Baroni gets the nod from the Home News Tribune in district 14.
  • The Bergen Record endorses Democrats Loretta Weinberg, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Republican Semaszkiewicz in District 37.
  • The Courier Post endorses Democratic incumbents in District 3 and says if re-elected they should choose only one office.

    State & Local News

  • The Star Ledger says we must address dropout rates in our schools.
  • The Jersey Journal rails against fare hikes on crossing the Hudson, but concludes they’re inevitable.
  • Rutgers may build a new arena in New Brunswick.
  • Two cases of the MRSA staph infections have been reported in Toms River schools.
  • A ballot question to fund open space preservation is one of the four ballot questions voters will be asked to vote on next week.
  • Meanwhile, Tom Moran says the ballot questions serve important causes, but they might only exacerbate the state’s budget problems.
  • Why not get married on Halloween?

    This is an open thread.