Christie, Palatucci, & Jersey

Late last year, Bill Palatucci, friend and mentor of NJ Gov. Chris Christie, left Community Education Centers for the law firm of Gibbons, PC.

Community Education Centers, CEC, calls itself “A leading provider of offender reentry” is the company to which New Jersey has outsourced halfway houses.

It is also the company that allows felons to – in words Mitt Romney might use – “Self-Parole” and “Self-Pardon” – to walk away at will. The New York Times covered this at length. The Times, not known for sensationalist reporting, described Community Education Centers half-way houses as places where “bedlam” reigns.

Palatucci said that his resignation from CEC had nothing to do with Governor Christie’s re-election campaign. He also said that he wants to have time to work on Republican campaigns in 2013.

If Gov. Christie runs his campaign the way Community Education Centers runs their half-way houses I expect Mr. Christie to lose his re-election campaign.  

South Jersey Poll: Adler-Runyan toss-up, Andrews and LoBiondo easy wins

Let’s take another break from advocacy to check the races. I just noticed in the Courier-Post that I missed Monday’s polls from the William J. Hughes Center at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. They’ve again asked Zogby to poll South Jersey and given us data for the First, Second and Third Congressional Districts. The NJ1 (PDF) and NJ2 (PDF) polls have 400 likely voters each while the closer NJ3 (PDF) poll has 600.  

Let’s look at the easy districts first:

Rob Andrews (D) leads Dale Glading (R) 63.4% to 21.9%.

Frank LoBiondo (R) leads Gary Stein (D) 57.3% to 20.0%

Note that there are demographic numbers (party, age, race, education) included in the PDFs and you can see the district-level favoriability of the Representatives, President Obama and Governor Christie.  Obama is over 50% (if barely) in all three districts.  “Christie’s decision to promote Atlantic City” does well in all districts but best in NJ2, which (gasp) includes Atlantic City.  In other results, I trust no one is surprised that voters think “jobs and economy” is the top issue.

Now for the big race: Adler (37.1%) trails Runyan (40.3%), the first time I have seen that result. These seem like low percentages so late in the election, but note the 4.1% margin of error is larger than the difference. Runyan is at 48% favorable so any Adler attack ads have not been effective enough.  Zogby says more Republicans than Democrats will vote in this race.  

DeStefano (Tea Party) still draws in 4.9%.  Almost half (37%) of those voters would switch to Runyan if “they learned the New Jersey Tea Party endorsed Jon Runyan and not Peter DeStefano.” Half (48%) would switch if told (“they learned that the Democrats recruited DeStefano in order to hurt Runyan’s chances for election.” I’d like to hear more from the 4 DeStafano voters who would then switch to Adler! Small number statistics to be sure but you can see why those Democratic operatives wanted DeStafeno on the ballot and Republicans want to play up the story as much as possible.  The poll was taken 10/18 to 10/22 so there’s a real possibility the DeStefano voters have learned the story since the poll was taken.  

Rating How Competitive New Jersey Congressional Districts Are: Nate Silver’s PPI Index

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com has just introduced his new “Partisan Propensity Index” (PPI). If you’ve been following elections closely, you’re probably already familiar with the Partisan Voting Index (PVI) from Cook, and similar statistics from Swing State Project. Cook’s idea is to look at how each Congressional District voted for President compared to the nationwide average. So, for example, the NJ5 district (Garrett’s) is rated R+7, meaning it voted 7 points more Republican than nationwide, while NJ13 (Sire’s) is rated D+21. You can see why Democrats had such a hard time even with a good candidate against Garrett, and why Republicans didn’t seriously contest NJ13 when Menendez left it. Unlike Congressional races, where often one candidate is hardly covered in the news and has hardly any campaign budget, the two party’s Presidential candidates are well known. The PVI index is widely used to identify competitive districts.  

Here’s Silver’s idea:

Are there any systematic differences in the ways that votes tend to fall for the Congress, as opposed to the Presidency? Are certain districts better or worse for Democrats, or Republicans, than PVI alone would suggest?

It turns out that there’s one other factor which is fairly useful to look at, which is socioeconomic status. Relative to how they do for the Presidency, Democrats are somewhat more likely to win races for Congress in poorer districts, and somewhat more likely to lose them in wealthier ones. Another way to put this is that a split ticket of Republican for President, Democrat for Congress is more likely to occur in a poor district, whereas a split ticket of Democrat for President, Republican for Congress is more likely to occur in a wealthy one.

Click through for the statistical analysis he uses. Silver expresses his PPI index as the chance for Democrats to win an open seat in an average election cycle, based solely on two factors: the recent Presidential Vote and the percentage of the population with incomes under $25,000/yr.  Here are the results for New Jersey:

District Name PVI PPI
NJ11 Frelinhguysen R+7 2.5%
NJ5 Garrett R+7 3.2%
NJ4 Smith R+6 10.9%
NJ7 Lance R+3 13.9%
NJ3 Adler R+1 27.9%
NJ12 Holt D+5 62.9%
NJ2 LoBiondo D+1 66.0%
NJ6 Pallone D+8 85.2%
NJ9 Rothman D+9 88.8%
NJ8 Pascrell D+10 96.6%
NJ1 Andrews D+12 97.0%
NJ13 Sires D+21 99.95%
NJ10 Payne D+33 99.998%

The main lesson, if you take this ratings seriously, is that New Jersey’s wealth makes the battleground Congressional districts lean Republican compared to how they vote at the Presidential level. In many states, the R+3 and even the R+7 districts have a great chance of going Democratic at the Congressional level, but here NJ5 and NJ7 are actually quite unfavorable, and should vote for the House like R+14 districts in the rest of the country. When we evaluate how our candidates did, it’s worth keeping this effect in mind.

Frank LoBiondo’s district is the poorest in New Jersey, and by this measure is slightly better for Democrats than Holt’s district, but we are stuck with the echo of 1994. In case it’s not obvious, being an incumbent matters, scandals matter, and cycles can be more or less Republican than the average cycle, and you should always remember that the most likely outcome doesn’t always happen. All of our 2010 races have incumbents so the percentages definitely do not apply. Also, this is the last election in the current districts.

Monday’s Health Care Town Hall Meeting with Rob Andrews

After just reading about all the excitement this summer, it’s great to see Rob Andrews is holding a town hall on Monday:

Date:  Monday, August 24, 2009

Time:  6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Location: Rowan University – Wilson Hall, Glassboro, New Jersey 08028

(Wilson Hall is located off of Bowe Blvd. across from Glassboro High School)

I think it will be well attended.  Yesterday I was in Mullica Hill — close to Glassboro — and some old man was waving a “Stop Obama Care” sign to passing motorists.

As for our side, Obama’s Organizing for America sent an e-mail calling for people to sign up for Andrews’ town hall and 117 212 people have RSVPed already.  

Hope to see you there.  Other people’s experiences suggest you should get there early.

Reforming DYFS

I am a foster and adoptive mom for the past eleven years now. I have seen things in the foster system that need to change before more kids die. No one will listen. I have written, called, e-mailed everyone who is in authority to make a change and no one will listen. I have written a book to get the story out, but had to publicise it myself so it is slow going. Iam at a loss as to what else can be done.

One of the things that has to change is the way they handle supervised visitation. The state of NJ is swamped. They have so many cases per worker they can’t even visit them all. So they sub contract out their supervised visitation. The problem is the companies they contract to don’t have to have any trained personnel. So you end up having a dangerous mom visiting a young child or infant in a public place monitored by a college intern. No back up if something goes wrong, no plan in effect to handle dangerous situations nothing.

Here is an example of one of these we had to deal with. We had a one year old we were fostering. His mother was too dangerous for the worker to transport. She was known to carry drugs and got violent. So they set the visits for places she could walk to. This visit was set at the Newark Library in Nj. We took the child and met a twenty one year old college intern who was sent to monitor the visit. I left my cell # and the child with the intern and went outside to wait for the visit to be over. Ten minutes later my cell rang. It was the intern crying and asking me to come get the baby. She said the mom was hitting him.

Now you have to understand the area is prodominately AA and my foster son was AA and of course so was the biological mom. Iam white. Anyway I go back inside and the mom is striking the baby with a book. The intern is crying and asking me to take the baby, she is afraid to as the mom is angry and out weighs us both by about 100lbs. I try to ge the baby back and the mom tucks the baby under her arms and proceeds to run up two flights of cement steps. I follow we get to the library doors and I manage to get hold of the baby before she makes it out. Now it is tug of war with her screaming that Iam trying to abduct her baby. I manage to tumble back in with the baby just before she runs out. All the while screaming Iam his foster mom. The mom jumps in a waiting car outside and drives off. She was going to abduct him. A month later we find out she is incarcerated for trafficking.

If I hadn’t been there he would have been abducted. This happens everyday. The interns are not prepared, there is no safety plan in effect and no will help me. We ended up adopting that baby he is my son now. But this system is still endangering other kids. These visits need to be with trained personnel in secure settings. Help me make a difference.


New PVI’s From Cook Report — Three Reps Vulnerable

Promoted by Jason Springer

According to the Cook Report we have three districts that are ripe for the out-party, two for the Rs and one for the Ds.  Every two years they put together a new analysis (find out the metrics elsewhere) of the Partisan Voting (PV) index of Congressional districts based on the last vote.

Last year the only ones that were close were NJ3 for John Adler, NJ2 for Frank Lobiondo, and NJ7 for Leonard Lance.  The rest are pretty much out of reach barring a live goat or a dead boy.

Here are the new rankings:

Frelinghuysen [NJ11] R+7

Garrett [NJ5] R+7

Smith [NJ4] R+6

Lance [NJ7] R+3

Adler [NJ3] R+1

LoBiondo [NJ2]        D+1

Holt [NJ12] D+5

Pallone [NJ6] D+8

Rothman [NJ9]        D+9

Pascrell [NJ8] D+10

Andrews [NJ1]        D+12

Sires [NJ13] D+21

Payne [NJ10] D+33

Rob Andrews declares for Governor

Standing in front of his Haddon Heights home at 11am this morning, and surrounded by what he admitted was a hastily-assembled group of supporters, Rob Andrews announced he will give up his seat in Congress representing NJ’s 1st Congressional District, and challenge Jon Corzine for his party’s nomination for Governor.

From his statement:

I did not intend, or plan, to challenge my Governor in the primary process. I do so with regret, and respect. But New Jersey needs fresh stewardship, and new ideas. I have decided that I will place my name and my credentials before the people of New Jersey to serve as their new Governor. The people of New Jersey deserve to choose their governor. With respect for Governor Corzine and his public service, I will offer them that choice in this historic year of change, of challenge and of opportunity.

The news was a surprise, even for Andrews, who made headlines – and not a few enemies – with an unexpected primary challenge to Senator Frank Lautenberg, just days after promising the entire NJ Democratic delegation that he would not. The acrimonious nature of the race, including repeated references to the incumbent’s age (Lautenberg was 84, Andrews 50) forced Democrats to take sides. Most sided with the eventual winner, Lautenberg, but the process may have further alienated South Jersey Democrats from their counterparts further north. It also damaged Andrews’ credibility quotient, with wife Camille Andrews accused of merely keeping his seat warm for him in the event of his failure to capture the nomination from Lautenberg. When he lost, badly, to his elder, he did indeed return to that seat he swore he was done with.

Last year’s race was largely seen as Andrews’ test-run at a real state-wide campaign this year, but after a crushing defeat by a Senator he had made out to be, well, addled and well past his prime, the conventional wisdom was that he’d learned a lesson, and would live to fight another day.

A day perhaps come rather sooner than is convenient for Corzine. It’s a bad time to be an incumbent governor with the economy – state and national – in the shape it’s in. And that has been reflected in bad polling news for the Governor.

A trio of state Senators introduced Andrews to the group; Ray Lesniak, Joe Vitale and Bob Smith, who were in turn brought to the microphone by Asm John Wisniewski. Newark Democratic powerbroker Steve Adubato was there but did not speak. SJ Democratic Chairs Beach, Angelini and Perr and Norcross were also not called to the microphone. Today’s announcement is seen as another sharp challenge to the balance of power by Norcross.

Barbara Buono, who endorsed Andrews last year, was not there. She is rumored to be on Corzine’s shortlist for Lieutenant Governor. Democratic heavy-hitters who endorsed Andrews in ’08, but were missing from this morning’s announcement, included included Majority Leader Steve Sweeney, and Speaker Joe Roberts. Andrews mentioned both in his remarks, expressing deep respect, and that both had been informed late last night of his intentions.

Andrews’ track record over the last year is widely seen as hubris, over-reaching and a notable failure of an ascendant South Jersey politician to capture the Senate seat in the name of the power structure in South Jersey. There was considerable resentment inside the Democratic Party, but particularly inside the Democratic Congressional delegation, with Pascrell and Pallone the most vocal.

Andrews briefly flirted last year with the possibility of leaving politics altogether and going to Goldman Sachs which, ironically, Corzine used to run. But now, the loss of support among his House colleagues – not to mention what Lautenberg may think of him – may be a factor in Andrews’ choice to switch playing fields entirely, and compete with an incumbent Governor struggling with a national economy in freefall, a mountain of inherited state debt, and a likely challenger, Chris Christie, who fashions himself a heroic corruption-buster.


… 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.