Stile, Roginsky, Hill, Dittmar, Ciattarelli - The Morning After convo at Rutgers Eagleton
Rapid-fire analysis of the 2018 Primary. Watch.
Michael Avenatti
Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti
The Fluffer.
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How did Moms Demand Action “Gun Sense” group end up looking like they back the same guy the NRA does?
Good question.
Let Us Be Part of the American Dream
Immigration Yesterday Today Tomorrow
There is nothing new in U. S. history about Trump’s anti-immigration policies.
Republican NJ Rep. Chris Smith
DCCC now has all 5 NJ Republican seats targeted for take-down
Chris Smith’s held his seat for 37 years. Dems now intend to take it away.

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Health Care, Small Businesses, and New Jersey: Do You Know What Your Legislature Is Doing?

A814 is a bill in the State Assembly that “permits certain self-employed individuals to purchase small employer health benefits plans” by working within the framework of the New Jersey Small Employer Health Benefits Program.  The bill, sponsored by Linda Greenstein (14th LD), Upendra Chivukula (17th LD), and Jeff Van Drew (1st LD), and co-sponsored by John F. McKeon (27th LD), would help small business owners provide health insurance by giving them the kind of economies of scale that large employers receive.  Given that small businesses are the number one provider of jobs in the country, and given that small businesses do not have the resources of larger corporations, this bill sounds like a good idea, something that is people-friendly and business-friendly at the same time.  By fostering a better environment for small businesses, the state becomes even more of a haven for business and enhances its prospects for job creation.

This bill has a constituency.

I’m not betting on Booker

The speculation over which Democrat will get tapped with Jon Corzine’s magic wand for his N.J. Senate seat is getting feverish — now “Wally Edge” is saying that former Newark city councilman Cory Booker is in line for benediction. At this rate, I expect to see Matt Stoller’s name being floated for the job.

There’s nothing wrong with Booker — he’s an immensely promising guy and already battle-hardened from his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Newark mayor Sharpe James, which was chronicled in the documentary Street Fight. But he’s a little light in the experience department, especially for a crucial seat like this. “Edge” says it’s supposed to spare Sharpe James the tsuris of another go-round with Booker, but that’s going an awfully long way just to appease some over-the-hill machine pol. I’d be amazed if this rumor gets borne out.

Cross-posted at The Opinion Mill.

Herb Jackson flies south

Herb Jackson, the longtime statehouse reporter for the Record — or, as Jerseyans Of A Certain Age will always call it, the Bergen Record — is heading for Washington D.C. to start a new Capitol Hill bureau for his employer.

Frankly, Jackson’s reporting on the just-ended gubernatorial campaign hasn’t left me breathless with admiration — a lot of what he wrote sounded bored and pissy about the whole thing, which is probably why this D.C. gig is a good idea. But his “Under the Influence” series about political patronage was top-notch and his past reporting has been forceful. He certainly gave Gov. Christie Whitman merry hell during the racial profiling scandal, particularly on one legendary occasion when Whitman slated a press conference to gush about Bob Franks’s performance during a debate with Jon Corzine in the 2000 Senate race. Some new dirt had come to light about attorney general Peter Verniero and what he had known about racial profiling practices. Whitman wanted to talk about the debate; Jackson wanted to talk about Verniero; when Jackson wouldn’t back down, Whitman turned and flounced out of the room.

God knows what the Bergen Record needs a D.C. office for, unless owner Malcolm Borg is starting to get delusions of grandeur again about building a bigger newspaper empire. The last time he tried that, it didn’t end well.

Cross-posted at The Opinion Mill.

The Case for Senator Menendez

To begin with, full disclosure:  I’m Bob Menendez’s communications director and write this post with the obvious acknowledgment that I have a dog in this hunt.

Since Corzine was elected governor last Tuesday, I’ve enjoyed the debates here about who should be the next Senator from the Garden state.  Rather than try and pick up each thread, however, I thought I’d lay out the case for Congressman Menendez the way we’d do to the voters and let you all chime in from there.

First, Menendez’s personal story, which is not well known despite his 31 years in public life, but bears repeating because it helps explain what motivates him today.  Bob was born in New York City to Cuban immigrants in 1954 and was raised in a tenement in Union City.  This was not an easy life – a two bedroom tenement for five people (Bob’s two parents and two older siblings, a brother and a sister) – and they didn’t have much money, a fact that spurred Bob’s first entry into public life.  When he was a senior in high school, he signed up to take honors classes but couldn’t afford to because the school district at the time actually made students buy the books for honors classes.  The cost was only about $100, but it was more than his family could afford.  So he protested and after a while the principal just gave him the books for free to shut him up.  But while that helped him, it didn’t do anything for the other students in the school.

So the next year, when he was a 19-year old college student at St. Peter’s, he launched a petition drive to change the school board from one that was appointed by the local machine to one that was elected.  The petition drive succeeded, the board changed, Bob was elected to it, and they reformed the system.  That effort – one college student leading a reform movement – changed the lives of Union City students and launched Bob’s career.  

His next big test came several years later when he worked for the mayor of Union City, Bill Musto.  Musto was a mentor to him, but when Bob saw that the mayor had become corrupt (another long story that can wait for another post), Bob actually did something about it.  He left the administration, cooperated with the U.S. attorneys investigating Musto, and eventually testified against him in court, despite threats to his life that forced him to wear a bulletproof vest.

After that, Bob went on to be elected mayor of Union City, and later to the state Assembly and state Senate.  Since 1992, he’s served in Congress, where he’s risen to become the third-highest ranking Democrat in the House and the highest-ranking Hispanic in Congressional history.  As a leader in the House, he hasn’t been sitting on the sidelines, he’s been leading the fight:  against the president’s tax cuts, against the war in Iraq, for cleaning up our environment, for workers’ rights to organize, and for plans to lower the cost of health care and make a college education more affordable.  He is sponsoring the bill to establish an independent commission to investigate the tragic federal response to Hurricane Katrina and legislation to impose a windfall profits tax on big oil companies.  I could go on and on, but on the issues that matter – and let’s be honest, despite the talk about electability that dominates much public discussion, it’s issues that matter and issues that motivated so many of us to get into politics in the first place – on the issues that matter, Bob Menendez has an unmatched record of fighting for average New Jerseyans.  Bob has spent his entire life fighting for the issues that effect the lives of New Jersey families, and he would be a senator that would make New Jersey, and especially Blue New Jersey, proud.

Now, a bit about electability, since so much time on these pages has been devoted to it.  First, Menendez starts from a powerful base.  The four counties he represents (Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Union) account for 42% of the statewide Democratic primary vote and nearly 30% of the general election vote.  He obviously doesn’t represent every person in each of these counties, but he’s well-known there, and this base gives him a powerful place to begin a statewide campaign.  Second, Bob can motivate an important constituency, Hispanics, who often stay home in larger numbers than other groups, and whose votes fluctuate widely between Democrats and Republicans.  This is a growing swing group in the state, and Bob can deliver it for Democrats.

Bob also starts this campaign with the money in the bank, and the ability to raise more, to run a serious statewide campaign.  I know bringing this up will raise the hair on the back of some people’s necks – we all wish campaigns didn’t cost what they did, but they do, and we need a nominee who can be competitive with a well-financed Republican campaign that will no doubt follow the same pattern of aggressive negative attacks we’ve come to expect on the state and national level.

Finally, the appointment and election of Senator Menendez would say something important about our party and our state.  It would show that the Democratic Party is the party of opportunity, the party that lifts people up and breaks down barriers.  Bob would become only the 5th Hispanic to serve in the history of the Senate, and would show people across the country that we are the party committed to diversity – that we reward people who work hard, overcome tough odds, and succeed in the face of adversity.

There are a lot of things I could say about Bob, but I’ll simply close with this thought of what a 2006 general election could look like.  Republicans are likely to nominate Tom Kean, Jr., a state senator who starts off with a name that’s been in New Jersey politics for a long time.  I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of a campaign that matches up the son of immigrants who grew up in a tenement building against the son of a governor who grew up in Drumthwacket.  I know which side I’m on, and I hope you will all join us.

Atlantic County GOP unplugged


Call the number Atlantic County Republicans list on their Web site for the Atlantic City Republicans, and this is what you get:

“Doo dee dee. The number you have dialed, (609) 345-0050, has been disconnected. (609) 345-0050 has been disconnected. No further information is available for (609) 345-0050.”

Forrester Blames Bush

Sunday talkers tried to spin last week’s election results into some sort of ominous sign for George Bush and House Republicans come 2006. Some of the Sunday talkers went so far as to say that the Corzine campaign focused on linking Doug Forrester to George Bush (citing this ad). On the surface, and in the beltway, there may very well be some sort of “Bush effect” to the Republican losses in VA, NJ, and CA. While I can’t speak for the other states, I can speak for NJ. The NJ campaign despite Doug Forrester’s fiercest attempts to the contrary, focused on issues relevant to New Jerseyans. After all, where in the Bush agenda lie property taxes, corruption, and affordable cost of living? Ignoring the obvious joke that can come of this question, the beltway talkers missed the fact that Forrester had never achieved the magical 50% barrier in the polls. As a candidate, he waffled on issue after issue, his tax plan was pie-in-the-sky, promises without substance abounded, in short… Doug Forrester didn’t lose because of George Bush, Doug Forrester lost because of Doug Forrester.

Why Populism Rots in New Jersey

Populism can refer to two political items.  First, it is a rhetorical method – a way of shaping your arguments so that it puts the common man in the middle of the political debate.  Second, it is an ideology that holds the common man as the greatest bastion of democracy – it is the opposite of elitism and says that you don’t need to graduate from Harvard to understand what the government should do in any given situation.

I count myself as a populist (though I sometimes slip a bit towards true Progressivism – but that’s for another post).  I know that millions of New Jersey women and men sit down every month and pay their bills.  They prioritize.  They cut what they can and get what they need.  As Ronald Reagan once said, they put forth heroic efforts in their ordinary hard-working lives to provide for their family and are proud to contribute to the greatest governmental system ever conceived. (I’m not a big fan of Reagan, but he had some good lines.)

Good news for Paul Mulshine!

Two-time GOP loser Bret Schundler is considering a third run for governor of New Jersey.

After Dancin’ Doug got the big vaudeville hook from Garden State voters last week, Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine took up the perennial winger lament — Oh Lord, send us a truly conservative candidate next time and we shall triumph at the polls! This ignores the fact that such a candidate is usually found in every Republican primary, running dead last. But for the true believer, failure is never God’s way of telling you to try something new — it’s always a message from on high to yell louder and try harder.

As bad as property taxes are in New Jersey, endless tax-cut pledges are not enough to bring the voters around. You need other messages as well, and for somebody like Schundler that translates into lead ballast. Still, it’s nice to know that in a few years Mulshine and his fellow flappers can look forward to getting exactly what they want — good and hard.

Cross-posted at The Opinion Mill.