Tag Archive: Kevin O’Toole

Closing Remarks on Phillip Kwon

Below is a video of the closing remarks by each of the senators and their vote in the confirmation hearing of Phillip Kwon. It begins with the Republicans. The Democrats follow, starting with Senator Weinberg at the 24:10 mark.

Senate Judiciary Votes Down Christie Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon

“… side show



freak show

..  Korean witch hunt …”

Attendees at today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court nominee Phillip Kwon – and those who watched NJTV’s coverage live – got an earful today as Republican members of the committee ratcheted up the rhetoric into the stratosphere unable to sit still as Democrats put questions to Christie’s nominee. Kwon would have been the first Asian American to serve on New Jersey’s high court.

In the end, after a full day of questioning and testimony, the panel voted 7-6 against Kwon, with Senator Brian Stack voting alongside the Republicans.

Blue Jersey maintained a nearly 8-hour Live-Tweet account of the proceedings @bluejersey. We will have video coverage and interviews posted tomorrow, with a first interview with Blue Jersey’s own Senator Loretta Weinberg later tonight.  

O’Toole, whose mother is Korean-born, has been vocal in his support of Kwon in the run-up to this hearing, speaking publicly alongside the something called the Korean American Voters Council, and former Edison Mayor Jun Choi. But today, O’Toole plunged deep into angry vitriol:

“We didn’t have a hearing. We had a lynching. I don’t think this nominee was given a fair chance.”

                        –  Sen. Kevin O’Toole, Republican Whip

Sen. Weinberg, Senate Majority Leader and a member of the Committee, suggested Christie tried to pass Kwon off as an independent, blaming the Governor’s drive to remake the Court in his own image.

She was also apparently unsatisfied with the committee’s findings of his family’s finances, including his wife’s income, which was investigated by federal authorities for suspicious deposits. “I don’t think we got all the real answers, and for that reason I am voting no.”

More, plus the vote count, below the fold.

Fun with Redistricting Redux: Keeping Hawthorne in LD35

The Blue Jersey community was very excited to read this week that our very own, Jeff Gardner, has made his electoral intentions official and opened up a legislative campaign account.  Ever since John Girgenti voted against marriage equality and set in motion a process that was kicked into high gear when Jeff’s slate of County Committee candidates defeated Girgenti’s last June, enabling Jeff to become Hawthorne’s Municipal Chair, I have thought about how redistricting might impact Jeff’s chances of running for and winning a State Assembly or State Senate seat in 2011.

There has been a lot of talk about John Girgenti’s future with regards to redistricting, primarily because he was a loyalist of Governor/Senator Richard Codey’s when the Steve Adubato/George Norcross axis of corruption staged their takeover of the Democratic leadership in Trenton.  As a result, neither Jeff nor Girgenti have any advocates for keeping their otherwise Republican-leaning town of Hawthorne in the very Democratic (thanks to Paterson) 35th LD on the legislative redistricting commission.  I could be wrong, but I think that if there is anything that Jeff and Girgenti agree on, is that it is in their best electoral interest for Hawthorne to stay in LD35.

But without any advocates on the LRC, the only thing that might help them keep Hawthorne in LD35 is a compelling argument that serves the agendas of some of the commission’s members.  There are two members of the LRC in particular whose agendas have become quite clear over the last year.

New questions arise from Hawthorne as one is answered

…whether or not Hawthorne remains in LD35.

…whether or not Currie, Pascrell, and the PCDO support Girgenti or choose to go in a different direction in LD35.

If Hawthorne remains in LD35, I predict that Sweeney and the Norcross machine will want to have a dog in this fight, and unless that dog is Girgenti, my guess is that they recruit someone from Paterson to take Girgenti on, which would create an interesting conundrum for Jeff.

If Norcross and Sweeney through their relationship with Adubato and Oliver place enough pressure on Currie, they could get their slate of candidates the party endorsement in Passaic County.  If they are backing someone from Paterson instead of Girgenti, then they would probably want Jeff to run for Assembly on that slate.  

The big question is whether or not Jeff wants to get into bed with the bosses or not, especially since that would mean making peace with Sweeney, who abstained on the marriage equality vote and placed pressure on other Senators to do the same or worse, vote no.

As much as I dislike Norcross, Sweeney, et al, I wouldn’t hold it against Jeff if he agreed to run with their slate of candidates.  Sadly, these are the kinds of tough choices that otherwise good and progressive people like Jeff are forced to make to be able to be effective advocates for their issues of concern, especially in the absence of an organized progressive community that can provide a legitimate alternative to the Democratic establishment in our state.

And as much as I would love to see Jeff run on a progressive slate of candidates against both a Girgenti slate and a boss-backed slate, it is hard to imagine such a slate having access to the resources required to win a three-way race.  The ideal scenario is one where the bosses back Girgenti, enabling Jeff to run on a Paterson-based progressive insurgent slate, but I don’t think that this scenario is very likely as the bosses are too smart to back a has-been like Girgenti, when they can just as easily buy an ambitious pol from Paterson.

That said, an even more likely scenario is one where they (the bosses) cleave Hawthorne from LD35 and place it into LD38, setting up a primary election standoff between Girgenti and Bob Gordon or LD40, setting up a general election standoff between Girgenti and Kevin O’Toole.  Either scenario allows the bosses to choose a Paterson pol, if not an entire slate of Paterson pols and gain a stake in Passaic County politics for the next decade.

Of the two scenarios, I like the one that puts Hawthorne in LD38 the best, especially if this new LD38 no longer contains Fort Lee, where Joan Voss resides, creating an Assembly opening on the Gordon slate that could be offered to Jeff. Girgenti would then be forced to find a couple of ambitious pols from Fair Lawn and Paramus respectively to run with him.

However, if Hawthorne is placed in LD40, it simply adds a Republican-leaning town to an already heavily Republican district.  My guess is that if this happens, Girgenti will retire and Jeff will probably have a very good chance at being asked to run for State Senate in what would be an extremely difficult race to win.  The only other LD40 scenario where Jeff could have a remote chance of being elected to a State Assembly seat is if both Hawthorne and Dick Codey’s Fairfield are placed in the district.  

Codey has committed to run for re-election no matter what district he is placed in and has a $2 million warchest from which to wage what will most likely be the last major battle of his career.  Convincing Girgenti to retire so that he doesn’t have to spend any of that money on a primary election will be easy since Girgenti definitely doesn’t have the guts to run against O’Toole in LD40, much less run against Codey in a primary election.

It would be very smart of Codey to pick Jeff and possibly someone like Joan Waks or John Bartlett from Wayne to run with him.  It would still be a longshot in a district like LD40, no doubt, but the combination of Codey’s and Waks’ name recognition and popularity combined with Jeff’s netroots appeal could be enough to pull off an upset.

Will the Adubato-Norcross ‘Axis of Evil’ fall apart at the redistricting table?

Two very interesting articles about redistricting were posted on PolitickerNJ.com today that could provide anyone interested in the redistricting process with some insight into the developing drama as Republicans appear united in their efforts to reclaim majorities in the State Assembly and State Senate that have been out of their grasp for the last decade against Democratic adversaries who seem to be anything but that.

After a year that has seen the Democrats in Trenton capitulate to our state’s Republican Governor on issue after issue, thanks primarily to overly cozy relations between the Governor and acolytes of Steve Adubato and George Norcross, the two most powerful Democratic Party bosses in the state, the unholy alliance between Adubato and Norcross seems to be fraying at the most dangerous possible time for all Democrats, when division could result in a legislative district map that could guarantee Republican dominance in the state for most if not all of the next decade the way that the last map, conceived by then-Senate Minority Leader, Richard Codey, who would go on to become Senate President and Acting Governor before being unceremoniously ousted from his leadership position in a coup, led by his fiercest adversaries, Adubato and Norcross and their acolytes, enabled the Democrats in Trenton to enjoy the majorities that they have held and squandered for the last decade.

One article presents the players for each team that will go head-to-head in the weeks and months to come to either draw competing (most likely) or cooperating (highly unlikely) legislative district maps that will determine the playing fields on which the next decade’s worth of legislative elections will be held and infers about the strategy that could lead to the end of Codey’s political career.

The other discusses potential fractures in the Democratic ranks in general and between Adubato and Norcross in particular that could spell doom for the Democratic majorities in Trenton once and for all.

The Politics of Jerry Speziale

Wishing the Sheriff all the best in his new endeavor. (But, I can think of more than a few people who’d be thrilled if he took this advice.) – JG

Full Disclosure: I am an elected County Committeeman from the 3rd Voting District in Wanaque for the Passaic County Democratic Organization, Inc. – Matt

Passaic County Democrats were hit with a political bombshell yesterday. Political superstar and popular Sheriff Jerry Speziale abruptly resigned and took a position with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. A deal nearly nine months in the working, the appointment was orchestrated by State Senator Kevin O’Toole and Assemblyman Scott Rumana, leaving county Democrats reeling after the stunning revelation.  Chairman John Currie was not given the respect of a phone call to fill him in on the situation.  

While sympathizing with Speziale’s family situation, and respecting his right to make this move, local and countywide Democrats are disappointed with the abruptness in which Sheriff Speziale left the campaign trail.  After a disappointing 2009 election cycle where three Freeholders seats and the County Clerk’s race were all lost, Democrats in Passaic County are in a make-or-break situation.  A loss of one seat in November means losing majority control of the Freeholder Board in a county where there are 28,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.  

The rank-and-file Democrats in Passaic County are not happy.  With Labor Day rapidly approaching, Sheriff Speziale’s resignation has both empowered a Republican Governor to appoint a replacement and left Democrats with no candidate for the office.  Speziale has stated he will donate his $1 million dollar war chest to “charities.”  Some might view that as a noble gesture, but the reality is that it would be extremely unfair to the local Democrats around the county who were counting on him during the Fall.  Much of that money came from donors who want to keep the County and the Sheriff’s office under Democratic control.  

Speziale should give the maximum allowed under law – $7,200 – to every local organization in the county.  He should write a $37,000 check to the Passaic County Democratic Organization and max out to both Freeholder candidates and the eventual Democratic nominee for Sheriff.  That still leaves money left over for charity.  Karma is a funny thing in politics, and I respect the Sheriff for wanting to work in a job free from running for reelection or the pressures that come from political office, but he needs to realize the ramifications and perception of his actions.  

Sheriff Speziale worked behind the scenes – for nine months – with high ranking Republican officials and a Republican Governor, all the while acting like a candidate, giving his fellow Democrats no indication of his intentions. Now his supporters – those who volunteered their time and efforts thanklessly on his behalf – are left to scramble for a replacement who will have less than three weeks to get a campaign infrastructure in place and raise money to compete with the Republican nominee, who has been campaigning since the start of the year. I’ll echo Chairman Currie’s words, if the reasons for taking the job were related to a man’s family, you have to respect that.  But the least Jerry Speziale can do is make one final political act to help the people who worked to get him elected in 2004 and 2007.

Quote Of The Day: Oops

Promoted by Jason Springer: The accidental truth from Kevin O’Toole.

I’m not sure Republican Assemblyman knew just how right he was when he said this:

“From what I’ve read, Chris has always operated above the law,” said O’Toole.

Yeah, Christie does seem to think that he is above the law.  And now the people of NJ are getting to see it.

What SCOTUS didn’t say about redistricting

Last week, the Supreme Court handed down an important decision in the North Carolina redistricting case Bartlett v. Strickland. The decision prompted Essex County Senator Kevin O’Toole to threaten a new challenge to the legislative map. Earlier this week, Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll joined the Republican cacophony railing against the legislative map.

Carroll and other Republicans are misinterpreting the Court’s decision in Bartlett v. Strickland. The decision narrows the scope of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits electoral practices that prevent minority groups from electing reprentatives of their choice. An earlier Supreme Court decision, Thornburg v. Gingles, held that only a minority population that is “sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district” can claim that a redistricting plan dilutes its votes and therefore violates section 2. The decision in Bartlett v. Strickland clarifies this requirement, so that a specific minority group (normally blacks or Hispanics) must constitute 50% of the voting-age population in a proposed district to assert a claim of vote dilution under Section 2. Thus African-Americans in the proposed single-member “coalition” district based around Plainfield could not make a claim of vote dilution, but Hispanics in the proposed Newark district could. (note: populations for “proposed single-member districts” are half the population of an average legislative district, because each legislative district elects two representatives to the Assembly.)

Hispanic voters in Newark may make a claim of vote dilution… …but Black voters in Plainfield may not.

(more below the fold)

Redistricting? Bring it on.

A recent US Supreme Court decision has Republican legislators Kevin O’Toole disingenuously posing as advocates for black and Hispanic voters and threatening to sue to overturn the state’s legislative district map. They should be careful what they wish for.

New Jersey delegates the responsibility of decennial redistricting to two bipartisan commissions, one for the Congressional map and the other for the Legislative map. If a Congressional map is thrown out, the state constitution provides for the commission to be re-organized to draw a new map before the next election:

If a plan certified by the commission is declared unlawful, the commission shall reorganize and adopt another Congressional district plan in the same manner as herein required and within the period of time prescribed by the court or within such shorter period as may be necessary to ensure that the new plan is effective for the next succeeding primary and general election for all members of the United States House of Representatives.

There is no such provision for the Apportionment Commission that draws legislative districts. The constitution only contains a prohibition on scrapping the commission’s map mid-decade:

Such establishment and apportionment shall be used thereafter for the election of members of the Legislature and shall remain unaltered until the following decennial census of the United States for New Jersey shall have been received by the Governor.

Of course, as federal statute takes precedence over state constitution, this provision does not protect the map against a challenge under the VRA. Since the constitution provides no remedy for an judicially-overturned legislative map, the principle of judicial restraint dictates that it should be within the power of the legislature, rather than the courts, to craft one.

A legislatively-drawn map would give Democrats a rare chance to draw a flagrantly partisan plan designed to eliminate as many Republicans as possible from the legislature. Republicans in Democratic-leaning and swing areas, including Kevin O’Toole, Gerald Cardinale and Tom Kean Jr, would be fair game. O’Toole is especially vulnerable; most of his constituents live in Passaic and Bergen Counties, while his home town abuts Montclair, home of 34th district Senator Nia Gill. So, Senator O’Toole, if you wants a fight over the current map, then bring it on, but don’t complain when Nia Gill sends your insincere self back to Cedar Grove.