Author: Mark Bonamo

Belmar mayor's race: a wave of post-Sandy project politics stirs up seaside Monmouth borough

Belmar mayor's race: a wave of post-Sandy project politics stirs up seaside Monmouth borough

BELMAR - When Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty rolled out his re-election campaign in February, he did so still basking in the glow of what many residents of the 6,000-person Monmouth County seaside borough saw as a star performance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. 

Belmar's boardwalk was rebuilt before Memorial Day last year, supported by an aggressive rebuilding effort directed by Doherty. The reconstruction campaign was fueled in part by a borough-sponsored website that allowed residents and visitors to securely purchase the actual boards that comprise Belmar's new boardwalk.

The boardwalk was rebuilt with the considerable help of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who met with Democrat Doherty soon after the storm. Doherty continues to tout an approach to local government that has helped Belmar to not raise taxes in the years since Doherty took office in January 2011. But a recent setback related to Sandy recovery has put a pothole in Doherty's heretofore apparently smooth road to re-election. 

On Aug. 19, Belmar voters rejected a plan to borrow $7 million to rebuild two beach pavilions that were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The special vote, which defeated the pavilion proposal by a 1,041 to 756 vote margin, or 57 to 43 percent, was a win for the plan's opponents, who argued that the project could be completed for less by using Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and insurance moneys. Supporters, however, claimed that the project was worth the expense since the pavilions must be built stronger to hold up to potential future hurricanes. 

In an interview with PolitickerNJ, Doherty, who is now considering options provided by Belmar residents regarding the future of the pavilions, took umbrage at the way the "no" side presented their argument. Ken Pringle, a former Belmar mayor and fellow Democrat, played a leading role in the pavilion opposition, sending out a letter shooting down Doherty's plan just before the referendum vote. The letter, the production and distribution of which was paid for by Pringle and his wife, left Doherty particularly miffed. 

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Ferguson 2014, Newark 1967: Could New Jersey's largest city see mass unrest again?

Ferguson 2014, Newark 1967: Could New Jersey's largest city see mass unrest again?

NEWARK - The images of exploding Molotov cocktails lighting up the brutal, after-dark duel between protesters and police in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month served to spur memories of the days that ripped apart Newark's soul in 1967.

In Ferguson, after an unarmed 18-year-old African-American male was fatally shot by a white Ferguson police officer on August 9, the streets of the Saint Louis suburb erupted. After almost two weeks of furious demonstrations and the introduction of the National Guard, Ferguson has simmered down as federal investigations ensue.

In Newark, the July 1967 arrest of a Newark taxi driver by two white police officers opened up the gates of Hell. Six days of shooting, looting, death and destruction left 26 people dead, a situation many observers and historians say was made worse by the presence of the National Guard. Federal and state investigations tried to the get to the core of the problems that led to what some called a riot, others a rebellion. Meanwhile, Newark went into an economic and population tail spin from which it took decades to significantly recover.

One dark thread of discord unites Newark in 1967 and Ferguson in 2014 - the under-representation of minorities in the city government and police department. Seven members out of the nine-member Newark City Council were white when the 1967 civil disturbances began, and few of the faces on the police force were black, at the moment when the majority of the city's population had shifted in favor of African-Americans. 

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As troubled One Newark school enrollment plan process continues, Baraka amplifies need for local control

As troubled One Newark school enrollment plan process continues, Baraka amplifies need for local control

NEWARK - The school year is set to start next week in the state's largest city, but many Newark residents feel schooled by what they see as a confusing school enrollment plan put in place by the controversial One Newark school reorganization plan.

"I can't find the right school for my kids," said Yahira Mallol of Newark's North Ward on Tuesday afternoon, standing outside of Newark Vocational High School on West Kinney Street moments after she enrolled her daughters, Yarlissa, 15, and Noelia, 11. At this point, Yarlissa has been placed in a North Ward high school, while Noelia could be placed in a South Ward grammar school. "In Georgia, where we used to live, if you come from out of state, you don't have to wait. You just sign up, and you go to school." 

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CD 7 race: Kovach campaign laces into Lance assertion that GOP incumbent represents district's views

CD 7 race: Kovach campaign laces into Lance assertion that GOP incumbent represents district's views

CRANFORD - Last week, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) shot down the notion that a critically-perceived drift to the Republican Party's right wing could cost him votes in November.

"I'm not sure there has been a change. I've always voted my conscience," Lance told PolitickerNJ at a Somerville town hall meeting. "I think my views represent the views of the overwhelming majority of the residents of the district."

This week, the campaign of Lance's Seventh Congressional District challenger, Democratic Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach, fired back at Lance's claims that his policy stands are reflective of the district, which includes all of Hunterdon, the shared home county of Lance and Kovach, as well as parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Warren and Union counties. 

“Mr. Lance has become the poster boy for the National Rifle Association (NRA) with the highest rating of any New Jersey member of Congress from the gun industry. He’s become anti-choice and supports the Hobby Lobby decision. He denies climate change. Lance is a [U.S. Rep.] Paul Ryan (R-1-WI) sycophant supporting budgets that slash programs for seniors, veterans and the poor. He might as well put on a tricorn hat and Colonial costume at the next Tea Party rally," said Pat Politano, the Cranford-based spokesman for the Kovach campaign, in a written statement provided to PolitickerNJ on Tuesday. "He’s not the same Leonard Lance New Jersey sent to Congress.”

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Key Christie campaign strategist: no comments about 2016 until end of 2014 elections

Key Christie campaign strategist: no comments about 2016 until end of 2014 elections

WESTFIELD - The lead campaign strategist for Gov. Chris Christie told PolitickerNJ on Tuesday that, regarding plans for a potential Christie run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, inquiring minds will have to wait.

"I'm not doing any '16 stuff on the record until the '14 elections are over," said Michael DuHaime, a partner at the public strategy firm Mercury Public Affairs, in a phone conversation from his Westfield office. "That's just kind of a rule I've made for myself." 

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Bramnick in Bergen: Paid sick leave laws part of "left-wing" Democrat plans for post-Christie future; Fulop objects

Bramnick in Bergen: Paid sick leave laws part of "left-wing" Democrat plans for post-Christie future; Fulop objects

FAIR LAWN -  On a stop at a Bergen County hardware store, state Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) hit the Democrats with a figurative two-by-four, attacking the recent push for paid sick-leave legislation in New Jersey municipalities.

"The radical Democrats are now competing for the most radical ideas," said Bramnick on Friday, standing next to Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan at Kuiken Brothers Company in downtown Fair Lawn. "They have put on the table a paid sick-leave bill that is now starting to develop in municipalities around the state. In New Jersey, the last thing we need is more regulation on business.

"We know this is a political issue between the left wing of the Democratic Party getting ready for a post-Chris Christie era," Bramnick added. "If we're going to have this era, despite the fact that Chris Christie has three and a half years left as governor, we're going to be in big trouble." 

Bramnick's trip to Bergen, New Jersey's most populous county, comes at a time when because of Gov. Christie's increasing national profile as a potential Republican presidential candidate, the 2017 Garden State gubernatorial sweepstakes has begun sooner than usual.

Bramnick is reportedly looking to take the GOP nominee slot, while three Democrats, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, former U.S. ambassador to Germany and ex-Goldman Sachs executive Phil Murphy and state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) are testing the campaign waters on their side of the aisle. 

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Paramus mayor's race: Candidates in closely-divided Bergen borough spar over taxes, towing issues

Paramus mayor's race: Candidates in closely-divided Bergen borough spar over taxes, towing issues

PARAMUS - When voters go to the polls in November to pick between the two Paramus mayoral candidates, the decision could come down to two issues starting with the letter T: taxes and towing.

The Democratic incumbent, Mayor Richard LaBarbiera, and the Republican challenger, Tom LoCicero, at one time served on the six-person borough council together. They both completely agree that Paramus' blue laws, which mandate that all businesses are closed on Sunday, except grocery stores, restaurants, and certain entertainment venues in order to give the 26,000-person-town that straddles Route 17 one day of needed relief from traffic, should not be touched.

But things get touchy between LaBarbiera and LoCicero when it comes to taxes, the bete noire of politics in the statewide election bellwether, Bergen County. 

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CD 1 race: Norcross campaign attacks Cobb for Facebook post

CD 1 race: Norcross campaign attacks Cobb for Facebook post

CAMDEN - The campaign of Donald Norcross, the Democratic candidate in the First Congressional District, sharply criticized Republican rival Garry Cobb on Wednesday for what the campaign asserts is a "disturbing pattern" in recent statements he has made.

A South Jersey Democratic operative sent a screen shot to PolitickerNJ on Wednesday of what they claimed was a Facebook post recently up on the Garry Cobb for Congress Facebook page.

"Just as I worked with Republican Gov. Chris Christie to pass landmark bail reform registration, I am eager to work with anyone and everyone to get things done for my constituents," the Cobb campaign post read.

A search of recent postings on the Garry Cobb for Congress Facebook page appears to indicate that the post has been taken down. 

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Kyrillos on statewide, Monmouth GOP: "If New Jersey was run like Monmouth County, we'd be better off"

Kyrillos on statewide, Monmouth GOP: "If New Jersey was run like Monmouth County, we'd be better off"

RED BANK - Joe Kyrillos' perspective on New Jersey politics has roots in his Monmouth County home, but has stretched statewide because of a word critical in Garden State politics: relationships.

The veteran Republican state Senator from the 13th Legislative District, who has served in the Legislature since 1988, has built a network from his Middletown home base that has extended around New Jersey, as evidenced during his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez in 2012. 

Kyrillos' close political and personal alliance with Gov. Chris Christie is well known. The governor even played matchmaker for Kyrillos and his wife, Susan. 

In a phone interview with PolitickerNJ from his Red Bank office, Kyrillos, 54, riffed on Republican power in Monmouth, as well as the direction of the GOP in the Chris Christie era.

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Bergen County Exec's race: Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich sees Bridgegate investigations as potential election catalyst

Bergen County Exec's race: Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich sees Bridgegate investigations as potential election catalyst

FORT LEE - Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was the emcee of Tuesday's meet-and-greet event at the Richard A. Nest Adult Activity Center in his Bergen County borough, introducing U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., (D-9) to the lunchtime crowd of about 50 people. 

More than 50 members of the press were jammed on the grass of Fort Lee's neighboring Borough Hall in January as what has become known as the Bridgegate scandal erupted. Sokolich stood in the national spotlight as Republican Gov. Chris Christie came to apologize. 

Christie's mea culpa, accepted by Sokolich, came after the revelation of email exchanges between a deputy on Gov. Christie's senior staff and Port Authority executives that link the two parties to controversial local access lane closures in September 2013 on the George Washington Bridge. 

The email exchange, which included "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," created chaos in town, whose Democratic Mayor Sokolich failed to endorse Christie in last year's gubernatorial race. The Christie administration has been accused of exacting political retribution on Sokolich for not backing the governor's re-election effort. Christie has denied that any retaliation took place, and both state and federal authorities still seek answers in separate investigations of the matter. 

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Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: August 29th

Belmar mayor's race: a wave of post-Sandy project politics stirs up seaside Monmouth borough BELMAR - When Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty rolled out his re-election campaign in February, he did so still basking in the glow of what many residents of the 6,000-person Monmouth County seaside borough saw...

Op-Ed

White House’s Tuition Challenge Being Met in NJ

By MICHAEL W. KLEIN In his weekly radio address on August 16, President Obama challenged colleges “to do their part to bring down costs” and lighten the tuition burden on students.  The state colleges and universities in New Jersey have... Read More >

Contributors

My Republican Hillary Clinton Experience    There is a veritable plethora of reportage in print, internet, television and radio media speculating as to whether Hillary Clinton will seek the Democratic... more »
(8-27-14) All Americans Should Support Gov. Perry - Political prosecutions have no place in American life. Those who use the justice system as they are using it in Texas... more »
(Asbury Park, NJ) -- There's a word for someone who says one thing and does another: hypocrite.  There's no shortage of 'em in Trenton -- from ... more »
 The following letter was sent today to Republican state legislators, county chairs, state committee members, and New Hampshire... more »

Quote of the Day

quote of the day

"Christie’s method for coping with scandal has been more complicated. In January, the seemingly-local issue of lane closings on the George Washington Bridge, which created a massive traffic jam in the Hudson River town of Fort Lee, became one of national interest when it was revealed that one of Christie’s closest staffers had ordered them—for what looked like political retribution against a Democratic mayor. The scandal was quickly dubbed 'Bridgegate,' and unfortunately for Christie, it played into his reputation as a bully. Christie's response was to act unlike himself: humble." - Olivia Nuzzi

- The Daily Beast

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