36th District: the GOP underground

36th District: the GOP underground
State Sen. Kevin O'Toole (R-Cedar Grove)

Insiders lay out several battlefields this year, and Republican or Democrat, it’s not two or three gulps of beer into a conversation before they spill the strategic terrain of the coming legislative contests.

The Democrats will put money into 1 to defend their incumbents there, and they will try to take down the Republican incumbents in 2. They’ll play in 8 again largely as a diversionary tactic, defend in 14 and – and this is big - heavily fortify 36, where the GOP last time came within 2,400 votes of stripping the Dems of a seat.

Representatives in both parties usually mention the last of these prospective showdowns as the most meaningful, a potential north Jersey version of the 12th District Karcher-Beck war in 2007, where both parties will likely lay down their heaviest barrage.

For the moment, Democrats feel they have some GOP civil war drama on their side, and are gleefully inclined to let the Republican body count mount at this fractious tri-county, multi-ego crossroads of Passaic, Bergen and Essex, before they get in and scrap in earnest to protect Assemblyman Fred Scalera (D-Nutley) and Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic).

Better to let the other side give itself a good going over before taking casualties. That’s the attitude.

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Among New Jersey Congressman, stimulus plan approved 8-5

The New Jersey House delegation voted along party lines in support of President Barack Obama’s $89 billion economic stimulus package.  New Jersey’s eight Democratic Congressmen voted yes, while the five Republicans voted no.


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Bernard Rodgers, former Mayor and congressional candidates, dies at 86

Bernard Rodgers, former Mayor and congressional candidates, dies at 86
Former Dunellen Mayor Bernard Rodgers lost races for Congress in 1962 and 1964.

Bernard Rodgers, a former Mayor of Dunellen who made two unsuccessful bids for Congress in the early 1960's, passed away on Monday.  He was 86.  

New Jersey gained a fifteenth congressional seat after the 1960 census and in 1962 the Legislature created a new district that was based in Middlesex County.  Rodgers ran unopposed for the Republican nomination and faced Democrat Edward Patten, a former New Jersey Secretary of State, Middlesex County Clerk and Mayor of Perth Amboy.  Patten had defeated Middlesex County Freeholder George Otlowski in the Democratic primary.   

In the general election, Rodgers attacked Patten for being a tool of Middlesex County Democratic boss David Wilentz.  Patten beat Rodgers by 20,509 votes, a 56%-43% margin.  He ran against Patten again in 1964 and in the Democratic landslide of that year, he lost 63%-37%.

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Underdog Levine launches gubernatorial bid, promises 'no political hack' appointments

Underdog Levine launches gubernatorial bid, promises 'no political hack' appointments
Franklin Twp. Mayor Brian D. Levine at his kickoff today.

FRANKLIN TWP. - A primitive and superstitious reading of the elements would not inure to the symbolic advantage of Mayor Brian D. Levine, who despite an ice storm and hundreds of dead birds falling in near Hitchcockian fashion nonetheless launched his Republican Primary campaign for governor this afternoon at the Quality Inn.

“I’m never one to pass the buck,” said Levine, 50, standing at a podium in a banquet room here in a Democratic-leaning Somerset County town where he is serving his second term as mayor.

“If my detractors want to believe I summoned snow and ice from the sky today to get attention so be it,” he joked in his answer to a question from reporters. “If they think I put this big bird gimmick out there to get attention, that’s fine. I’ll take it. I have a thick skin. Is it bad timing for an announcement? No. Any time is a good time.”

The moderate Republican’s decision to announce – a few days after the USDA revealed that alarming numbers of starlings had fallen onto Franklin residents’ front lawns and backyards and public spaces as a consequence of exterminating pesticides used on a farm in a neighboring township - was really a simple case of pragmatic timing.  

He had planned for weeks to get in before the end of January.Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie – the presumptive GOP frontrunner – kicks off his campaign next week, inevitably grabbing week-long news cycle oxygen away from his primary competitors, who now include Levine, Assemblyman Richard Merkt (R-Mendham) and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan.

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Rooney prepares to seek 15th term in assembly

Rooney prepares to seek 15th term in assembly
Assemblyman John Rooney (R-Northvale) is preparing to seek re-election to 15th term, even though some GOP leaders have urged him to retire.

It has taken him over a year to make a decision on whether or not he wants to stay in the legislature, but Assemblyman John Rooney (R-Northvale), the senior member of the lower house, said today that he filed a letter of intent to the Bergen County Republican Organization announcing his plans to run for reelection.

Rooney, who at 69 is the youngest member of the District 39 delegation, has served in the assembly since 1983, and has been grappling the reelection question since overcoming a well-funded challenge to his seat by Democrats in 2007.  Complicating matters was a bad knee and hip replacement surgery, and later some fundraising disagreements with the new party chairman, Bob Yudin.

"I did file a letter of intent to run, so surprise, surprise, I decided that I do feel better.  My hip is great," said Rooney.  "The knee is fine, but I still need some work on it. I've started to lose weight, which is very important.  I need that more than anything else. Currently, as long as I feel well, I've got my name in."

But Rooney's letter of intent should not be read as an absolute commitment to running again, even if his health holds up.  While Rooney said he's more likely to run than not, he's meeting this week with Washington Township Councilman Bob Schroeder, a wealthy businessman and former gubernatorial candidate who has made no secret of his aspirations for an assembly seat.

Schroeder has also filed a letter of intent, but will not run if Rooney does.

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Whelan, Darcy, Gee, Campos to join Corzine campaign staff

Whelan, Darcy, Gee, Campos to join Corzine campaign staff
Former Star-Ledger reporter Jeff Whelan will direct opposition research for Gov. Jon Corzine's re-election campaign.

Former Star-Ledger reporter Jeff Whelan, who was part of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of Governor James E. McGreevey's resignation, will be the Research Director for Governor Jon Corzine's re-election campaign, according to a senior Corzine aide.  Whelan covered the federal prosecutor's office while Corzine's possible Republican opponent, Christopher Christie, served as U.S. Attorney.

Sean Darcy, Corzine's press secretary, will leave state government to become the campaign's Communications Director.  Darcy worked for Governor Richard Codey and the Department of Community Affairs before joining the front office last year. 

James Gee, who served as McGreevey's Deputy Chief of Staff, will be a senior advisor to the campaign.

Patricia Campos, the Political Director of the New Jersey State Council of UNITE HERE! and a member of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, will serve as the campaign's latino outreach director. 

Rafi Jafri, who was based in Chicago raising money for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, will become Corzine's Finance Director.

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Yudin: Brizzi will join Pio Costa in 36th District bid

East Rutherford Councilman Joel Brizzi intends to pursue the Republican nomination for the Assembly in the 36th District, according to Bergen County Chairman Bob Yudin, who plans to back both Brizzi and Nutley businessman Carmen Pio Costa.

"I’m supporting Carmen and Joel, and I will give them both the line," said Yudin. "They're great candidates and they're going to win."

The bulk of the 36th District is in Bergen County, with other potions in Essex and Passaic.

Brizzi and Pio Costa hope to challenge Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic) and Assemblyman Fred Scalera (D-Nutley).

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The Back Room

Report: Christie in Wisconsin with Walker

In his role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), Gov. Chris Christie campaigned in Wisconsin today with fellow Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

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Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: September 30th

Dems fail to pry sufficient number from abstemious GOP caucus to pass debt report bill TRENTON - The Assembly this afternoon could not summon the necessary votes to override Gov. Chris Christie's veto of A961, as Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) prevented Democrats - some of them outraged...

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Legislation needed for publicly financed gubernatorial elections

By JEFF BRINDLE It is critical that the Legislature soon enact a pending bill that would ensure the state’s Gubernatorial Public Financing Program is available in the event of a special election for governor.  Not only is there no current legal... Read More >


In tribute to John Sheridan, a good and great man     I first learned late last night from television news that John P. Sheridan, Jr. and his wife, Joyce had... more »
(9-24-14) The Founding Fathers and the Militarization of the Police - No matter what the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri decides, the debate over the militarization of... more »
(Trenton, NJ) --  On September 23, 2015 I shall dig this up and eat whatever crow I've got coming, but in the meantime only a listicle... 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

"When you're asked to cast a vote on a bill and it seems innocuous, and it's got a hidden land mine that perhaps only an expert would see, it would sort of behoove those experts to tell us in advance rather than make us look, shall we say, a little bit indecisive later on." - Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25).



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