Breaking a glass ceiling: will New Jersey get a Latino Secretary of Agriculture?

Breaking a glass ceiling: will New Jersey get a Latino Secretary of Agriculture?
The New Jersey Board of Agriculture -- seven men and one woman, all white -- will pick the state's new Secretary of Agriculture when Charles Kuperus retires at the end of the year.

The workers toiling in New Jersey's fields around Vineland are mostly Mexican, and because of that fact, Mayor Bob Romano acknowledges it might help to have a Latino serve as Secretary of Agriculture.

"I think it would be great idea," Romano said in response to the question, "as long as the person has the knowledge. You need somebody who's qualified. That's the main thing. We need someone who's going to be a strong advocate for keeping New Jersey farmers on their farms."

Acknowledging that many migrant workers in New Jersey come from Mexico and Central America, Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex) jumped at the suggestion of a Latino state Secretary of Agriculture to succeed Charles Kuperus, who retires at the end of this month.

"I think a Latino would be very good for that position," said the veteran Newark senator.  "I'm sure New Jersey farmers understand the need to bring balance to that position. Diversity is our greatest strength, coupled with a candidate who would bring objectivity to the job."

However, state Board of Agriculture Vice President Robert Matarazzo says the Department of Agriculture - salvaged from the budget chopping block last year - remains in precarious shape in bad economic times. He doesn't see the recruitment of a Latino secretary, or anything else short of industry survival - as a priority.

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Corzine expects to work with state board to pick new Agriculture Secretary

Corzine expects to work with state board to pick new Agriculture Secretary
New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles Kuperus is stepping down at the end of the year. The State Board of Agriculture picks the new Secretary, and then Gov. Jon Corzine will need to sign off on the choice.

As it examines who will succeed state Secretary of Agriculture Charles Kuperus, the New Jersey Board of Agriculture finds itself in the awkward position of trying to negotiate with a governor who last year considered scrapping the department in its current form.

In an effort to save cash, Gov. Jon Corzine wanted to subordinate Agriculture to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a move universally condemned by stewards of New Jersey's 9,600 working farms, some of whom rumbled down West State Street in tractors of defiance.

The Secretary of Agriculture is the only cabinet appointment not made by the Governor.  The State Constitution gives the appointment power to the Board of Agriculture.  The Governor can that approve or veto their choice.

Having weathered the Highlands Act political war earlier in his career, and lately in a cliffhanger with his off-again, on-again department, Kuperus announced his resignation from overseeing the department's $9.3 million budget, effective at the end of this year.

He says he's not bitter at all, and points out in defense of Corzine that from the beginning he made the budgetary suggestion at the Statehouse, the governor was clear that he was only initiating a public conversation.

"Like anything with respect to public service, you have to be looking ahead," said Kuperus, a farmer, a former Sussex County freeholder and a Republican who was named to the post by Gov. James E. McGreevey after the 2001 election.   "The state has very significant issues. We happen to be a small agency, but one that touches every New Jerseyan's life. Even the Hudson County Board of Freeholders declared that they wanted the Department of Agriculture preserved, in part because we helped them when they had a longhorn beetle outbreak."

In the lead-up to his departure, the eight-member Board of Agriculture - made up of farmers and other agricultural industry reps - is set in the middle of this month to review between 12 and 20 applications from those who wish to be the new secretary, a job that pays $141,000 a year.

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Amid economic downturn, mayoral backlash, Lesniak anticipates COAH finetuning

Unlike Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan, Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik doesn’t want Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligations scrapped.

But like a lot of other mayors who found it hard to generate a party mood at the League of Municipalities conference in the face of a deadline at the end of this month to submit finished plans in concert with the new rules, the mayor does want lawmakers to review COAH – and at the very least make some exceptions.

Specifically, Hornik wants Gov. Jon Corzine and the Legislature to consider amending the new regs so years-long, painstaking work Marlboro officials undertook to transfer some of the Monmouth County town’s affordable housing stock to Trenton won’t be rendered invalid.  

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Marra will be Acting U.S. Attorney

Marra will be Acting U.S. Attorney
Ralph Marra, Jr., a career federal prosecutor, will become the Acting U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.

Ralph Marra, Jr., a career federal prosecutor who has been with the Department of Justice since 1985, will become Acting U.S. Attorney for New Jersey at midnight, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office.  U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey approved Christie's recommendation of Marra last week.  Christie will leave office at midnight and is expected to seek the Republican nomination for Governor.

Marra will serve for 210 days -- until June 29, 2009 -- unless a new U.S. Attorney is nominated and confirmed before then.

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Lonegan enters race for Republican gubernatorial nomination

Lonegan enters race for Republican gubernatorial nomination
Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, the leader of New Jersey's conservative movement, announced today that he would seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2009.

EDISON – Standing in front of about 50 supporters and members of the press, former Bogota Mayor and anti-tax advocate Steve Lonegan formally announced his candidacy for governor next year as an uncompromising conservative determined to reduce the size of state government.

“New Jersey was built on that fundamental belief – the belief is individual freedom, defending liberty and letting every individual fulfill their potential,” Lonegan said. “Over the last decades, we’ve seen that philosophy undermined -- undermined by a growth of government that has accelerated the entitlement state and reliance not on opportunity, but on government handouts.”

Lonegan characterized himself as merely the spokesman for a wider movement to roll back what he sees as increased government interference in economic affairs, and said he his executive experience as a former small business owner and mayor of the small town of Bogota especially qualified him to head it. Lonegan used his blue collar roots to lament that the New Jersey middle-class, saddled with high taxes, are struggling to survive economically.

If elected, Lonegan pledged to reduce the size of state government by 20 percent through layoffs, eliminating programs and “devolving government from Trenton to local municipalities.”

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Team Lonegan

Team Lonegan
Hank Butehorn will chair Steve Lonegan's campaign for the GOP nomination for Governor.

Political observers will see a mix of old and new faces on Steve Lonegan’s gubernatorial campaign team.

Veteran conservative operative and long-time Lonegan ally Rick Shaftan is the campaign consultant, while Hank Butehorn, an attorney who moonlights as a conservative blogger and activist, is serving as the campaign’s Statewide Chairman.

The newest face is Eugene Slaven, a 28-year-old Massachusetts native who will be Lonegan’s campaign manager. Slaven worked as a program manager for the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation in Washington, DC. This is the first campaign he’s managed.

The responsibility of raising $340,000 in donations to qualify for matching funds falls to Nathan Brinkman, 32, a co-founder the Hoboken Republican Club.

Craig O’Brien, a recent college graduate, will be the campaign’s field director. His mother, Maureen O’Brien, just won a seat on the Paramus Borough Council.

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County official remembers Crabiel as 'great public servant'


Middlesex County just issued a statement regarding the death today of Freeholder Director David Crabiel. 

According to County Administrator John A. Pulomena, Mr. Crabiel died at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick at approximately 12 noon. At the request of his family, no further information is being made available at this time, and funeral arrangements will be announced by the family, Pulomena added.

Deputy Director Stephen J. Dalina said, “We are all shocked and saddened by the news of Dave’s passing. He was a great public servant whose first and foremost passion was the interest of the citizens of Middlesex County." 

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The Back Room

Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: October 1st

Bergen County Freeholder forum mostly convivial, but at times confrontational TEANECK - The Bergen County freeholder forum on Tuesday night was a relatively collegial affair until the final two minutes on the 90-minute event. Republican freeholder candidate Robert Avery, flanked by fellow GOP freeholder candidate Bernadette Coghlan-Walsh, referred to...

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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 >


(10-1-14) Mayor Fulop’s Working Family Rebellion Spreads - What began as a commitment between Mayor Steve Fulop and the people of Jersey City is fast becoming a movement spreading... 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 »
(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

"I see Loretta Weinberg in the back of the room. Loretta, you have my eternal admiration for what you did to rid the Democratic Party of a certain political boss. However, not everyone shares that distinction." - Bergen County Republican Freeholder candidate Robert Avery

- PolitickerNJ


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