Donald DiFrancesco

Christie Attends Reform Jersey Now Breakfast

Christie Attends Reform Jersey Now Breakfast

Gov. Chris Christie was the featured speaker Tuesday at a New York City breakfast event sponsored by Reform Jersey Now, a non-profit advocacy group that features two former Republican governors on its board.

The event was held at the New York Health and Racquet Club and was organized by billionaire Ken Langone, the founder of Home Depot.

According to the New Jersey-based group the event was not a fundraiser but rather a “meet and greet” where Christie answered questions about his budget, his proposed 2.5 percent property tax cap and other issues facing the state.  There was no charge for the event.

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On Bob Franks

I am saddened with the passing of my longtime friend, Bob Franks.

For thirteen years, Bob Franks and I represented the 22nd District in the legislature.

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The Bob Franks Story

The Bob Franks Story
Credit: Hal Brown Photo
Assemblyman Bob Franks (R-New Providence), right, on election night 1983 with his running mates, State Sen. Donald DiFrancesco (R-Scotch Plains) and Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden (R-Millburn)

Bob Franks, a former four-term Congressman who passed away Friday evening, worked on his first political campaign back in 1966, while his family was living in suburban Chicago: the fifteen-year-old helped Republican Charles Percy unseat Democrat Paul Douglas, the three-term United States Senator from Illinois. 

One year later, after moving back to New Jersey, Franks worked on the 1967 campaign of two young Republicans making their first bid for public office as State Assembly candidates in Essex County: Thomas Kean and Philip Kaltenbacher.  With Franks’ help, Kean went on to win two terms as Governor of New Jersey; both Kaltenbacher and Franks would serve as GOP State Chairman under Kean.

After graduating law school, Franks became the field director for former Senate President Raymond Bateman, who was running for governor.  Bateman won the 1977 GOP nomination (defeating Kean in the primary), but lost the general election to the Democratic incumbent, Brendan Byrne.

In 1978, Franks was the political director for James Courter, a former Assistant Warren County Prosecutor who was challenging two-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Helen Meyner.  Courter’s political team included two of Franks’ closest friends, Roger Bodman (who later held two cabinet posts under Kean), and Alfred Fasola, who was Kean’s budget director.  Courter won a narrow primary victory, and then topped Meyner in the general election.

After the Courter campaign, Franks prepared to launch his own career as a candidate, seeking the Republican nomination for Union County Freeholder in 1979.  State Sen. Peter McDonough’s unexpected decision to leave the Legislature for a private sector opportunity set off a contest between the district’s two GOP Assemblymen, Donald DiFrancesco and William Maguire, for the Senate – and opened up an Assembly seat.  Franks switched to the Assembly race and mounted an extraordinary grass roots campaign to beat Berkeley Heights Mayor Marie Kisseberth at a convention for the organization line in Union County. 

The general election was no cakewalk in a politically competitive district that included the Democratic strongholds of Plainfield and Rahway.  Franks’ aggressive campaign style helped him win a decisive victory against the Democratic candidate, Walter Boright, Union County Freeholder and former Scotch Plains mayor.

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Among Republicans, DiFrancesco upside-down by 2-1 margin

Among Republicans, DiFrancesco upside-down by 2-1 margin

History appears to be treating former Gov. Donald DiFrancesco unkindly: a new Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll has DiFrancesco’s statewide favorables upside-down at 10%-18%, with the former Senate President from Union County upside-down among Republicans, 11%-22%.  DiFrancesco became Acting Governor in February 2001 after Christine Todd Whitman resigned to become EPA Administrator, and dropped his own gubernatorial campaign less than three months later after a series of newspaper stories on ethics-related matters.  DiFrancesco was at 20%-20% in a September 2006 Monmouth poll.

Whitman is also upside-down, 35%-38%, but her numbers among Republicans are fairly good: 54%-22%.  That’s not much different than former Gov. Thomas Kean, who is at 54%-13% among Republicans.

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Poll: Kean is most popular former governor

Poll: Kean is most popular former governor

Thomas Kean is the most popular of New Jersey’s eight former governors with a 46%-9% favorable rating, according to a Monmouth University/ Gannett New Jersey poll released today.  Jon Corzine, who left office on January 19, has an upside-down 31%-55% favor rating.  The new governor, Christopher Christie, has favorables of 31%-17%.

“Nine living New Jerseyans can lay claim to the title of governor, but Tom Kean is clearly in a league of his own,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland), who served as governor from 2004 to 2006 and was recently deposed as Senate President, has a statewide favorable rating of 34%-20%.

Besides Corzine, three other former governors are upside-down: James E. McGreevey (24%-52%), Donald DiFrancesco (10%-18%), and Christine Todd Whitman (35%-8%).  Jim Florio, who was for a time one of the most unpopular governors in state history, is at 29%--27%.

“Until James McGreevey’s resignation in 2004, Jim Florio was universally viewed as the state’s least popular governor. It appears that some voters are now reappraising Florio’s pay-as-you-go approach in light of the ballooning debt and budget gimmickry that followed his tenure,” said Murray.

Another governor who struggled for voter approval at times, Brendan Byrne, is at 25%-12.

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Codey and Roberts join the ranks of living former legislative leaders

At noon, Richard Codey will become the tenth living former Senate President, joining: Frank McDermott (1969), Raymond Bateman (1970-72), Frank Dodd (1974-76), Carmen Orechio (1982-86), John Russo (1986-90), John Lynch (1990-92), Donald DiFrancesco (1992-2002), John Bennett (2002-2004), and Bernard Kenny (2008).  Bennett was Co-President with Codey during the two years each party had twenty Senate seats, and Kenny was elected for one day, as a tribute just before his retirement. 

Joseph Roberts becomes the twelfth living former Assembly Speaker; he joins: William Hyland (1958), Elmer Matthews (1963), Peter Moraites (1969), Barry Parker (1971), Thomas Kean (1972-74), William Hamilton (1977), Chuck Hardwick (1986-90), Joseph Doria (1990-92), Garabed “Chuck” Haytaian (1992-96), Jack Collins (1996-2002), and Albio Sires (2002-2006).

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Christie expected to hang Corzine in governor's office

Soon after taking office, Christopher Christie is expected to hold a ceremony to publicly hang his predecessor, Jon Corzine.  By tradition, the portraits of seven immediate past governors hang in the Governor's inner office.  Richard Codey's portrait goes is on the right wall, and James E. McGreevey and Donald DiFrancesco are on the back wall.  Christine Todd Whitman is on the left wall.  On the front wall, behind the podium the governor uses for news conferences, are James Florio, Thomas Kean and Brendan Byrne.

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Job approvals and the honest and trustworthy thing

Gov. Jon Corzine enters the final weeks of his re-election campaign with an upside-down 39%-56% job approval rating.  For comparison purposes, Gov. Christine Todd Whitman was at 53%-43% when she was narrowly re-elected twelve years ago.  New Jersey's last two Governors were popular on Election Day - Richard Codey had a job approval of 68%-16% in 2005, and Donald DiFrancesco was at 60%-14% in 2001 - but they were not candidates for re-election. (These are all Quinnipiac numbers)

One comparison for Corzine and Republican Christopher Christie could be the 2006 U.S. Senate race between Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Thomas Kean, Jr., which was fought against the backdrop of ethics issues and a strong political environment.  In an October 12 Quinnipiac poll, Menendez led Kean 49%-45%.  Menendez, who had been appointed to the Senate ten months earlier, had split favorables: 32%-32%; Kean, the son of a popular former governor, was at 34%-18%.

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Unsolved mysteries of New Jersey politics

The two major party candidates for governor are not likely to agree on a rather complex issue: does the private investment firm Texas Pacific Group (TPG) have a clear connection to TPG-Axon, a hedge fund run out of the same office?

Gov. Jon Corzine has some of his personal fortune invested with TPG-Axon, which sounds similar to TPG.  Corzine maintains that the two companies have separate identities, and that it is unfair to accuse him of having a financial interest in casinos when it's TPG, not TPG-Axon, that invests in the gaming industry.   Republican Christopher Christie thinks that two companies run by the same people sharing the same office are essentially the same company.

The 2009 campaign includes other allegations where both sides have very different views of the world.  And New Jersey politics has a history of similar unsolved mysteries:

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Sounds like someone walked away with Donnie D's stuff

The Donald DiFrancesco State Senate sweater vest sold on E-Bay for $51.69.  Now the same seller, asportschick of Chatham, is selling a New Jersey Senate long sleeve sweater.  "This is an extra large, brand new, navy blue knit long sleeve crew neck sweater with the New Jersey state seal and New Jersey Senate stitched in gold and white on the left side." 

"There were several different sweaters, vests, bags, hats etc. that were made with the State Seal during the many years DiFrancesco was Senate President and I will be listing a few more of those items for purchase," the seller wrote.

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The Back Room

Christie invades South Carolina

On his first visit to South Carolina as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Gov. Chris Christie stayed in "moderate Charleston, in contrast to other potential GOP candidates who made early visits to conservatives elsewhere," according to an ABC News report.

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Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: September 17th

U.S. Senate race: Bell defends gold standard stance MONTCLAIR - On the same day he was politically brickbatted by the chief adviser to the last Republican challenger to incumbent U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), GOP Senate candidate Jeff Bell stood by a key plank of policy platform: monetary reform...


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 >


(9-17-14) Viral Video Prompts Questionable NJ Municipal Ordinance -  Socrates said, “While I might disagree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say... more »
The Correct Foreign Policy – Neither Fortress America Nor Pax Americana      Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War 2.  It started with the... 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

“Clearly there’s some resemblance with Theodore Roosevelt. That direct confrontational style of leadership.” - historian Doris Hearns Goodwin, referring to Gov. Chris Christie.

- The Times of Trenton


Who would make the best running mate for Chris Christie if he lands the GOP nomination for president?:


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