John Russo

Call it the Frank Lautenberg Syndrome

82-year-old former Assemblyman Warren Wolf (R-Brick) is returning to the public arena after a two-year retirement– as the head football coach at Lakewood High School.  Wolf, who served in the Assembly from 1982 to 1984, is the most successful high school football coach in New Jersey history; during his 51 years coaching Brick High School, he had a 361-122-11 record with six state championships and just three losing seasons. 

Wolf was the top vote getter when he ran for the Assembly in the politically competitive tenth district in 1981, receiving 642 votes more than incumbent John Paul Doyle (D-Brick) and more than 5,000 more votes than Democrat Peter Marrone.  Wolf won the seat of Assemblywoman Hazel Gluck (R-Lakewood), who ran an unsuccessful race for the Senate against incumbent John Russo (D-Toms River).  But Wolf’s heart was never really in politics, and football season was a tough time for him to campaign for re-election.  In 1983, he lost his seat to Democrat Marlene Lynch Ford by 2,107 votes.

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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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DiVincenzo wants to be first three-term Essex County Executive

DiVincenzo wants to be first three-term Essex County Executive
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo with his Deputy Chief of Staff, State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark).

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo will kick off his campaign for a third term today with a rally in Newark.  If he wins, he would become the first Essex County Executive to win a third term since the office was created in a 1977 Charter Change referendum.

In the June 1978 primary, 26-year-old reform Assemblyman Peter Shapiro (D-South Orange) upset the Essex County Democratic machine in a 35%-33% -- a margin of about 2,200 votes -- win over Sheriff John Cryan (D-South Orange).  Cryan was the front runner, and he lost votes because of two other organization candidates were also in the race: Donald Payne, a two-term Essex County Freeholder (now a Congressman) from Newark won 26% of the vote, and County Treasurer Samuel Angelo, a former Freeholder and machine candidate, won 6%.

More than 80% of Payne's votes came from Newark and East Orange.  Clearly Payne and Angelo were the spoilers in Cryan's bid to become County Executive.

Shapiro had a history of taking on the powerful Essex Democratic organization; in 1975, at age 23, he ran off the line for a State Assembly seat in the old 28th district, which included South Orange, Irvington and part of Newark's West Ward.  He narrowly ousted incumbent Assemblyman Rocco Neri (D-Irvington) in the Democratic primary.  (Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., his classmate at Harvard, went door to door with him in West Ward neighborhoods that still had a significant Irish population.)

In the general election, Shapiro beat Republican Robert Notte, a former Executive Director of the Newark Housing Authority, by a 60%-40% margin.

Shapiro's election as County Executive instantly put him on short lists for statewide office; in 1982, when he turned thirty, there was some serious discussion about him seeking the Democratic nomination for an open United States Senate seat.  Instead he ran for re-election to a second term as County Executive and easily defeated Republican James Troiano, who is now a Superior Court Judge.

Shapiro ran for Governor in 1985, when popular Republican Thomas Kean was seeking re-election.  Some insiders continue to insist that Shapiro had a plan to finish second in the Democratic primary so that he could run again in 1989, when Kean would be term-limited.  Indeed, the front runner in that race was Senate Majority Leader John Russo (D-Toms River), who ; Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson, former State Sen. Stephen Wiley (D-Morristown), and former U.S. Attorney Robert Del Tufo were also seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.  But Shapiro beat Russo 31%-27%, and was forced to take on the popular Republican governor.  He got clobbered; Kean won 70% of the vote, all 21 counties, and every town except Roosevelt, Tavistock and Pine Valley.

By 1986, when Shapiro sought re-election to a third term as County Executive, he was toxic to some of the old-guard Democrats.  Taxes went up 21% -- some say Essex's financial crisis came from Shapiro holding back payment on bills in 1985 so that he could claim greater fiscal success while running statewide - and Democrats were ready to knife him in the back.  Republicans picked a party-switcher, Nicholas Amato, as their candidate.  Amato had spent fifteen years as the Essex County Surrogate before Shapiro engineered a move to dump him from the organization line.  Amato won by 12,000 votes and Shapiro claimed he was "sandbagged" by Democratic insiders, including then-Essex County Democratic Chairman Raymond Durkin, who was also the Democratic State Chairman.

Amato last four years; he switched back to the Democratic Party, but did not have enough support to win the organization line in the primary and dropped out.  He went on to a highly successful career in the casino industry.

Amato's replacement was Thomas D'Alessio, the three-term Sheriff.  D'Alessio won narrowly against Republican Michael Vernotico, the Deputy Mayor of Millburn, in 1990.  He didn't last four years in office; he was removed after his conviction on federal corruption charges.  The Assistant U.S. Attorney in that case, Kim Guadagno, will take office as Lt. Governor in January.

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Werner sues Milgram for wrongful termination

Edward Werner has filed a lawsuit against the state and Attorney General Anne Milgram, alleging that politics played a key role in his termination last year as Acting Executive Director of the Victims of Crime Compensation Office. 

Werner, whose eleven year old son was murdered in 1997, says that he was fired for seeking to eliminate waste in state agency that compensates the victims of violent crime and for moving to reform a system that permitted no-bid construction contracts.

He alleges that then-State Senate Majority Leader Bernard Kenny (D-Hoboken) pushed him to protect the job of Cathleen Russo Delanoy, a lawyer for the agency whose position could have been eliminated if legislation to reorganize the agency was approved.  Delanoy is the daughter of former Senate President John Russo and the sister-in-law of State Sen. Robert Singer (R-Lakewood).

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'09 Senate Judiciary Committee has a majority on non-lawyers

'09 Senate Judiciary Committee has a majority on non-lawyers
Lawyers will be the minority on the 2009 State Senate Judiciary Committee headed by engineer Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge)

For the first time since the new State Constitution was approved in 1947, a majority of members of the 2009 New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee -- six of eleven -- are not lawyers.  Chairman Paul Sarlo and Vice Chairman John Girgenti are not attorneys, as is fellow Democrat Loretta Weinberg.  Among the Republicans, Gerald Cardinale (who serves as the unofficial ranking Republican), Joseph Kyrillos and Jennifer Beck are not attorneys.

The lawyers on the Judiciary Committee are Democrats Raymond Lesniak, Nicholas Scutari, Robert Smith and Nia Gill, and Republican Bill Baroni. 

Senate President Richard Codey, who is responsible for the non-lawyer a majority -- a move some pols are applauding -- is one of a few non-lawyers to serve as Senate President.

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Martindell combined gentility and a commitment to the voiceless

Anne Martindell (1914-2008) served in the New Jersey State Senate from 1974 to 1977.Anne Martindell (1914-2008) served in the New Jersey State Senate from 1974 to 1977.State Sen. Anne Martindell of Princeton, who died yesterday at 93, championed the underdog throughout a life marked by public service and a thirst for knowledge and self-improvement. In the words of her son, Princeton Councilman Roger Martindell, "she fought for what she believed in, and she was gracious in the fight."

Elected to the state Senate as a Democrat in 1973 as part of the Watergate backlash that landed a number of Democrats in the Statehouse to form a 28-12 Democratic majority, Martindell served one term before becoming President Jimmy Carter’s Ambassador to New Zealand.

In her eighties, she doubled back on the college career she never completed. Sixty-years after leaving Smith College following her freshman year, Martindell obtained her Bachelor’s degree from Smith and an honorary doctorate of law in 2002.

On Thursday, news of her death brought forth an outpouring of goodwill from those who knew her and those with whom she served in Trenton, including former Gov. Brendan T. Byrne.

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Orechio, still in office, is the 2nd oldest living ex-Senate President

Carmen Orechio served in the State Senate from 1974 to 1992, and was Senate President from 1982 to 1986: He's been a Nutley Commissioner since 1968Carmen Orechio served in the State Senate from 1974 to 1992, and was Senate President from 1982 to 1986: He's been a Nutley Commissioner since 1968Carmen Orechio is the only former Senate President who still holds public office, and is one of eight living former Senate Presidents. With the death of 98-year-old Wesley Lance last August, the 81-year-old Orechio is now the second oldest living ex-Senate President; the oldest is Frank McDermott, 83, who ran the Senate in 1969. The other living ex-Senate Presidents: Raymond Bateman, Frank Dodd, John Russo, John Lynch, Donald DiFrancesco, and John Bennett.

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Ex-Assemblywoman to be new Ocean Prosecutor

Usually the Governor announces his own appointments, but this week Ocean County Prosecutor Thomas Kelaher said that his successor will be Marlene Lynch Ford, a former Democratic Assemblywoman from Ocean County.

Ford was first elected to the Legislature in 1983, defeating one-term Republican Warren Wolf (who had won an open Assembly seat in 1981 when Hazel Gluck unsuccessfully sought to move up to the Senate in a race against John Russo). At age 29, she is among the youngest women to ever win election to the New Jersey State Assembly.

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Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: September 23rd

Sources: pen/ben debacle going back to 2011 worsens Newark's woes They already knew the financial situation was bad in Newark - but it turns out it’s worse. In a conversation with the front office this morning in Trenton, Newark lawmakers expressed worry about the state’s relative sparse offering of...


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 >


(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 »
Sports and politics do mix: Welcome the next NFL Commissioner, Condi Rice          There are many sports fans who insist on believing that old bromide that sports and politics do... 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 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

"Enlisting Fox is another reminder of how much Christie has truly relied on insiders, including Democrats, to bolster his agenda or bail him out of trouble. Not long after arriving in Trenton in 2009, Christie began collaborating with George Norcross, the deeply entrenched Democratic Party kingmaker, to help him cut deals with a Democratic-controlled Legislature.
When his close ally David Samson resigned as chairman of the Port Authority over conflict-of-interest questions earlier this year, Christie replaced Samson with John Degnan, a pillar of the Democratic Party establishment. And now, confronted with a crisis, Christie has turned to “Jamie,’’ as Fox has been known throughout political circles since he began as an aide in the Democratic Senate in the 1980s." - columnist Charles Stile

- The Bergen Record


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