Richard Bagger

New Jersey's next statewide election

New Jersey's next statewide election

Who will run against Bob Menendez in 2012? Click here to view the Short List.

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Both parties praise Bagger appointment

Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) said he feels "a little inadequate" next to his fellow Westfield resident, Richard Bagger, who was named today to serve as Chief of Staff to Gov.-elect Christopher Christie.

"He has all the skills like your mom and dad teach you, but I didn't get them all," said Bramnick. 

It was Bagger's retirement from the state Senate to take a promotion at Pfizer that set up the chain of events that put Bramnick in his assembly seat.  Then-Assemblyman Thomas Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) was selected to fill the rest of Bagger's unexpired term, leading to Bramnick being tapped to fill Kean's assembly seat. 

Bramnick, who lunched with Bagger last month and asked his advice on becoming conference leader - a position Bagger once held -- argued that Bagger's experience as Assembly Appropriations chairman makes him a perfect fit to help tackle the state budget crisis. 

"He gets it," said Bramnick.  "If you're going to change a process, you really have to understand it."

Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Parsippany) called Bagger "a man of high character, who possesses superior intellect and integrity."

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Franks, who in 1991 was Bagger's running mate for Assembly, echoed those sentiments, saying Bagger is "extraordinarily cerebral, analytical, and had a capacity to get along with widest range of people in circumstances where few could claim many friends."

That type of praise for Bagger, who like Bramnick was a moderate Republican, can also be heard from Democrats and more conservative Republicans.

"He's a very bright man -- very even tempered, thoughtful." said state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge), who served with Bagger in the Senate for a little over a year.

State Sen. Gerald Cardinale, who worked with Bagger on a school regionalization bill, said that he was relieved to see a chief of staff with a mix of private and public sector experience.

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Christie picks Bagger as Chief of Staff, Chiesa will be Chief Counsel; Stepien and O'Dowd named to key posts

Christie picks Bagger as Chief of Staff, Chiesa will be Chief Counsel; Stepien and O'Dowd named to key posts
Richard Bagger, left, will be the new Governor's Chief of Staff, and Jeffrey Chiesa will be the Chief Counsel

Gov.-elect Christopher Christie has named former State Sen. Richard Bagger as his Chief of Staff and former Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Chiesa as his Chief Counsel.

Bill Stepien, who managed Christie's campaign to oust Gov. Jon Corzine, will serve as Deputy Chief of Staff, and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Dowd will be the Deputy Chief Counsel.

Bagger, 49, served as an Assemblyman from 1992 to 2002, and as a State Senator from 2002 to 2003.  He resigned to accept a promotion at Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company where he ran the worldwide public affairs division.  He spent four years as Chairman of the Assembly Appropriations Committee.   He is also a former Westfield mayor and councilman.

Chiesa, 45, was Christie's law partner at Dughi, Hewit & Palatucci and went to the U.S. Attorney's office together in 2002.  He served as Chief of the Public Protection Unit, as Counsel to the U.S. Attorney, and as Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney.  He prosecuted former Senate President John Lynch and Harry Parkin, who was Mercer County Executive Robert Prunetti's Chief of Staff.  Chiesa is now at Wolff and Samson, a North Jersey law firm and has been serving as Executive Director of Christie's transition team.

The 33-year-old Stepien held top posts on several national campaigns and for the Republican National Committee before returning to New Jersey to work for Christie.  He was the Field Director of the Bush/Cheney campaign in New Hampshire in 2004, and the Director of the Republican National Committee's 72-Hour Campaign in 2005 and 2006.  He has worked on several New Jersey statewide and legislative races, and managed Bill Baroni's campaign that unseated incumbent Gary Guear in 2003.

O'Dowd is the Securities & Healthcare Fraud Unit Chief at the U.S. Attorney's office and has tried several high profile cases.

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Bagger will be Christie's Chief of Staff

Bagger will be Christie's Chief of Staff

Gov.-elect Christopher Christie is expected to announce that former State Sen. Richard Bagger will be his Chief of Staff. 

Bagger, 49, served as an Assemblyman from 1992 to 2002, and as a State Senator from 2002 to 2003.  He resigned to accept a promotion at Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company where he ran the worldwide public affairs division.  He spent four years as Chairman of the Assembly Appropriations Committee.   He is also a former Westfield mayor and councilman.

Last month, Christie named Bagger to lead his transition task force on budget and taxes.

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Intellectually and tempermentally, is Sarlo up to chairing Senate Appropriations panel?

One Democratic legislator from Bergen County, who asked not to be identified, says there are serious concerns about Paul Sarlo's ability to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee during extraordinarily difficult economic times.  The legislator questioned Sarlo's intellectual abilities and temperament in a job that often involves complex financial issues and requires some rather smooth negotiating skills.   "I fear that this job is very much over his head," the Democrat told

The incoming Republican Governor, Christopher Christie, has tapped former State Sen. Richard Bagger and former U.S. Office of Management and Budget Associate Director Robert Grady, both at the highest end of the intellectual scale, to run the budget transition team.  It's reasonable for Democrats to worry that the Senator from Sanzari won't stand a chance.

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On budget issues, Christie says everything is on the table

After discussing the budget at a meeting with State Treasurer David Rousseau and two officials from the Office of Management and Budget, Gov.-Elect Christopher Christie said his reaction was a "rueful chuckle." 

And at a press conference today talking about that meeting, the faces of Christie and his two top budget advisors, Richard Bagger and Robert Grady - who were also present at the meeting -- were dour. 

That $8 billion structural deficit we've been talking about for 2011?  If things remain the way they are and infusions like the one that came from the federal stimulus for the 2010 budget are not repeated, the men said, that's "the low end of the range."  Moreover, the revenue projections for the 2010 budget, which were about $190 million short in the first quarter, are set to continue to come in below projections, while there are expected to be supplemental needs in agencies that will increase spending. 

"If you add together the fact that revenues are continuing to come in light and there are supplemental needs, it's clear that we will have a problem in Fiscal 2010 that will need to be addressed," said Grady to a room packed shoulder-to-shoulder with a few dozen reporters and cameramen. 

Christie and his advisors did not give details about how they planned to solve the problem, but said they will deliver a letter to Gov. Jon Corzine today about it and said they would undertake four steps:

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Bagger won ten straight elections

Richard Bagger first showed a penchant for making a reasonable argument as an eighteen-year-old Princeton University sophomore when he testified before Assembly Judiciary Committee in support of legislation that would raise the age for carry-out alcohol sales while allowing the drinking age in bars and restaurants to remain at 18.  He argued that the compromise would at least stop teenagers from being able to buy large quantities of liquor that could be distributed to underage drinkers.  The sponsor of that bill was Chuck Hardwick, a freshman Assemblyman from Bagger's hometown, Westfield.  Twelve years later, Hardwick backed Bagger's bid to succeed him in the Legislature. 

Gov.-elect Christopher Christie announced today that the 49-year-old Bagger would serve as Co-Chairman of his transition task force on budget and tax issues.

Bagger became involved in politics at a young age, backing George H.W. Bush for President in 1980 and Thomas Kean for Governor in 1981.  At age 23, as a Rutgers law student, Bagger was elected Westfield Councilman.  He became Mayor six years later.  When he ran for Assemblyman in 1991, he just narrowly won the Union County GOP convention against Alan Augustine, a Union County Freeholder and former Scotch Plains Mayor.  Augustine joined Bagger in the Assembly a year later when he won a special election convention and they two became political allies.

After winning an Assembly seat, Bagger sought an ethics ruling about his position as an associate at McCarter & English, one of the state's largest and most prestigious law firms. Told that he might have a conflict because some of his firm's clients did business with the state, Bagger quit his job.  He spent some time as a lawyer at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey before joining Pfizer at the invitation of Hardwick, a top executive.

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Democrats who served with Bagger praise his skills, demeanor

Democrats who served with Bagger praise his skills, demeanor
Former State Sen. Richard Bagger, who will head Gov.-elect Chris Christie's budget transition team, served as Assembly Appropriations Committee Chairman from 1998 to 2002

Two Democrats who served with former state Sen. Richard Bagger when he chaired the Assembly Appropriations Committee hailed him as a wise choice to co-chair Gov.-elect Chris Christie's transition task force on budget and taxes.

"What an impressive and talented guy," state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen), chair of the senate budget committee, said of the legislator turned top Pfizer executive who Christie today named to the transition post along with venture capitalist Robert Grady.

"When he left it was a great loss to the New Jersey Legislature," Buono added of Bagger. "We're lucky to have him back. It says something about Chris Christie that he wound find someone that both parties hold in very high regard. And he's a nice guy on top of that. A real gentleman."

Former Assemblyman Bill Payne (D-Newark), older brother of U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-Newark), also praised Bagger.

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Christie's budget team has gravitas

Gov.-elect Christopher Christie's first big move - putting Richard Bagger and Robert Grady in charge of the state budget transition team - is an impressive display of gravitas and seems to avoid some of the early mistakes made by his predecessor, Jon Corzine.  Bagger and Grady offer an interesting contrast to Bradley Abelow and Gary Rose, two Goldman Sachs executives with no government or campaign experience, who were brought in by Corzine to run his economic shop. Christie has picked government insiders-turned-private sector outsiders who understand politics.  Democrats complained about Abelow and Rose all the time, but never about Bagger.

Bagger, who spent nearly a dozen years in the Legislature, knows his way around the state budget; he chaired the Assembly Appropriations Committee for four years, and was well-liked and respected by legislators from both parties.  He left the State Senate in after one year to move up within the Pfizer corporate structure, so he bears no responsibility for budgets passed by Democratic governors.  He also understands local government; he was a Mayor and Councilman in Westfield before his election to the Assembly.

Grady is an expert on budget matters; he was the Associate Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under President George H.W. Bush, and understands New Jersey politics - and the media - from his years as Gov. Thomas Kean's Communications Director and as Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Millicent Fenwick.  He returns to New Jersey after spending more than fifteen years as a partner at the Carlyle Group, one of the nation's largest private equity firms.

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Christie taps Bagger and Grady to head budget team

Christie taps Bagger and Grady to head budget team
Former State Sen. Richard Bagger (R-Westfield), left, and former OMB official Robert Grady, will head Gov.-elect Chris Christie's budget transition team

Former State Sen. Richard Bagger and former Kean aide Robert Grady will chair Gov.-elect Christopher Christie's transition task force on budget and taxes.

Bagger, a top Pfizer executive, chaired the Assembly Appropriations Committee for four years.  Grady, a millionaire venture capitalist who retired in June from his post as Chairman of Carlyle Venture Partners, served as Communications Director under Kean, and as Executive Associate Director of the Office of Management and Budget under Bush.  He also served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Millicent Fenwick.  He also spent ten years as a professor at the Stanford University Business School. 

The Task Force Co-Chairmen will help develop recommendations to address the fiscal deficit that state experts have estimated at over $8 billion for the coming fiscal year 2011, and to respond to the shortfall in projected state revenues in the current fiscal year 2010, according to a statement released by Christie's transition office.

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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...


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 >


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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