Tags: New Jersey

No 50-State Strategy for the Democratic Governors Association!


This morning, three pollsters issued their final polls in New Jersey’s governor’s race. Monmouth has Republican incumbent Chris Christie up by 20, Quinnipiac has Christie up by 28, and Rutgers-Eagleton has Christie up by 36.

Back in February, the Democratic Governors Association was talking a good game:

The newly installed chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, said he’s confident her message and story will resonate with New Jersey voters — and he’s willing to devote the resources to prove it. Even at this early stage, it’s Buono’s smiling face that graces the group’s home page.

By August, Democrats were singing a different tune:

While acknowledging the “challenging” nature of the race between Buono and Christie, Shumlin cautioned that it is “by no means over.” But the DGA head would not say whether his organization would provide support in the way of television ads. “I’ve been working closely with Barbara, because we want to win. We’re not gonna start spending big money until we see evidence that we’re gonna win. And so we’re continuing to assess that.”

By yesterday, the DGA was admitting they gave up early:

In contrast, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) has done nothing to help Christie’s opponent. “We expend resources where we think we can make a difference, and we haven’t invested in New Jersey,” said Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chairman of the DGA.

Tags: Chris Christie , Barbara Buono , New Jersey , DGA

Christie’s Big Lead Isn’t Helping the New Jersey GOP


For those of you hoping that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s expected big win in November would help his state party…. the outlook isn’t good:

Even as Republican Gov. Chris Christie holds a big lead over his Democratic opponent, new poll results released today show voters prefer to leave the Legislature under Democratic control. The Rutgers-Eagleton poll of 568 likely voters found that 50 percent wanted Democrats to maintain control of the state Senate and Assembly, while 38 percent said Republicans – who have not had control in a decade—should take over.

That same poll finds public opinion about evenly split on the state legislature, with about a third approving, about a third disapproving, and about a third having no opinion. Democrats hold a 48-32 majority in the Assembly and a 24-16 majority in the Senate.

When the top of the ticket’s opening and closing argument is that he’s “bipartisan,” it doesn’t leave much room to say, “vote for my party over the opposition.”

UPDATE: The Christie camp points out that part of the reason Democrats may be polling so well is that they’re emphasizing their close work with the Republican governor:

Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer), is running online campaign ads proclaiming his bipartisan cooperation with Christie. “Working together with the governor, we balanced the budget and cut business taxes,” Benson says proudly.

Benson isn’t alone: Sen. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen), one of Christie’s favorite whipping boys, is running virtually the same web ad in the 38th District. The online ads for Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) proclaim how he worked cooperatively with Christie to keep the Vineland Developmental Center from closing.

Even [state Sen. Linda] Greenstein’s latest web ads stress bipartisanship and public service, and do not mention Christie’s opponent, Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), at all — even though Greenstein has campaigned alongside Buono more than almost any Democrat.

It’s Chris Christie’s state; everybody else is just running in it.

Tags: Chris Christie , New Jersey

The Hard Realities of Cory Booker’s Reign in Newark


American Commitment Action Fund, a conservative super PAC, is launching a web video that brutally contrasts the campaign boasts of Newark mayor Cory Booker with the ugly realities of life in the city and the way he governs. In short, all glitzy image, few actual results:

The video features quite a bit of Booker criticism from Ras Baraka, a Newark city councilman . . . who is also the son of Amiri Baraka.

If that name sounds familiar, you’re probably remembering Baraka’s post-9/11 controversy:

In September 2002, at the Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo, N.J., Amiri Baraka stood up on stage and read his recently published poem on the 9/11 attacks, “Somebody Blew Up America.”

The crowd reacted with stunned silence, and several people booed. A few days later, Gov. Jim McGreevey asked Baraka to resign his post as Poet Laureate of New Jersey. This year, Baraka returned to the festival, and read the poem again.

About half the audience stood to cheer when he was finished, while the other half was either clapping quietly, or sitting with arms crossed, scowling. Baraka hadn’t changed the poem, and the line that outraged so many people in 2002 was still there: “Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed / Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers / To stay home that day / Why did Sharon stay away?”

Who could imagine that 11 years later, his son would be featured in a conservative super PAC’s ad?

Tags: Cory Booker , New Jersey , American Commitment Action Fund , Ras Baraka

The Electorate Christie, and Perhaps an Interim Senator, Will Face


Something to keep in mind as New Jersey governor Chris Christie contemplates the decision of appointing an interim senator:

The state has 5,463,097 registered voters, as of May 7.

That total breaks down into:
2,608,636 unaffiliated voters (47 percent)
1,779,250 Democrats (32.5 percent)
1,070,906 Republicans (19.6 percent)

Christie’s done quite well in this heavily Democratic electorate — “63 percent of those surveyed in a recent Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll saying they approve of the job Christie is doing. That rating ticks slightly higher — 64 percent — among the coveted independents” — and so it’s unlikely he’ll pick anyone who would be seen as antagonistic to the state’s Democrats.

If Robert Costa is hearing from his sources that Christie will appoint a Republican, then it’s probably a safe bet. But Christie’s probably looking for the Republican most acceptable to the state’s Democratic voters.

Tags: Chris Christie , New Jersey

So, Democrats, Should We Limit Campaign Donations or Not?


Remember when the Citizens United court case was the root of all evil? Well, now a Democratic super PAC is suing to allow unlimited donations in their effort to help Democratic candidates for the state legislature:

A Washington DC “super PAC” has sued New Jersey’s campaign finance watchdog agency, saying the state can’t limit how much it can raise from an individual donor.

The Fund for Jobs and Growth filed the complaint against the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) in federal district court on Friday.

The group, organized under Section 527 of the IRS code, plans to make independent expenditures on behalf of Democratic state legislative candidates in this year’s election. It argues that under the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, it’s unconstitutional to limit how much money it can raise from an individual donor.

Last year, President Obama declared that the Citizens United decision was so harmful to society, that “I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it).”

Will he denounce an effort by allies within his own party to eliminate limits on donations to state campaigns?

Tags: Barack Obama , Citizens United , New Jersey

Christie Ahead, Just 58 Percent to 22 Percent


A new poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University finds New Jersey governor Chris Christie clinging to his narrow lead over his Democratic challenger, state senator Barbara Buono, 58 percent to 22 percent.

Among self-described Democrats, Buono leads . . . 40 percent to 36 percent.

Christie is winning among women, 54 percent to 24 percent.

The pollsters summarize:

Although a blue state, a solid majority of Democrats (55%) and independents (61%) approve of the job Christie is doing and even more Republicans (83%) give the governor high marks. Other groups who are not considered likely suspects among his supporters include women (62%), those from union households (52%), and non-whites (56%).

A majority of voters are also pleased with the direction the state is headed. Fifty-seven percent say it’s headed in the right direction and, with the exception of the usual partisan differences, perceptions are largely positive across relevant demographic categories.

With numbers like these, the big question is, just how much money does the Democratic Governors Association want to spend in New Jersey this year? Or more specifically, how much do they have to spend to avoid the appearance that they’re giving up on this race, even though they’re sooner or later going to have to admit that with numbers like these, Buono amounts to a sacrificial lamb?

Tags: Taliban , Chris Christie , DGA , New Jersey , Polling

Chris Christie’s Positive Feedback Loop


As Republicans watch New Jersey governor Chris Christie in the coming year, there are three facets to keep in mind.

1) Christie’s surge in popularity following Hurricane Sandy has not faded and in fact seems to be accelerating; this week Quinnipiac found him at a 74 percent job-approval rating (!) and 68 percent say he deserves reelection. Christie takes 30 to 35 percent of the Democratic vote. He’s already dissuaded Newark mayor Cory Booker from a gubernatorial bid, and he’s probably going to match up against little-known state senator Barbara Buono.

While it’s only January, it’s conceivable that Christie will waltz into reelection having largely neutered the opposition party, on a scale not seen since Bobby Jindal faced no major Democrat opponent in Louisiana in 2011.

2) There is no indication that Republicans in New Jersey have any problem with Christie, despite his recent criticism of other Republicans, embrace of Obama, etc. Quinnipiac found Christie’s approval/disapproval split among New Jersey Republicans was 93 percent to 4 percent, and 70 percent of Garden State GOP voters approve of Christie’s criticism of the House GOP.

3) With the GOP vote locked in, and looking strong among independents and even Democrats, Christie has absolutely no incentive to do anything particularly controversial or conservative in this state in the coming year.

This will infuriate some Republicans outside New Jersey — but criticism from Republicans outside the state will only help him with Democrats and independents inside the state.

Now, the big question will be, if reelected, does Chris Christie use his second term to reestablish himself as a voice of fiscal sanity and limited government spending, making tougher decisions that his new fans might not like? Or does he do the full Charlie Crist/Arlen Specter?

Tags: Chris Christie , New Jersey

New Jersey Senate Rejects Christie Supreme Court Nominee


The New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee has rejected the nomination of Phil Kwon, one of Governor Christie’s nominees to the New Jersey Supreme Court.  The vote was close (7-6) and mostly along party lines, and it appears that questioning and opposition focused on a federal case against his family’s business.  According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger:

[T]he family business — a liquor and wine store — forfeited $160,000 to the federal government to settle civil charges that more than $2 million was deposited in the business’s bank account illegally. Kwon was not accused of wrongdoing and does not work for the family business. On that basis, the governor said yesterday this case “has nothing to do with Phil.”

But if that brush-off is the final answer, then the Senate has grounds to refuse confirmation. Kwon bought a $2.3 million home a few years ago with his wife and mother, both of whom derive their income from this business. He and his wife also own a Manhattan condominium they purchased in 2000 with the help of a $650,000 mortgage. 

Governor Christie held a press conference after the vote and called the hearing a “circus.”

The committee did not consider the nomination of Bruce Harris and apparently did not announce a date for his hearing.  As my JCN colleague Carrie explained earlier, it is Harris’s nomination that has generated the most criticism from conservatives.  

Tags: New Jersey

Christie Limps Along With His 55 Percent Approval Rating


Quinnipiac’s latest survey refutes an argument that few, if any, were making: that adding Chris Christie to a Romney ticket would put New Jersey in the GOP pile.

With Gov. Christopher Christie as his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP front-runner, cuts into President Barack Obama’s lead in New Jersey, but still falls short, trailing 49 – 43 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Without Gov. Christie, Romney trails President Obama 49 – 39 percent, the independent Quinnipiac University poll finds.

New Jersey voters support 56 – 33 percent Christie’s proposed 10 percent tax cut. Support is 83 – 11 percent among Republicans and 54 – 34 percent among independent voters. Democrats are opposed 51 – 38 percent. Support for the tax cut rises with household income.

Voters also say 55 – 31 percent the tax cut is fair to people like them. Democrats say unfair 48 – 38 percent.

“Gov. Christopher Christie says he’d be a terrible vice-president and we may never find out. Putting him on the ticket helps the Republicans a little, but not enough, in New Jersey. If the measure of a vice presidential pick is carrying his or her home state, then Gov. Christie comes up short,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“But voters continue to give the Gov good marks on how he’s doing his job in Trenton.

New Jersey voters approve 55 – 38 percent of the job Christie is doing as governor, compared to his all-time high of 58 – 38 percent October 12.

New Jersey voters approve 51 – 45 percent of the job Obama is doing, his best score in eight months, and say 51 – 44 percent he deserves four more years in the White House, also his best score so far.

Tags: Barack Obama , Chris Christie , New Jersey

An Upcoming Big Day for Govs. McDonnell and Christie


Over on the home page, a look at what’s at stake in the legislative elections being held in Virginia and New Jersey this year. It goes well with last week’s article about Virginia’s Democrats in the state legislature fleeing when President Obama rolls through their district on his bus tour.

Tags: New Jersey , Virginia

A Democrat Who Can Cut Government Payrolls


I really hope that Cory Booker is as great as he seems. Who would have thought that New Jersey would have a governor as good as Christie, and Newark a mayor as sensible as Booker? These guys need to do some kind of bipartisan seminar on how to govern from the edge of disaster. Call it The Jersey Guys’ Guide to Governing.

Tags: Debt , Deficits , Democrats , New Jersey

Public-Pension Criminals


So now that the state of New Jersey has been charged by the SEC with lying to bond investors about the (desiccated, horrific, probably insolvent) state of its pension funds, the guessing game begins: Who is next? Exchequer readers will not be surprised to learn that Illinois, the place where Barack Obama developed his famous financial acumen, is on the list of potential targets.

When Illinois passed its pension “reform” law a few months ago, it decided it could skip an additional $300 million in pension contributions this year, and many millions more in the future. This, for a pension system that already is less than half funded. The New York Times asked a few actuaries about that decision, and the bean-counters are crying foul:

Paradoxically, even though the state will make smaller contributions, the report forecasts that Illinois will get its pension funds back on track to a respectable 90 percent funding level by 2045. It projects that costs will increase slowly and an economic recovery will make cash available for the state to make the contributions it has failed to do in the past.

Whether that is even possible is contested by some actuaries who note that its family of pension funds is now only 39 percent funded. (If a company let its pension fund dwindle to that level, the federal government would probably step in, but federal officials have no authority to seize state pension funds.)

Some actuaries who have reviewed the state’s plans said that shrinking contributions would make the pension funds shakier, not stronger.

Indeed, one of them, Jeremy Gold, called Illinois’s plan “irresponsible” and said it could drive the pension funds to the brink.

Further, Mr. Gold pointed out that Illinois’s official disclosures said that its pension calculations used an actuarial method known as “projected unit credit,” but that the pension reform report used another method, which had not been approved for disclosure.

“According to Illinois statute, the prescribed contributions are determined under a method that may not be in compliance with the pertinent actuarial standards of practice,” Mr. Gold said.

The Wall Street Journal has more on state pension shenanigans here.

Hey, taxpayer: How’s your retirement fund looking these days? Anything left to put in it after the state-workers’ unions are done with you? Heck, you’re probably the kind of sucker who pays his mortgage with his own money.

Tags: Angst , Debt , Deficits , Despair , Fiscal Armageddon , General Shenanigans , Illinois , New Jersey , Pensions

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