It’s been nearly a week since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, but no one can yet gauge how this calamity has affected the national psyche, and the outcome of a major election. Here is what I think…
When you see your fellow citizens struggling in horribly devastated communities and preyed upon by looters after dark, you begin to wonder if perhaps we have taken too much for granted in this country. When you consider our shocking inability to turn the lights back on, you wonder what the government is actually doing with your money. Perhaps it begins to dawn on folks that the politicians have pampered us with a false sense of entitlement, but when the wind starts howling, you are on your own. Perhaps we will re-learn that the central function of government is the safety and welfare of its citizens. And government cannot perform that function well if our finances are saddled with the cost of bloated past promises. Perhaps we will cherish anew the value of thrift and hard work and never again take our good fortune for granted. For only a prosperous country can be charitable in the support of its citizens. America needs a new direction.
Governor Chris Christie is not the only Jersey Guy who announced yesterday that he is not running for president. On the Real Jersey Guys Radio Show with former Senator Dick LaRossa and Art Gallagher yesterday afternoon, Scott Sipprelle, last years GOP nominee for Congress in the 12th Congressional District, said he’s not running either.
Following suit, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin told Mark Levin that she’s also not running.
If you missed the show with Sipprelle, here’s a recording:
The members of the Redistricting Commission must be appointed by June 15. The Auditor says he/she was told that Democratic State Chairman John Wisniewski plans to void the appointment of Belmar resident Maggie Moran to the commission. Moran, former Governor Corzine’s deputy chief of staff and campaign manager, was appointed to the commission by former Chairman Joe Cryan, at Pallone’s urging, as one of Cryan’s last acts before turning the chairmanship over to Wisniewski.
Moran, who is the wife of Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty, is supposed to be Pallone’s eyes and ears on the commission. Her removal would be a blow to Pallone, according to The Auditor, this year in particular as New Jersey is losing a congressional district. One incumbent congressman will lose his job regardless of the electoral outcome. The Auditor implies that Democratic boss George Norcross and Republican Governor Chris Christie would like that incumbent to be Pallone.
How would that work?
Pallone’s 6th district borders the 4th, 7th, 12th and 13th districts. He resides in Long Branch which is in the south east coastal part of the district.
While it is entirely possible in New Jersey that a gerrymandered district that includes Long Branch of Monmouth County could be combined with Clinton Township in Hunterdon County, home of 7th district Republican Congressman Leonard Lance or West New York, Hudson County, home of 13th district Democratic Congressman Albio Sires, neither scenario is likely.
Combining Pallone’s 6th with Rush Holt’s 12th would make sense based on geography as the 12th shares the largest border with the 6th. Even though neither Pallone or Holt is particularly well liked by Democratic leaders in New Jersey or Washington, it is unlikely that the Democrats would surrender a district without a fight.
Which would leave a match up between New Jersey’s two most senior congressmen, Pallone who has been in Congress since 1988 and 4th district Congressman Republican Chris Smith who has served since 1981. While it would be unusual that seniority be discarded as an incumbent protection consideration during a redistricting battle, an argument could be made along the lines of “continuity of representation.” Pallone first went to Congress as the representative of the 3rd district after the death of Congressman James Howard. Much of the pre-1992 3rd district is now part of the 4th.
Even with his $4 million war chest, it is hard to imagine Pallone beating Smith in a combined district that includes southeast Monmouth and portions of Republican Ocean and Burlington counties. Smith would dominate in his Mercer home turf.
Pallone vs. Smith would be a great race. It probably won’t happen. I’ll explain why at the end of this piece. But first let’s have some fun speculating about the fallout of such a district.
If Long Branch and Pallone are moved south into a district combined with portions of Smith’s (of Hamilton in Mercer County) 4th district, it would make sense that the Northern Monmouth portions of the present 6th district would be folded into the Rush Holt’s 12th district.
That would create an interesting race for the GOP nomination in the 12th. Diane Gooch, Mike Halfacre, Anna Little, and Scott Sipprelle could all be contenders for that nomination.
Little beat Gooch for the 6th district nomination primary by 83 votes before losing to Pallone by 11% in the 2010 general election. She declared that a loss of only 11% was a victory and launched her 2012 race against Pallone in the weirdest election night concession speech ever. Since election night 2010 Little has alienated herself from both her local Tea Party and establishment GOP supporters. She’s chomping at the bit for a rematch with both Gooch and Pallone, but she’s referred to as a “coo coo bird” by former supporters. A Pallone-Smith match up would wreck havoc on her delusions. Only Little, her family and Larry Cirignano, her escort/handler/manager/driver/tenant, believe Anna Little will ever be nominated for congress again.
Halfacre, the Mayor of Fair Haven, has been kicking himself for bowing out of the race for the 12th district nomination since Tea Party candidate David Corsi beat Sipprelle in Monmouth County in the 2010 primary. Sipprelle won the nomination by virtue of his margin of victory in Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset and Hunterdon before losing to Holt by 7% in the general.
Halfacre was the Tea Party favorite during his contentious race against Sipprelle for the party lines in 2010. Sipprelle won all the county party lines and Halfacre correctly concluded that a primary against Sipprelle without at least the Monmouth or Middlesex lines was not winnable. Corsi’s Monmouth victory naturally lead to “what ifs?” Little’s narrow victory over Gooch created additional “what ifs?”
But the self funding Sipprelle did not spend any money to defeat Corsi. Gooch took victory over Little for granted in the primary. Given how contentious the Sipprelle-Halfacre county conventions/screenings were, it is likely that a primary between to two would have been bloody and expensive. Halfacre couldn’t have matched Sipprelle’s money.
Halfacre would have a heavy lift to regain his Tea Party support. If either Gooch or Sipprelle seek the nomination, he would have a heavier lift to raise the money necessary to compete. After Little’s victory in the 2010 primary, it will be a long time before any candidate or county party organization takes a Tea Party challenge for granted. Halfacre’s best hope for a nomination against Holt is for both Gooch and Sipprelle to conclude that 2012, a presidential year with Obama leading the ticket, is not the year to take on Holt.
Both Gooch and Sipprelle are staying in front of the party faithful. Gooch with Strong New Jersey and Sipprelle with the Lincoln Club of New Jersey, organizations each has founded since losing their respective races. Gooch has been open about wanting to run for congress again, depending on how the districts are drawn. Sipprelle has been coy about a future candidacy.
A Gooch-Sipprelle primary defies imagination. Given the money both could spend on such a race, a deal would likely be brokered by the state and county party chairmen before it would occur. But if ego got the better of either of them, it would be quite a race. A more sensible sceanario would be for one of the millionaires to take on U.S . Senator Robert Menendez while the other takes on Holt.
So while redistricting Pallone and Smith into the same district could make the Republican nomination contest in the Holt’s district more interesting, a Pallone-Smith battle is unlikely even should a district be drawn that way. Should such a district be drawn look for Pallone to retire from the House and use his hefty war chest as a down payment for a statewide race for Governor in 2013.
Pallone’s $4 million war chest would clear the field of Democratic candidates for Governor, unless Chris Christie isn’t a candidate or has anemic poll numbers, neither of which is likely. Christie would love to defeat Pallone, which he would but it would probably be a close race. Pallone would then run for U.S. Senate in 2014, assuming Frank Lautenberg finally retires.
State Sen. Shirley Turner’s recent proposal to hit the state’s top taxpayers with a new “millionaires tax” is dangerous nonsense straight out of the soak-the-rich economic playbook. “It’s really about fairness,” said Turner (D-Mercer). “This governor has coddled the wealthy, but they need to pay their fair share.”
Leaving aside the fundamental question of why her proposed 10.75 percent top tax rate is the “fair” level, there is a more glaring problem with Turner’s proposal: It will make fiscal problems in New Jersey far worse.
New Jersey is in a deep financial hole because our politicians have spent money without ever evaluating whether the funding source is competitive and sustainable. The resulting debate about how to resolve these structural imbalances has become a spirited fight, as it deserves to be.
But regardless of one’s philosophical leanings or party affiliation, we should all be able to agree on one thing: We must do everything possible to encourage work and investment in New Jersey in order to fuel the economic furnace that generates government’s desperately needed tax revenues.
Politicians love the notion that they can merely increase your tax rate and generate a proportionally equivalent increase in tax revenues. But this is not the way the world really works.
Taxes change behavior. Drivers will cross state lines to save on gasoline tax. Taxpayers move to Florida to save on their income tax. When a special tax on millionaires a few years ago in Maryland failed to deliver its expected revenue boost, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley decided against bringing it back, focusing instead on spending cuts to balance his state’s budget.
Closer to home, New York state enacted a surtax on its top earners in 2009 as an emergency measure to help manage through the recession. Today, despite a recovering economy, New York’s underlying fiscal problems are worse than ever.
Recognizing that tax surcharges don’t solve problems, only prolong them, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has decided against extending the surtax.
New Jersey, which has an identical tax rate to New York’s on its top incomes, will have a top rate that is 57 percent higher than our neighbor in 2012 if Turner has her way.
The lesson across states wrestling with revenue shortfalls is clear: Raising taxes is no panacea because wealth is mobile.
New Jersey’s residents are the most highly taxed in the nation, and employers are steering clear of the state as a result. New Jersey lost more than 10,000 jobs per month in 2009, and job erosion continued into 2010 despite an economic recovery that added 1 million jobs nationally.
New Jersey currently generates a startling 41 percent of its income tax receipts from the top 1 percent of its taxpayers, a precarious reliance that the rating agency Standard & Poor’s said could contribute to “revenue volatility,” as it downgraded the state’s credit rating.
Turner needs to confront the hard truth: There is a limit to how much businesses and high-income residents can be taxed before they simply move away, taking our best hope for new investment, jobs and economic growth with them.
Turner says let the voters decide on the millionaires tax, punting tax policy to a ballot referendum. She might be surprised by the result.
Last November, one state did put a referendum on its ballot to implement a special tax of 9 percent on incomes greater than $500,000. It happened in Washington state, one of eight states with no income tax at all. That state has also been a relative stalwart economically. Washington voters rejected the special tax by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
As a result of the recent U.S. Census, Washington will gain a seat in the House of Representatives, owing to its large population growth over the past decade, while New Jersey will lose a seat after a population gain below the national average.
Citizens vote with their pocketbooks and also with their feet.
When will New Jersey politicians learn that lesson?
Scott Sipprelle is president of the Lincoln Club of New Jersey and was the 2010 Republican candidate for Congress in the state’s 12th Congressional District
Newly Constituted Political Club Plans Greater Engagement and Relevance
Princeton, NJ – Feb. 23 – The annual re-organization meeting of the Republican Association of Princeton was no ordinary affair on Wednesday night. Many new members in a crowd of 100 assembled at the Nassau Club in Princeton to elect Scott Sipprelle as the club’s new President and to approve an amendment to the organization’s by-laws that broadens the reach of the organization beyond the Princetons while ushering in a new name, “The Lincoln Club of New Jersey.”
In a room filled with many supporters of Sipprelle’s 2010 Congressional campaign for the NJ-12 seat in the US Congress, the incoming President described his vision. “Good government is about our values and it requires good, and sometimes difficult, choices about the way we live. It is not just about doing what is most expedient to win one election.” Sipprelle vowed to expand the efforts of the Lincoln Club in the area of issues education and community engagement, while also working to support the strongest Republican candidates for local, state, and federal office in New Jersey.
Along with Sipprelle, a new slate of officers and directors was elected for one year terms. The new governing body hails from five different towns in Mercer, Middlesex, and Monmouth counties.
The Lincoln Club of New Jersey is an independent political club that educates the public on critical issues, promotes initiatives to build healthier communities, and advocates for good government by supporting the most qualified Republican candidates for local, state, and federal office in New Jersey.
It is comical to see our political class seized anew in a surreal debate about whether it is “possible” to cut $100 billion from an annual expenditure of $3.7 trillion without irrevocably harming babies or cratering the economy. It got me thinking about how we even arrived at this strange place where our elected representatives are spending 65% more than we are collecting in revenues every year. Somewhere along the way spending money in Washington DC became less about “necessity” and more about something else entirely.
So, here is another amazing fact to ponder: in the very near future we will be spending more virtual money in online fantasy worlds than will be spent by real consumers in the world formerly known as reality. Members of the online game FooPets breed and adopt dogs and cats and spend, on average, nearly as much money on their cyber puppies and kittens as actual pet owners in the real world. The nearly one million unique residents of a 3D virtual world called Second Life can buy everything from private islands to suggestive lingerie using a currency called Linden dollars. In an ominous development, Chinese authorities have recently barred a merger of their online and virtual economies. It seems that players who were particularly adept at accumulating wealth in the online world were selling this virtual game wealth for hard cash to rich players who would use the currency to boost their status and prestige in order to attract gorgeous pixel-based avatars.
But we know that you cannot really hold back the advance of technology. So, it got me thinking…how about this novel idea to solve our nation’s fiscal problems: for so long as is necessary to restore a balance between expenses and revenues, the Congress is only allowed to appropriate a new virtual currency called Fedbits? This new monetary unit, unregulated by annoyances like debt ceilings, interest rates, or the Federal Reserve, could be used to purchase an unlimited inventory of items in an online Congressionally-run supermarket. In order to secure passage of this landmark legislation, each Congressman would also be entitled to earmark a certain quantity of Fedbits to any constituent or special interest of his choosing.
Anyone want to buy a romantic lighted gazebo to go along with their private island?
Scott Sipprelle is the principal of Westland Ventures, LLC. Scott was the Republican nominee for Congress from New Jersey’s 12th congressional district in 2010.
As the nation muddles through anxious days of economic uncertainty and rage-filled political arguments over tax policy, it would serve us all well to look back to an earlier time of similar malaise. The 1970’s in America were marked by high inflation and unemployment, rising taxes and a stagnant stock market that was eroding the well-being of the middle class. Recall this was also a time when marginal income tax rates rose as high as 70% and the effective capital gains tax rate was 50%.
But President Jimmy Carter had an idea. He believed an increase in the capital gains tax to match the marginal tax on income made sense not only as a matter of economic policy, but also as a matter of fairness in order to stop the giveaway to “fat-cats.” The President of the American Electronics Association had a different idea, grounded in his experience as an entrepreneur. He traveled to Washington looking for an advocate to embrace an entirely different approach. The way out, he believed, was to slash capital gains taxes in order to encourage risk-taking investments in innovative new companies that would capitalize on technical developments across a broad cross-section of American industry. Why would anyone invest under a regime where if you lose, you keep 100% of your loss, but if you succeed the Federal Government takes 50%?
A baby-faced young Republican Congressman from Wisconsin, Bill Steiger, eagerly took up the cause. Originally elected to the Wisconsin legislature at 22, he had been the youngest member of Congress when first elected in 1966 at age 28, and frequently mistaken for a page. Steiger was a conservative, but molded in the Lincolnian tradition that government needed to do the, “desirable things which the individuals of a people cannot do, or cannot well do, for themselves.” Steiger had sponsored the legislation which created the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) in order to address the unacceptable rate of annual on-the-job deaths (14 thousand) and accidents (over 2 million) that characterized the American workplace of the early 1970’s.
Steiger embraced capital gains reductions with a passion, offering a counter-proposal to slash the capital gains tax by 50%. Despite harsh attacks that portrayed the proposal as a program to benefit the rich, Steiger fought back hard, not on ideological grounds but by the use of hard empirical data. Even President Carter’s Head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy admitted that more than 300 high-technology companies had been started in 1968, when capital-gains taxes were low, and by the mid 1970’s there were no similar start-ups whatsoever.
Against all expectations, the political climate on capital gains taxes changed dramatically. To even Steiger’s surprise, he was able to garner enough Democratic support that President Carter ultimately signed the Steiger Amendment into law in November 1978, effectively slashing the capital gains tax to 28%. Tragically, Bill Steiger died of a heart attack at age 40, a mere month after his legislative milestone became law.
Within several years America was experiencing an innovation boom of historic dimensions. Venture capital funding, which had bounced along at $50mm per year in the 1970’s exploded to over $1 billion per year. Iconic American companies like Apple Computer, FedEx, and Sun Microsystems were launched. America’s technology revolution, which would change the destinty of the nation and the planet, had as its seed the wise tax policy promoted by a forgotten Congressman.
I can imagine Menendez and Frank Pallone sharing a laugh over a latte about this one.
Also mentioned on what D’Aprile described as the NJ GOP’s “thin bench” are Monmouth County Senators Joe Kyrillos and Jennifer Beck, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, NJ Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr, and former Senator Bill Baroni, now a Port Authority executive.
Scott Sipprelle and Diane Gooch should be on the list of potential Menendez challengers, especially given the NJ GOP’s historical preference for U.S. Senate candidates with the ability to self-fund their campaigns.
Sipprelle should be on the top of the list, if he would do it. His temperment and policy ambitions are more suited for the Senate than the House. Politically, Sipprelle could compete well with Menendez in Bergen County, Western Essex and much of Passaic. Menendez’s stategy would be to dominate Hudson, Bergen, Essex and Passiac, according to Democratic strategist Tony Bawidamann as quoted by D’Aprile. Sipprelle, who lived in Bergen prior to moving to Princeton, is better suited to suppress Menendez’s support in the north than the other names on the list. With a strong showing in Monmouth and Ocean combined with a competitive north, Sipprelle might actually win.
A lot can, and probably will, change in two years. If President Obama’s popularity recovers with the economy and he’s poised to win New Jersey by 15% again, Little could be the GOP nominee because no one else on the bench would want the slot and if there are no millionaires like Gooch or John Crowley willing to wage a vanity campaign.
Like many of you, I had hoped for victory in our two local Congressional races on November 2nd. I thought that we had captured lightning in a bottle, with the Tea Party carrying Anna to success over Frank Pallone and Scott’s millions carrying him to success over Rush Holt. Like many of you, I was sorely disappointed.
However, that disappointment has now been replaced by bewilderment.
Who are these people?
It all started on Election Night, when Anna announced the creation of not one, not two, but three new Political Action Committees. Really, three PACs? How will she raise money for three new PACs? What purpose will they serve? That same night, her Campaign Manager told a reporter for the Two River Times, owned by Diane Gooch, that Anna was running again “Whether your boss plans on running or not”. This comment has sparked a “cold War” between Anna’s camp and Diane’s camp. Just plain dumb.
But perhaps it really started with Anna prior to Election Night, during the waning days of the campaign, when she alienated many of Anna’s Army by cozying up to the establishment hacks that began courting her only when it looked like she had a chance. Some thought she had abandoned the Tea Party supporters that had put her in the position to have a chance. There was talk of the Tea Party supporters “crashing” the stage when she claimed victory and had only establishment types on stage with her.
Meanwhile, back in Highlands, the Borough that has had “Little Government” for a few years, is in a fiscal nosedive. A massive budget deficit, layoffs, and talk of simply giving up and merging with Middletown or Atlantic Highlands are issues that have been left in the bag being held by the new Mayor. Is it any wonder that her hometown broke for Pallone?
Scott Sipprelle on the other hand, has now found someone besides Jamestown Associates and demographics to blame for his loss. He has been sourced as the writer of a letter sent to Mercer County GOP Chair Roy Wesley advising of a “no confidence” vote by the Mercer County Committee. (Let’s get one thing straight: Roy Wesley may very well be an incompetent Chairman. But that’s not the point)
You may recall that last Spring, Roy Wesley was the only one of five County Chairs that came out prior to any conventions and endorsed Scott Sipprelle over his opponents. Dale Florio in Somerset, Henry Kuhl in Hunterdon, Joe Leo in Middlesex and Joe Oxley in Monmouth all at least pretended to be neutral. It was only Roy Wesley, Chair in Mercer that publicly stuck his neck out for his hometown candidate.
How is he thanked? By Scott Sipprelle authoring a letter and airing Mercer County GOP dirty laundry all over the Trentonian and Politickernj. The letter clearly lays out an undercurrent of fault for Scott Sipprelle’s embarrassment in Mercer County. What the letter doesn’t mention is whether Roy Wesley was responsible for the decision to have Scott spend the last two weeks of the campaign defending himself from Rush Holt’s use of the property tax issue, instead of attacking Holt, or whether Roy Wesley was responsible for the “How do you pronounce my name” media campaign, or whether Roy Wesley was the one who told Scott to spend significant time and resources in Trenton, when he should have been increasing his lead in the suburbs.
Who are these people?
Is Scott Sipprelle a self-made millionaire with loyal Republican convictions? Or is he an ungrateful child who blames others for his short-comings?
Is Anna Little a Tea Party darling with all the right moves? Or is she an at-best average Mayor who believes her own press releases?
Among the email messages which arrived this week was one that read,”You didn’t lose. You just ran out of time to meet every voter and convince them face-to-face.” Please remember that while we came up just short in this race, we did knock a massive 23 points off the incumbent’s average win percentage over the last two elections (28% in 2008 and 32% in 2006). He will never be the same.
The Cause Continues.
While this political campaign is over, the cause which united us continues. It continues because the battle for common sense solutions to America’s problems is not resolved. It continues because the need for good government has never been more urgent. It continues because each of you, inspired to make a difference, is not yet satisfied that your work is done.
It’s a Wonderful Life.
This, courtesy of another touching email message: “In his desperation, your opponent tried to paint you as the wealthy and self-serving Mr. Potter. But over 90,000 voters knew better. You are George Bailey. You have inspired change in the 12th District and it will never be the same again because of your candidacy.”
It is now time for me to exit the stage.
While I do not know what awaits me on the other side of the new sunrise, I can say with total conviction that Tracy and I have enjoyed immensely the journey we shared together over these last months. The friendships made and stories collected will provide ample material for a lifetime. Now, I am looking forward to immersing myself anew into my business affairs, to play my part in funding the new companies which can help to restore America’s economic vitality. But, rest assured, out of the corner of one eye I will continue watching the political arena with interest.
Please take a moment to view this campaign retrospective: