What the Eck!

By Art Gallagher

Dr. Alieta Eck

Dr. Alieta Eck

Now that she survived Steve Lonegan’s challenge to her petitions, it worth getting to know the political novice who was able to get 2,285 nominating signatures in three days, Dr. Alieta Eck.  That was a task that was too much for many seasoned politicians.

From the looks of how the Special Election Senate race is shaping up, Newark Mayor Cory Booker is going to win in a landslide anyway.  Booker has a huge lead over Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Congressmen Frank Pallone and Rush Holt in the independent polls for the Democratic nomination.  Lonegan is within striking distance of Pallone, Holt and Oliver in the Monmouth University Poll released last Friday, but loses to Booker by 16 points.

The only hope for a Republican to win the Senate seat in October is for someone other than Booker to be the Democratic nominee or for Booker to be badly wounded, politically, in a bloody Democratic primary.  That doesn’t look like it is going to happen.

So far, Pallone and Holt are playing nice.  Pallone is sending out emails asking people to recruit their friends to ‘Like’ his facebook page and volunteer for his campaign.  Holt is posting on facebook asking non-Democrats to change parties in order to vote for him in the primary. If Oliver is doing anything, we haven’t noticed.

No one is mentioning all the shootings in Newark this week, that, if they were happening in Marlboro or Newtown, CT would be making national news.  No one is asking Booker for his travel schedule or where he spends his weekends.   Pallone tried to make an issue of Booker’s relationship with Governor Chris Christie, but Democrats seem to like Christie more than they like Pallone.  No one is making an issue of Booker’s relationship with Wall Street, because Wall Street is investing a ton of money in Newark.

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Posted: June 19th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 2013 Election, 2014 U.S. Senate race, Alieta Eck, Cory Booker, Frank Pallone, Holt, Pallone, Primary Election, Rush Holt, Senate Special Election, Sheila Oliver, Steve Lonegan | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Oliver is running for Senate

Aseembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. facebook photo

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. facebook photo

The Democratic Special Primary for U.S. Senate just got a whole lot more interesting and a whole lot more competitive.

The Star Ledger is reporting that Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver has collected 1500 signatures and will file as a candidate on Monday. She will compete with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Congressman Frank Pallone and Congressman Rush Holt in the August 13 primary for the Democratic nomination to fill the Senate vacancy cause by Frank Lautenberg’s death.

Oliver, of East Orange, cuts into Booker’s base of African-American and urban voters far more powerfully than the suburban congressmen, Pallone and Holt.

In the Republican Special Primary, former GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan and newcomer Dr. Aleita Eck of Piscataway are expected to file their petitions in Trenton tomorrow.

Bayshore Tea Party co-flounders Barbara Gonzalez and Bob Gordon, former State Senate candidate Leigh-Ann Bellew and former Assembly candidate Edna Walsh announced their endorsement of Eck on Sunday evening.  Bellew and Walsh lost the GOP primary in the 13th Legislative District last week by a 80-20 margin, with the support of the Bayshore Tea Party.

Posted: June 9th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 2013 Election, Cory Booker, Frank Lautenberg, Frank Pallone, Pallone, Rush Holt, Senate Special Election, Sheila Oliver | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Double Dose of Bad News For Buono

Yet, good news for Trenton Democrats—the NJ Republicans are trying to lose

By Art Gallagher

Buono Dawn Quixote2State Senator Barbara Buono, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, received two doses of bad news today (so far) for her fledgling campaign to unseat Governor Chris Christie in November.

1) A Quinnipiac poll released today indicates that Buono has made no progress over the last month in increasing her dismal name recognition.  78% of those polled don’t know enough about Buono to form an opinion. That compares to 79% last month.  Of the few who recognize her name, 43% have an unfavorable opinion.

Christie’s numbers remain amazingly strong. 67% approve of the job he is doing as governor.  66% says he deserves to be reelected. In a head to head match up with Buono, Christie wins 58%-26%, with 13% out to lunch.

2) Even worse for Buono, PolitickerNJ reports that she is likely to be the only major party gubernatorial candidate in the history of New Jersey’s matching funds campaign program not to qualify for the maximum amount. PolitickerNJ said that Buono has raised only $29,000 per week since she declared her candidacy in December.  In order to earn the maximum $2 million in state matching funds for the primary, she would have to raise $216,000 per week over the next six weeks of the primary campaign.

Christie has opted out of the state matching funds program and has raised upwards of $5 million to date for the primary.

Trenton Republicans Trying to Lose

With Chrisite’s polling and financial numbers so strong, one would think that the Trenton Democrats that control the legislature would be concerned about Christie coattails.  Trenton Republicans seem enthused about the prospect of taking control of the legislature, but so far their campaign is deploying the stupidest strategy imaginable.

I’m not a professional political strategist, I just play one of the Internet.  In my not so humble opinion the NJ GOP‘s campaign against Corzine Democrats is the dumbest political strategy since Christine O’Donnell declared she is not a witch.

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Posted: April 24th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: 2013 Election, 2013 Gubernatorial Politics, Art Gallagher, Assembly Republicans, Barbara Buono, Chris Christie, Democrats, Jon Bramnick, Legislature, NJ GOP, NJ State Legislature, Quinnipiac poll, Republican Party, Sheila Oliver | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Governor Christie Calls Special Session To Make Case for Middle-Class Tax Cut

Trenton, NJ – Determined to reverse the path chosen by Democrats in the legislature to impose an $800 million tax hike on New Jersey residents, while holding middle-class tax relief hostage, Governor Chris Christie today called for a special session of the state legislature Monday.

In a letter to Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Governor Christie noted the fundamental choice confronting Democrats in the legislature:

“Continue to move forward by letting people, and not government, enjoy more of the earnings produced by their own labor, or take a step back to repeat the days where taxes are the answer to each and every challenge,” said Governor Christie.

Yesterday, for the third year in a row, Governor Christie signed into law a constitutionally balanced budget that delivers on key priorities for the people of New Jersey without raising taxes – despite attempts to inflate spending and raise taxes.

“That budget, which contained billions of dollars in spending, failed to address the single issue that strikes at the heart of our shared interests, and our continued prosperity. Lowering the tax burden imposed on every New Jersey resident is a matter of unique and critical public interest that demands our immediate and full attention,” the Governor wrote to the legislative leaders.

Beginning with his budget address in February, Governor Christie sought to reach agreement on tax relief and, for a time, received numerous commitments from legislative Democrats to not raise taxes – only to have those commitments pulled back in favor of a massive tax increase. The Governor said in his letter today that he seeks to address both houses of the legislature to communicate his objections to bills which together betray those promises.

The Governor closed his letter to Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Oliver by noting the impending celebration Wednesday of Independence Day. It was 236 years ago that the forefathers recorded in the Declaration of Independence that they had united against the “history of repeated injuries and usurpations” imposed by government, including the imposition of taxes “without our consent.”

“Today, our citizens deserve the same opportunity to decide whether a new direction, embodied in the recommendations I will share, is needed to end the cycle of tax increases that has paralyzed our State’s growth, and stunted our citizens’ progress,” the Governor said.

“When you convene this Monday at 11:00 a.m., I will ask for the opportunity to address your members on the two paths that face all who are fortunate enough to serve as elected representatives.”


Posted: June 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Economy, New Jersey, NJ State Legislature, Press Release, Sheila Oliver, Stephen Sweeney, Taxes | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Governor Christie Calls Special Session To Make Case for Middle-Class Tax Cut

Christie and Oliver at odds over leaked tape of secret speech

All the New Jersey media is abuzz over the leaked audio and transcript of a talk that Governor Chris Christie delivered to a secret meeting of GOP mega-donors organized by the Koch brothers in Colorado on June 26.  The meeting was so secret that Christie did not disclose to the press, as is customary, that he was leaving the state and transferring power to the Lt. Governor.

What has everyone in a tizzy is a story that Christie told the group about how he saved Sheila Oliver’s speakership during the landmark pension and benefit bill negotiations:

And Thursday night it came time for the Assembly. And they started to caucus at 11:00 in the morning. They were supposed to start voting at 1:00. It got to be 5:30 and they were still in the caucus room. And the reports I was getting out of there were not positive about what was going on to my friend the Speaker. She was takin’ a beating at the hands of her own party. At 5:30 she called me and she said to me, “Governor, I don’t know how this is going to play out, but I’m going to, I want to post the bill but I think when I go on the floor, my own party’s going to take a run at me to remove me as Speaker. So I can’t post the bill.” She said, “I think the only way I survive is if the 33 Republicans in the chamber will agree to vote for me for Speaker. Can you work it out?” [scattered laughter] So I said, “Give me five minutes.” [laughter]

So I went down to the Republican Assembly caucus room. I stood at the front of the room and I said, “Ladies and gentleman, it’s a historic day today. You’re going to get an opportunity to cast two historic votes.” [laughter] “The first one, of course, is about pension and benefit reform and I know that everybody in this room supports it. The second one is a little more unusual.” [laughter] I said, “Probably for the only time in my governorship I’m going to actually ask you to vote for a Democrat. I said Sheila Oliver is under siege. And she wants to do the right thing. And we cannot be slaves to party or partisanship. She is right on this issue and she is with us on this issue. So if they take a run at her on the floor, I need all of you to vote for her for Speaker.” I had these men and women look back at me like, “What?” [scattered laughter] And I said to ’em, “We were sent here to lead. Not to preen and posture, posture and pose. To lead. A public office to lead. We need to do this. So raise your hands. Are you with me or aren’t you?” All 33 of them raised their hands and said they were with me.

And so I went back to my office, I got on the phone and I called the Speaker, and I said, “You just got 33 new votes.” And she said, “Well, you just got yourself a bill.” And she went on the floor, she led the debate, another two and a half hours of debate. They never took a run at her. It was the Minority Leader who suddenly went over to the Majority Leader of the Assembly, it was the guy who was gonna take a run at her, and said, “By the way, we’ve got her back, so don’t try it.” [very scattered chuckles] They didn’t. They opened up the board, they cast the votes, by then 46 to 32, with 33 Republicans and 13 Democrats, we passed health and pension reform that will save the taxpayers of New Jersey over the next 30 years at least 132 billion dollars. [audience: “wows”, whistles, applause]

When I get back to New Jersey tomorrow morning, we will sign the bill on Tuesday and make it law and it will become effective July 1st. And that’s what we were sent to do to govern.

At a press conference in Atlantic City today, Christie confirmed he delivered the speech and he issued a correction.  He said there were 32 in Assembly members in the Republican caucus room, not 33 as he said in Colorado.  The Star Ledger quotes Christie today saying he was “proud” that he helped protect Oliver’s speakership.  He said that the story shows that “Republicans put policy over politics,” according to the Ledger.

Oliver said Christie “is deranged” :

“The assertions that Gov. Christie has made, they are outright lies. Outright lies. I am beginning to wonder if Gov. Christie is mentally deranged,” Oliver said. “At no time did I ever, ever pick up the telephone, call Gov. Christie and ask him to quote ‘save my leadership.’ ” The governor was engaged in a chest-thumping vaudeville entertainment session in front of the Republican donors, she said. “I don’t expect to call him at all,” she said. “I think it’s disgraceful.”

Now the Democratic leaders of both houses of the New Jersey legislature have called Christie a liar. In January Senate President Stephen Sweeney refuted Christie’s claim that he was in direct contact with Sweeney during the December blizzard while Sweeney was Acting Governor.

Sweeney famously called Christie a “rotten prick” in July after Christie used the line item veto to balance the budget.  Today Oliver called Christie “mentally deranged.”    Christie calls these people his friends.

Multiple people who were in the Republican caucus room spoke to MMM on the condition of anonymity.  They confirmed Christie’s version of the story, sort of.  Let’s just say that while 32 hands went up, not all of them had five fingers raised.

The caucus knew that Oliver was under siege.  They expected Majority Leader Joe Cryan to try to replace her in order to prevent the pension and benefits reform bill from being posted.

No one could confirm Christie’s account of Minority Leader Alex DeCroce going over to Cryan and telling him, “By the way, we’ve got her back, so don’t try it.”   If it happened, it may have been a bluff.

Several of the more conservative members of the caucus were very concerned about casting a vote for Oliver as speaker.  “Such a vote will follow me for the rest of my career, if I have a career,” one Assembly member said, according to a source who was in the room.

“There are two factions if the Republican caucus,” said the source, “those who are concerned about primary challenges from Tea Partiers and those from the more moderate districts who are concerned about winning the general election.  The conservatives were worried about having to vote for Oliver.”

There is some truth to Oliver’s carefully worded response to the leaked tapes.  Christie’s speech was entertainment.  As Assemlbyman Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) told the Ledger, this was “a red meat speech.”

As those who have followed Christie on the stump know, the Governor is a great story teller, in the tradition of great Irish story tellers.  

Great stories and tales get better every time they are told by a master. While the underlying truth remains, the details get embellished and the story gets “better.”  It makes a point better, is more moving or entertaining.  Anyone who has attended three or more of Christie’s town hall meetings knows Christie is a great story teller.

Posted: September 8th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Alex DeCroce, Chris Christie, Joe Cryan, NJ Media, NJ State Legislature, Sheila Oliver | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Trenton Twilight Zone

Republican Governor Chris Christie proposed pension and benefit reforms that would have resulted in a $300 million budget savings in the coming fiscal year and that actuaries said would have corrected the system.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, Democrats, gave Christie a “compromise” that results in a $9 million budget savings in the coming year and that actuaries say doesn’t go far enough.

Christie and the Republicans in the legislature are celebrating.  The media is calling the bill a landmark reform.

The Democrats and their union benefactors are having a civil war.

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone.


Posted: June 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Legislature, NJ State Legislature, Public Employee Unions, Reform Agenda, Sheila Oliver, Stephen Sweeney | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments »

Grading the Governor

By Art Gallagher

Tom Moran is the editorial page editor of the Star Ledger and the reporter who unwittingly made Governor Chris Christie a YouTube sensation.

Moran decided that its time to grade the Governor.  In a column published on Sunday, the pernicious pundit acknowledges that independent polls indicate that the voters are rating the Governor with A’s and B’s. He spends the rest of the column telling the voters (us) why they (we) are wrong about Christie. Moran say Christie only gets a C.

It’s a good thing that New Jersey pays little heed to Moran. If we did, Chris Daggett would be Governor and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver would be taken seriously.

Moran gives Christie high marks for courage, calling the Governor a cage fighter for his cause.  Despite this A, Moran gives Christie demerits for failing to compromise.  This has been a theme of Moran’s throughout the year. Christie came to Trenton promising to turn the place upside down.  Moran wants him to be nice while breaking the furniture.

Moran even gives the Governor a B on the budget, even though he calls Christie’s claim that he plugged an $11 billion budget hole “farcical.”

On the 2% property tax cap, Moran says Christie will earn a spot on the honor roll if it works, but so far it hasn’t. Duh. It hasn’t even gone into effect yet, and the “tool kit” negotiations with the Democratic legislative leadership are ongoing. Moran criticises Christie for not caving and accepting Oliver’s and Senate President Steve Sweeney’s first offer.

Moran takes Christie to task for calling Oliver a liar over her assertion that she tried to meet with Christie over the “tool kit.”

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver was shocked when she learned that the governor had accused her of lying.

“That has irreparably affected my ability to work with this governor,” she says. “For him to cast aspersions on my integrity and say I would lie? That did it. That showed me I really cannot have a trusting relationship with this governor. Because he will distort the truth. He will stand up and lie.

“It was a game changer for me, a total game changer.”

Will Oliver’s resignation as Speaker be forthcoming?  If she can’t or won’t work with the Governor she has no business being Speaker.   Oliver should be grateful that the Governor and most of the media gave her (and Moran) a pass when she called the Governor racist in an earlier Moran column.

Moran seems to think it is a problem for Christie that Oliver and U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg “hate his guts.” 

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg felt this sting as well. After he criticized the governor for killing the Hudson River tunnel project, the governor lashed out.

“All he knows how to do is blow hot air,” Christie said. “So I don’t really care what Frank Lautenberg has to say about much of anything.”

This is the downside of the governor’s straight talk. He has to work with Oliver and Lautenberg, like it or not. And now they both seem to hate his guts.

“Look, I worked with Tom Kean and Christie Whitman, and had no problems,” Lautenberg says. “This is really unusual. There’s been hardly any communication from his office, and I’m on the Appropriations Committee. I put my heart and soul into this, and to have someone calling me names and trying to shame me? It’s incomprehensible.”

Lautenberg is old and has been very sick for most of the year. He can be forgiven for not noticing that Christie is not Tom Kean or Christie Whitman.  Now that he’s woken up, he’ll start comprehending, if his heart and soul are really in his job.  How effective has he been for us on the Appropriations Committee anyway?

Moran is right about one thing.  Christie hasn’t delivered yet.  But that is not the measure by which to grade a Governor 11 months into his term.  Moran is a liberal ideologue masquerading as a moderate.  Like ideologues on the right who are critical of Christie because he hasn’t fixed all the inequities of New Jersey government in 11 months, he is driven only by his own narrow agenda.

The NJEA is having a news conference in Trenton today to propose education reforms including “significant reform of the tenure system.”   That is remarkable.  Even if the proposed reforms are full of loop holes, which as a Jersey cynic I suspect they will be, the fact that the NJEA has entered the reform conversation is truly remarkable.  Chris Christie made that happen.

Civil Service and binding arbitration is going to be reformed.  Mayors and councils are going to be unbound from the ties that have driven property taxes to catastrophic levels and be empowered to truly manage their communities rather than rubber stamp state mandates. That is unbelievable. Chris Christie made that happen.

The 2% property tax cap, even with its exceptions, will truly force a reduction in the size of government, especially when inflation kicks in. Share services will become a reality out of necessity, rather than something community leaders pay lip service to during elections.

Chris Christie has changed the tone and transformed the direction of government in New Jersey. “Changed has arrived” he declared in his inaugural address.  He is deliverying change.  Trenton is not quite upside down yet, but it is surely tilted.  He can’t be graded by the old score card, because he has changed the game in New Jersey and given Governors throughout the nation, and our leaders in Washington new rules.

Rather than a report card, lets judge Christie with a scorecard.

Christie is leading by a wide margin as the first quarter of his term comes to a close.  Yet, the opposition of special interests and trough swillers have been studying the films and making adjustments.  The final minutes of the quarter are critical as the effectiveness of the tool kit will be determined.  Next year, the second quarter, is when the real heavy lifitng will start. Legislative redistricting, the budget and the legislative election will dominate the agenda.  Municipal budgets drawn under the 2% cap will dominate the news.  As the economy improves, if it does, “we don’t have the money” will not work as well in forcing reforms.

Christie gets an A for his first year.  Next year will be the real test.  Mid-terms will be in November.  If the voters give Christie and A or B in the form of a Republican legislature, we’ll find out what “turning Trenton upside down” really means.

Posted: December 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Frank Lautenberg, Legislature, NJ Media, NJ State Legislature, Sheila Oliver | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Grading the Governor

Trenton Democrats Need To Get Busy On Christie’s “Tool Kit”

The Democratic leadership of the State Legislature went along with Governor Chris Christie in capping NJ’s property tax increases at 2%  last July with the understanding that they would get to work on and pass the governor’s “tool kit” which enables municipal leaders to responsibly reduce the cost of local government in September.

Rather than focusing on municipal government reform,  the Democratic leadership is focusing on the Christie administrations failed “Race to the Top”  application for $400 million in federal education dollars.  Nothing that the Democrats discover in their “Race to the Top” circus will bring NJ the $400 million the Christie administration applied for.  That $400 million is not coming, just as Frank Pallone’s $400 million to count fish is not coming.

Trenton Democrats need to put policy over politics.  They can hold hearings on the Race to the Top snafu after they have passed the tool kit.  They will get just as much political mileage and just as much money (none) from Race to the Top hearings held in December or January as they will from hearings held now.

Failure to pass the tool kit will lead to massive municipal layoffs and service cuts throughout New Jersey while property taxes increase by 2%.   This week, just in Monmouth County, we have seen two clear examples of why the tool kit is necessary.  In Belmar a mediator awarded the police department a 15% salary increase while Highlands announced that they might layoff 12 of their 53 employees, including three police officers.  There will be literally hundreds of stories like this throughout the state if the legislature doesn’t pass the tool kit legislation before municipal leaders start crafting their 2011-2012 budgets.

Maybe that is what Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver want to happen.  Maybe their focus is on next year’s state legislative elections and they think they have a better chance of keeping control of the legislature if New Jersey’s municipalities are in chaos next year with rising crime and garbage piling up on the streets because only the most highly paid municipal employees are still working while their former junior colleagues are collecting unemployment or moving out of state to take lower paying government jobs elsewhere.

Sweeney and Oliver wouldn’t do that, would they?  Will it work if they do?  I don’t think so.

Posted: September 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Christie, Legislature, Pallone, Sheila Oliver, Stephen Sweeney, Tool Kit, Trenton Democrats | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Trenton Democrats Need To Get Busy On Christie’s “Tool Kit”