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Democrats launch abortion attacks in earnest

Presented by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital: Matt Friedman's must-read briefing on the Garden State's important news of the day
Sep 21, 2023 View in browser

By Matt Friedman

Presented by Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Good Thursday morning!

Come on, Republicans. You knew this was coming.

The GOP spent the summer bludgeoning seemingly hapless Democrats, whether it was schools’ trans policies, migrant housing or offshore wind. Democrats were on the defensive, but their candidates and leadership did generally speak to the charges, even if some of their base thought of their responses as Republican-light.

So now, post-Labor Day, the big Democratic push on abortion messaging has begun. It’s the one part of the culture wars in which the Democratic positions align with public opinion. In District 11, arguably the most competitive in the state, Democrats launched an abortion-focused ad against Republicans. That followed District 16, where Democrats have already been targeting Republican state Senate candidate Mike Pappas over his long-documented opposition to abortion. And it’s no surprise Democrats have sent out this mailer in District 3.

NJ Spotlight News’ Brenda Flanagan asked District 11 Republican Senate candidate Steve Dnistrian his stance on abortion. He wouldn’t give it (or address supporting Donald Trump, for that matter). “I’m going to let my constituents tell me where they stand, because I’m supposed to represent them,” Dnistrian responded.

State Sen. Andrew Zwicker’s (D-16th Dist.) attacks on Republican Mike Pappas have focused partly on saying his opponent opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest — a claim backed up by some Pappas quotes from his congressional campaign in 1996. So I asked Pappas’ campaign about abortion, including whether he still opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest. In a statement, Pappas accused Zwicker of “smoke and mirrors political parlor trick to distract from his failed record and radical policies,” but he didn’t answer the question about his abortion position.

In the wake of the Dobbs decision, abortion rights have proved to be an issue that benefit Democrats — at least in states where abortion rights are in real danger. They’re far more protected in New Jersey, though that’s not to say that Republicans can’t make abortion access more difficult around the edges, as former Gov. Chris Christie did by cutting funding to Planned Parenthood clinics. We’ll see in this election if abortion rights can motivate the Democratic base in a state where they’re pretty safe in the same way that the Republican base appears motivated by the “parents rights” movement.

TIPS? FEEDBACK? Email me at [email protected]. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “May I answer your question? The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous! So absurd!” — Attorney General Merrick Garland to U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew over this memo

POLL OF THE DAY — A CNN poll finds Chris Christie (a statistically insignificant) one point ahead of Ron DeSantiis in New Hampshire

HAPPY BIRTHDAY —  John Fuller, Bruce James, John Celock

WHERE’S MURPHY? No public schedule


A message from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital:

We at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital are deeply disappointed with United Steel Workers 4-200's extreme action to strike. No one benefits from the strike, least of all our nurses. The union should consider the impact it is having on them and their families. Multiple attempts to prevent the strike were rejected, including accepting the union's demands and offering arbitration. RWJUH is already among the highest-staffed hospitals in the state, and our nurses are currently the highest-paid in New Jersey.


THEY SHOULDN'T HAVE TAKEN NJ TRANSIT — New Jersey worries its day in court to block NYC tolls may come too late, by POLITICO's Ry Rivard: Two months after New Jersey sued to block New York from tolling drivers coming into parts of Manhattan, very little has happened in the case. But now, attorneys for Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration worry it's moving so slowly that New York’s final congestion pricing plans will be decided or even in place before New Jersey gets its day in court. While the tolling plan is New York’s, New Jersey’s July lawsuit targets an environmental review conducted by the federal government — so the case pits Murphy’s administration against the Biden administration’s transportation and justice departments. In a recent series of court filings, New Jersey has accused the federal government of dragging its feet.

WHAT LAME DUCK COULD MEAN FOR WILD TURKEY — “Murphy vows to transform N.J. restaurant scene by pushing new booze law after fall elections,” by NJ Advance Media’s Derek Hall: “The lame duck session that begins after the election and ends when the new Legislature takes over in January might be the Democratic governor’s best chance at overhauling the antiquated system — as well as easing restrictions on New Jersey breweries. Murphy has not acted on a brewery bill lawmakers sent him in June, saying he wants bigger changes. … A coalition of New Jersey chefs and restauranteurs have for years fought to reform Prohibition-era policies that restrict the number of liquor licenses towns can issue based on population. The system has unleashed rampant speculation, and liquor licenses are bought and sold in New Jersey for millions.”

A VERY GENEROUS INTERPRETATION OF THE WORD ‘PLAN’ — “Atlantic City airport migrant plan appears dead, officials say,” by The Press of Atlantic City’s Eric Conklin: “A plan to use Atlantic City International Airport to house migrants appears to be dead, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said. Over the past couple of weeks, municipal governing bodies around the county, from both parties, have passed resolutions opposing the plan. Levinson said he believes that bipartisan opposition has led to the plan not moving forward. Since the plan came to light, there has been no new information on the proposal, he said. ‘I’m hoping that it’s a dead issue’” Levinson, a Republican, said Tuesday. ‘It’s the first time that I can remember where we have been unanimous on anything since the referendum for casino gaming in Atlantic City.’”

THE REAL WAY TO HELP CHILDREN IS TO BAN BOOKS — “NJ among top states in generosity of its child tax credit,” by NJ Spotlight News’ John Reitmeyer: “New Jersey’s recently expanded child tax credit now ranks among the nation’s most generous, according to a new report that highlights how such state-level tax policies can help reduce child poverty. A total of 14 states, including New Jersey, offer residents tax credits to help offset the costs of raising children, the report published by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said. First established in 2022, Gov. Phil Murphy and lawmakers agreed earlier this year to double the size of New Jersey’s maximum child tax credit to as much as $1,000 per child under age 6. That makes New Jersey one of only five states with credits of that size or larger, according to a list included in the ITEP report published earlier this month. Indeed, only Colorado ($1,200) and Oregon ($1,138) offer their residents a more generous per child tax credit, or CTC, than New Jersey."


A message from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital:


OPRA’S OFF — “Transparency watchdog fights new rule that keeps disputes over public records a secret,” by New Jersey Monitor’s Dana DiFilippo: “The government agency tasked with deciding whether public agencies have illegally withheld records keeps much of its own records secret under a new rule it adopted last year. Now, one of New Jersey’s leading transparency watchdogs is challenging the Government Records Council in court. Libertarians for Transparent Government wants a judge to strike down the ‘arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable’ regulation that allows the council to conceal the complaints people file when state or local public officials deny their requests for information under the state’s Open Public Records Act. These complaints have been public record since the council formed in 2002, but the regulation change, which took effect in November, now keeps them secret until the council fully resolves a challenge. That process can take years, a notorious, long-time failure that has prompted public criticism and even a state comptroller investigation. Attorney CJ Griffin, who represents the Libertarians in this fight and has represented the New Jersey Monitor in legal matters, suspects the change is the council’s effort to fend off further scrutiny.”

BARAKA ‘TOTAL RECALL’ OPPONENT: GET READY FOR A SURPRISE — “Weighing run for governor, mayor of N.J.’s largest city hosts fundraiser,” by NJ Advance Media’s Steve Strunsky: “Still weighing a bid for governor, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka held his most high-profile fundraiser yet Monday night in the runup to the 2025 Democratic primary. The 6 p.m. gathering … for Unite PAC, Baraka’s political action committee, to promote anti-violence, housing and other public policies he’s implemented as mayor … As he left the forum, Baraka said the fundraiser was not a campaign event and that, despite widespread speculation, he had not decided whether to launch a campaign to succeed fellow Democrat Gov. Phil Murphy. …. If he does decide to run, Baraka said he would do it by January. … The most vocal people around Monday’s fundraiser were a half-dozen demonstrators on the sidewalk outside the performing arts center on Center Street, who used a megaphone to criticize Baraka for what they said was his failure to adequately house the city’s highest-in-the-state homeless population, root out corruption or stem violence. … [Munirah] Bomani is part of a nascent campaign to recall Baraka and all nine members of the City Council. However, the city clerk has yet to issue the ‘Total Recall’ campaign, led by local activist Deborah Salters, petitions for the thousands of signatures required to schedule the recall votes.”

CANCER — “Torrissi announces he’s been fighting cancer for six months; says he’s now cancer free,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Assemblyman Michale Torrissi, Jr. (R-Hammonton) disclosed today that he had been battling cancer since earlier this year and has now beaten the disease. ‘For the past six months, I’ve had surgery and multiple procedures while dealing with cancer,’ Torrissi said. ‘While I am a private individual and have not been very public about my cancer, I am thrilled to share the good news that after my last visit to the doctor, I am officially cancer free.’ Torrissi said that his cancer has forced him to take some time off from the Assembly and from his bid for re-election to a second term in the 8th legislative district."

—“NJ wants 100% new electric car sales by 2035. Can we build enough chargers in time?”

—“Judge censured after ethics complaint”

—Lassiter: “NJ Democrats Stand for Nothing. But Vote for Them Anyway (because the Republicans are Worse)” 

—Opinion: “NJ can't afford the mistake of subsidizing foreign offshore wind developers” 

—Opinion: “Don’t repeat ugly history: We have the room for refugees” 

—Monmouth poll: Politics colors New Jerseyans' views of their home state


A message from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital:

We at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital are deeply disappointed with United Steel Workers 4-200's extreme action to strike. No one benefits from the strike, least of all our nurses. The union should consider the impact it is having on them and their families. Multiple attempts to prevent the strike were rejected, including accepting the union's demands and offering arbitration. RWJUH is already among the highest-staffed hospitals in the state, and our nurses are currently the highest-paid in New Jersey. Our top priority is our patients. We remain steadfast in our commitment to delivering the highest-quality care in the safest environment. We want to reassure our patients, their families, and our community that we continue to care without interruption. We remain fully open and continue to deliver the high-quality care they deserve.


LOWERING THE BARS — “Did Sen. Bob Menendez and wife improperly take gold bars from corrupt bank exec?” by News 4’s Jonathan Dienst and Courney Copenhagen: “Federal prosecutors are looking into whether an admitted felon helped arrange to give gold bars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez or his wife in exchange for help, sources familiar with the matter tell News 4. Investigators want to know if Menendez offered to contact the Justice Department to try to help that man who was accused of banking crimes. Those questions are now before a federal grand jury in Manhattan that is considering whether to hand up corruption charges against the senior senator from New Jersey. … Part of the investigation centers on the senator's ties to Fred Daibes, a New Jersey developer and one-time bank chairman. Officials with the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation want to know if Daibes or his associates gave gold bars to the senator's wife, Nadine Arslanian — gold bars worth as much as $400,000. At the time of the gift handoff, Daibes was facing federal bank fraud charges that could have landed him up to a decade in federal prison. Sources familiar with the matter say federal prosecutors have been asking if Menendez offered to help support Daibes with his criminal case by contacting Justice Department officials about the case. If the senator did offer to act in exchange for expensive gifts, legal experts say that could be a crime.”

NEEDS OXI-KEAN — “The stain of Kean,” by InsiderNJ’s Fred Snowflack: “Last year’s campaign in CD-7 was a bruising rematch between then-Democratic incumbent Tom Malinowski and Republican Thomas H. Kean Jr. One of Kean’s principal campaign themes was that Malinowski was at best careless and at worst, a bit shady, in not promptly reporting stock trades he made in line with House ethics requirements… Now, Democrats are the ones laughing at the news this week that Kean himself has acknowledged not reporting stock trades in a timely manner. There are differences here to be sure. After all, these can be complicated things. Partisan politics, however, tends to gloss over, or even ignore, distinctions that get in the way of the narrative … Kean had no direct control over the fund and reported the problem quickly. Malinowski at the time attributed the problem to those handling his accounts, but there was no trust fund involved. Also, Malinowski’s stock problem was initially reported by the media, not himself.”

—"Altman files formal ethics complaint against Kean over stock trade disclosures"

—Moran: “Congressman Tom Kean spills soup on his tie. Again”

—“Trump foil Liz Cheney to kick off Drew University speaker series with Mayo PAC interview”

—“GOP Senate campaign head says he’s keeping an eye on N.J. in 2024” 


GO INSIDE THE CAPITOL DOME: From the outset, POLITICO has been your eyes and ears on Capitol Hill, providing the most thorough Congress coverage — from political characters and emerging leaders to leadership squabbles and policy nuggets during committee markups and hearings. We're stepping up our game to ensure you’re fully informed on every key detail inside the Capitol Dome, all day, every day. Start your day with Playbook AM, refuel at midday with our Playbook PM halftime report and enrich your evening discussions with Huddle. Plus, stay updated with real-time buzz all day through our brand new Inside Congress Live feature. Learn more and subscribe here.


CAMDEN — “Can Camden, N.J. rise when neighborhoods are ground zero for the opioid epidemic?” by The Courier-Post’s Phaedra Trethan: “Over the last decade, billions of dollars in state and federal money, tax incentives for large corporations and investments in parks, schools and public institutions have poured into the city. … But even as industry returns to Camden, as Subaru of America, American Water, Holtec International and the Philadelphia 76ers make the city their home, some people feel left behind. Residents in some pockets say Camden’s problems remain, pushed into their backyards. They wonder: Can Camden rise when it’s still ground zero for an entire region’s opioid epidemic, when some neighborhoods still acutely feel the impact of decades of disinvestment, mass incarceration and environmental racism that have hollowed out communities like it all over the United States? … Homicides in Camden are down from a high of 67 in 2012 to 13 so far in 2023. ‘That said, the drug trade still very much exists here in the city and throughout the suburbs,” [Dan] Keashen said.’ ‘But where we once had 175 open-air drug markets operating with brazen impunity in Camden, that number has been reduced alongside much of the violence.’”

MULTIPLE MUNICIPAL MADNESS — “Bayshore voters could merge 3 school districts next week. But is the timing bad?” by The Asbury Park Press’ Jerry Carino: “For decades, more than a few folks involved with the fragmented school system in Highlands and Atlantic Highlands have eyed a merger. On Sept. 26, when a special election asks voters in both boroughs to approve or reject such a move, that idea might become reality. Or it might not. … In January 2022, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that dangles incentives for some smaller school districts to merge. … Sea Bright currently sends its few dozen students to the Oceanport school district for elementary school and Shore Regional in West Long Branch for high school. … The law also made it easier for Sea Bright to extricate itself from its arrangement with Shore Regional and Oceanport; instead of requiring permission of the municipalities it seeks to leave, Sea Bright in theory merely needs to pass its own referendum — and referenda of the municipalities it seeks to join … However, Sea Bright’s current receiving districts filed a lawsuit to prevent those students from leaving. The commissioner of education won’t approve Sea Bright’s inclusion in the Atlantic Highlands-Highlands merger while that matter remains tied up in court. So the question now has become: Should Atlantic Highlands and Highlands residents wait for Sea Bright to get green-lit before approving regionalization?”

—“In Dover election, former mayor Dodd readies for debate, eyes return to office” 

—“Former Sayreville Democratic leader charged with bribery could be mulling plea deal” 

—“Homes, apartments and grocery could replace derelict Fort Monmouth housing in Eatontown” 

—“Ex-fire commissioner for N.J. town fined for payments to son’s company” 


Enter the “room where it happens”, where global power players shape policy and politics, with Power Play. POLITICO’s brand-new podcast will host conversations with the leaders and power players shaping the biggest ideas and driving the global conversations, moderated by award-winning journalist Anne McElvoy. Sign up today to be notified of the first episodes in September – click here.


—“On New Jersey, A streaming service exclusively devoted to the Garden State, about to launch”

—“One Bergen resident dies of West Nile, with 8 cases in NJ. When will mosquitoes go away?” 

—“Kean University student stabbed on campus, cops say”

—“Man who locked housekeeper in his Atlantic City hotel room avoids prison”

—“Rutgers basketball player pleads guilty in Iowa gambling investigation: What it means” 


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Democrats launch abortion attacks in earnest


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