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Tammy Murphy wins a convention

Tammy Murphy Wins A Convention
Presented by Alibaba: Matt Friedman's must-read briefing on the Garden State's important news of the day
Mar 05, 2024 View in browser

By Matt Friedman

Presented by

Good Tuesday morning!

The Tammy Murphy campaign lives. Murphy’s status in the race a matter of weeks went from heavy favorite to “will she make it to June?” after Andy Kim racked up win after win in county conventions where all committee members got a vote.

Bergen’s convention was the first secret ballot vote of a convention with widespread participation that Murphy won. And she won with about 64 percent, which is significant because anything below 60 percent probably would have been seen as a weak win.

Granted, Murphy had some things going for her from the onset. One was Chair Paul Juliano’s support. Juliano has a $280,000 job at the NJSEA thanks to Gov. Phil Murphy. And as New Jersey Globe’s Joey Fox recently pointed out, the Bergen County Democratic Organization includes a “massive patronage operation” more reminiscent of the counties where the line has been delivered to Murphy based mostly on one person’s support.

Still, Murphy won this one, and with it the line in New Jersey’s most populous county, which is always at or near the top of Democratic primary vote-producing counties. So it’s important for her both symbolically and practically. She needed this a lot more than Kim did. But I think this victory means she’ll probably be in the race until June 4, and that this fight between the Democratic establishment and its activist base will be to the finish.

I think Kim has the upper hand because he has so much enthusiasm behind him. The line is a powerful tool, but not all-powerful. And Senate candidates can’t be banished to the same kind of ballot Siberia where some non-machine Camden council candidates were last seen breaking rocks in the gulag.

Read more about the convention fight from Daniel Han and Katherine Dailey here.

TIPS? FEEDBACK? Email me at [email protected]

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The New Jersey Defendant, the jeweler, and the testing company owner are all alleged beneficiaries of the bribery scheme. The fact that beneficiaries of an alleged scheme denied their involvement or knowledge after the fact when questioned by a government agent is not sufficient to overcome the significant contemporaneous evidence.” — U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein in ruling against Sen. Bob Menendez’s claim that search warrants for his home were improperly obtained.

WHERE’S MURPHY? — In New Brunswick for an 11 a.m. speech at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey

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ONE THING HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE OTHER — Union County nixes Norcross company amid feud with Scutari, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: Months after a feud between Senate President Nick Scutari and South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross spilled into public, an obscure insurance fund in Scutari’s home county ditched a Norcross-affiliated company. The Union County Insurance Fund Commission in January changed the company that effectively runs the agency from PERMA Risk Management Services — a division of Norcross’ insurance brokerage, Conner Strong & Buckelew — to Acrisure, a firm with other political connections. According to a board resolution, Acrisure will do the job for $148,500, versus the $169,682 PERMA made in 2023. … The change came after Scutari and Norcross fought bitterly over the funding of Democratic state Senate campaigns in South Jersey. A tense phone call between the two men last March over campaign money led to Norcross telling Scutari to “go fuck yourself" and calling him a traitor.

MURPHY BREAKS TAX PROMISE, WILL RENAME IT TRANSPORTATION MISTRUST FUND — Gas tax hike in the works to renew Transportation Trust Fund, by POLITICO’s Ry Rivard:  New Jersey’s gasoline tax would go up by nearly two cents in each of the next five years under a deal being crafted by Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration and Democratic lawmakers. A bill to increase the tax and shore up the state’s Transportation Trust Fund — which supports $2 billion a year in road and transit construction — is expected to be introduced this week and get its first hearing on Thursday in the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee. The new money helps the state keep roads, bridges and rail infrastructure in good repair while keeping pace with inflation and funding major new projects. State transportation officials and the construction industry, including labor unions, have been waiting for such a bill to boost infrastructure spending.

THE GRAVY TRAIN STATION — “N.J. was once heralded for its tough pay-to-play laws. Not anymore,” by NJ Advance Media’s Riley Yates and Brent Johnson: “Public contractors poured $1.6 million into New Jersey’s political parties in the last election, after lawmakers last year weakened the state’s pay-to-play prohibitions through a controversial campaign finance law. For years, those contributions were restricted in New Jersey to prevent political parties from steering public work to companies in exchange for campaign cash that helped elect their candidates. But with that spigot reopened, contractors cut checks of as much as $50,000 last year to state, county and local political parties, campaign finance disclosures show …

Public contractors poured $1.6 million into New Jersey’s political parties in the last election, after lawmakers last year weakened the state’s pay-to-play prohibitions through a controversial campaign finance law. For years, those contributions were restricted in New Jersey to prevent political parties from steering public work to companies in exchange for campaign cash that helped elect their candidates. But with that spigot reopened, contractors cut checks of as much as $50,000 last year to state, county and local political parties, campaign finance disclosures show.”


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IT AIN’T EV — “Murphy’s mixed message on EVs: Pump up incentives, pull plug on sales tax exemptions,” by NJ Spotlight News’ Tom Johnson: “Gov. Phil Murphy wants to pump an additional $20 million into a popular program to give drivers a financial incentive to buy electric vehicles. But at the same time he wants to phase out a sales tax exemption that saves those consumers thousands of dollars when buying zero-emission vehicle. If the governor’s proposal is adopted by the Legislature, the pot of money available to hand out subsidies would swell to $50 million, enough to step up the transition to a cleaner transportation system, advocates attest. Buyers of electric vehicles can get up to $4,000 under the program. But the enthusiasm for the proposal is tempered by another move Murphy included in next year’s fiscal spending plan. He wants to phase out a sales tax exemption for zero-emission vehicles, a powerful tool used by new-car dealers to close sales of EVs to potential buyers.”

SO WATERED DOWN IT’S PRODUCING HYDROELECTRIC POWER — “New Jersey waters down proposed referendum on new fossil fuel power plant ban,” by The AP’s Wayne Parry: “New Jersey lawmakers wanted to ask voters whether to ban new fossil fuel-fired power plants. And then they added a loophole big enough to drive a fleet of oil trucks through. A state Senate committee on Monday advanced a bill that would authorize a public referendum on amending the state’s Constitution to ban construction of new power plants that burn natural gas or other fossil fuels. But the measure was changed to allow the construction of such plants if they are to be primarily used as emergency backup power sources.”

THROW YOUR SCHEDULES IN THE AIR AND WAVE ‘EM AROUND LIKE YOU JUST DON’T CARE  — “NJ Transit says it needs $917 million, but riders say poor service doesn’t warrant paying more per ride,” by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Thomas Fitzgerald: “A plan to increase fares 15% on July 1 and then by 3% each following year got its first public airing Monday at the Cherry Hill Library before about 45 people, the first of 10 hearings required by law before the NJ Transit board can adopt the new fare rates. … James Thornton, of Salem County, said he commutes to and from work in Philadelphia by catching NJ Transit’s Atlantic City Line train. Sometimes, he said, the last train back from 30th Street Station is canceled, and a substitute bus doesn’t show. ‘It leaves riders with the impression NJ Transit just doesn’t care,’ Thornton said.”

—“Weigh in on NJ Transit 15% fare hike, looming deficits, corporate tax at public hearings

—“New Jersey launches digital medical marijuana cards with no registration or renewal fees” 

—“Gov. Murphy slams N.Y.C. $15 congestion pricing toll while offering to meet with N.Y. state leaders” 

—“At first fare hike hearing, NJ Transit urged to take new tack” 

—“Bill would prohibit payment to ballot messengers and bearers” 

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WHAT ABOUT BOB? — “Judge rejects Sen. Bob Menendez’s claims that search warrants in bribery case were unconstitutional,” by The AP’s Larry Neumeister: “A federal judge on Monday rejected U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s claims that search warrants that led to corruption charges and the discovery of gold bars and cash at his New Jersey home were unconstitutional. Judge Sidney H. Stein ruled Monday that multiple warrants used to conduct 2022 searches of the Democrat’s email accounts and his home were properly sought and carried out. The senator’s lawyers had claimed the warrants were ‘riddled with material misrepresentation and omissions that deceived the authorizing magistrate judge.’ Stein said any omissions in the warrants were not intentional or material and a hearing was not necessary to explore the claims further.”

EVERYBODY WANTS TO KHAIRULL THE WORLD — Pascrell faces primary challenge from Prospect Park mayor who was disinvited from White House, by POLITICO’s Daniel Han: Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah, who gained national attention last year after being disinvited from a White House event for a Muslim holiday, confirmed on Monday that he plans to challenge longtime Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell in the June primary. “That is the case,” Khairullah said in a brief phone interview when asked if he would run against Pacrell. He declined to discuss it further, saying he was waiting until his official announcement … Pascrell, whose 9th Congressional District includes one of the largest Palestinian American populations in the U.S. but also has a large Jewish constituency, has been widely viewed as vulnerable to a primary challenge for months because of his pro-Israel position after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks … Khairullah enters the race as the underdog. Pascrell has the support of Democratic party leaders in his district's counties of Bergen, Passaic and Hudson, giving him the favorable ballot position known as the county line.

ZDUI — “Zdan had DUI in 2020,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “U.S. Senate candidate Alex Zdan has self-disclosed that he was stopped for driving under the influence of alcohol four years ago as his campaign for Bob Menendez’s U.S. Senate seat begins to pick up steam. ‘I wanted you to hear this from me: I have a DUI on my driving record. I wanted to disclose this information as we head into screening committees in Bergen, Somerset, and Gloucester Counties,’ Zdan said. ‘On a night in 2020, I behaved wrongly and irresponsibly during a time of personal stress and amid the social isolation of the pandemic. I thank God I did not hurt anyone – or myself in this incident. I was arrested and released of my own recognizance shortly after.’ Records show that Zdan was stopped in Hopewell shortly before 11 PM on August 24, 2020. ‘I pleaded guilty, was given a suspended sentence, paid fines and surcharges, and completed the terms of my agreement without incident,’ he said.”

— “Some questions and answers on the N.J. lines lawsuit” 

—“Lawsuit to change primary ballot could force mistakes, Atlantic County clerk says” 

States can’t kick Trump off ballot, Supreme Court says


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BARBA O RLY? — “Barba drops bid for Bergen County Commissioner, leaving a 21-year-old and a 19-year-old as GOP contenders,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “Linda Barba has dropped out of the race for Bergen County Commissioner, leaving two young Republicans with a combined age of 40 to take on four-term Democratic incumbents Tracy Silna Zur and Steven Tanelli. The two Republicans, Michael Joseph, 21, and David Plotkin, 19, are now unopposed at tonight’s Bergen County Republican Policy Committee meeting and at the party convention on March 19. ‘I have found the lack of support, communication, and transparency from BCRO Chairman Jack Zisa too much to overcome, even at this stage of the process,’ said Barba. Barba said she read about the withdrawal of another candidate, Thomas Toscano, Jr., in the New Jersey Globe this morning, objecting to not being told by Zisa. She also cited the inexperience of the other candidates.”

DOING WHAT CHER COULDN’T — “Fair Lawn council will turn back time with 1920s reenactment,” by The Record’s Stephanie Noda: “Fair Lawn will step back into the Roaring '20s this week to celebrate the founding of the borough a century ago. And it'll do it in style. Tuesday night's council meeting will celebrate the borough's incorporation on March 6, 1924, with a reenactment of Fair Lawn's first council session, complete with local officials and audience members in period costume … State Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, a former mayor who is acting as co-chair of the Fair Lawn 100th Celebration Committee, said participants will dress in clothing from the 1920s to match the atmosphere of that first session. … After the reenactment is over, residents are invited to a dessert reception at the Fair Lawn Athletic Club, across the street from borough hall.”


On the ground in Albany. Get critical policy news and analysis inside New York State. Track how power brokers are driving change across legislation and budget and impacting lobbying efforts. Learn more.


RUINING THE CHARACTER OF THE VACANT DEPARTMENT STORE — “Westfield's $440 million downtown redevelopment plan survives court challenge,” by MyCentralJersey’s Mike Deak: “One Westfield Place, the ambitious downtown redevelopment plan involving the vacant Lord & Taylor and the train station, has survived a legal challenge. A suit brought by Westfield Advocates for Responsible Development to block the project has been dismissed by Union County Superior Court Judge Daniel R. Lindemann. It's the second courtroom loss for the citizens group fighting redevelopment projects in Westfield. In December, Union County Superior Court Judge Lisa Miralles Walsh ruled against the group's challenge of the approval of The Sophia redevelopment project on Prospect Street and Ferris Avenue.”

THE PURGES HAVE BEGUN — “Two Candidates for Mayor, A Slew of Independents and Some Slate Confusion,” by Montclair Local’s Liz George: “It’s official: 15 Montclair residents are running in Montclair’s Municipal Election. Two of those residents, Dr. Renee Baskerville and Christina Thomas, want to be the next mayor of Montclair. Baskerville, who lost her bid for mayor in 2020 in an incredibly close race, spoke to many candidates as potential running mates over the last few weeks. Some candidates, up until Thursday, the last day to hand in petitions, thought they were running on a team with Baskerville. One of those candidates was Bob Russo, a former Montclair mayor who has been serving as councilor at large for 12 years. Russo submitted a form at the municipal clerk’s office on Thursday afternoon just before 3 p.m. listing members of the ‘Montclair Good Government Team.’ On that form, Russo listed Baskerville, along with Carmel Loughman, Ilmar Vanderer, Roddy Moore, Aminah Toler and Shivaun Gaines. Later on Thursday afternoon, Baskerville submitted a form to run with a different team, “Together Montclair.” That team did not include Russo.”

—“Ocean County commissioners to cut tax rate by 2 cents, even as taxation jumps by $27.2M” 

—“Seaside Heights school could stay open five more years under sweetened Toms River deal” 

—“Vineland says Trout National plan is par-fect, project full ahead” 

—“Ceasefire movement gains momentum with local governments in Hudson County” 

—“Newark Public Schools to get electric school buses through federal grant of nearly $3 million” 

—Bhalla: “Protect the future of Liberty State Park, free from large-scale development” 


—“Jordan Peterson whines over ‘Woke’ report on drop in traffic deaths” 


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Tammy Murphy wins a convention