Senator Bob Menendez, left, and Congressman Frank Pallone, making like chimpmunks at the 2012 Belmar St. Patrick’s parade. Photo credit Charles Measley
First of all, Senator Bob Menendez might not even be indicted. Leaks out of the Justice Department have been notoriously unreliable since Chris Christie resigned as U.S. Attorney in 2008.
If Menendez is indicted, he probably will not resign. In his press conference this evening, the Senator defiantly insisted on the “appropriateness and lawfulness” of his relationship with Dr. Salomon Melgen, the Florida ophthalmologist who is Menendez’s friend and benefactor. He declared that he is not going anywhere.
If, as CNN speculates, Menendez is charged with corruption this month, it could be Halloween before he goes to trial. Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was indicted in January of 2014. His trial didn’t start until late July and didn’t end to early September. Unless Menendez makes a deal to avoid prosecution that includes his resignation, there is not likely to be a Special Election to fill the Senate seat until next year….2016, the year of the next presidential election.
If Chris Christie is still Governor in 2016 and Menendez’s seat becomes vacant, he will get to choose the next Senator and set the date a special election. There could be a mid-year Special Election or the Special Election could be on the same day as the presidential election. There’s no way to know now what is likely to happen.
Still, the prospect of a Senatorial vacancy stirs speculation and the phone lines among both Democrats and Republicans have been burning this afternoon since the news of the possible prosecution broke.
Graphic by Robert Hazelrigg. Click on photo for RobertHazelrigg.com
Prominent New Jersey Republicans seem to finally be moving out of Governor Chris Christie’s shadow.
This afternoon The Star Ledgerreported that Monmouth County State Senator Joe Kyrillos was among the 15 or so New Jersey Republicans who met with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, a top rival of Christie’s for the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination, last week at a dinner hosted by Lawrence E. Bathgate. Bathgate, an Ocean County attorney, is one of the top Republican fundraisers in the nation. Also attending the dinner held at the Union Club in Manhattan was Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr, according to The Record’s Charles Stile, who first reported the event.
Such potential defections from the Christie camp were unthinkable just 15 months ago. Christie’s attempt at ousting Kean as Senate Minority Leader immediately following his 2013 re-election, and the resulting fallout as Kean, Jr’s father, the former Governor, went national in criticizing Christie can explain the younger Kean’s flirtation with the Bush campaign.
But Kyrillos being anything other than solidly in Christie’s corner is big news. Their relationship was personal before it was political. Christie introduced Kyrillos to his wife Susan. He swore Christie into his first elected office, Morris County Freeholder. Kyrillos was the Chairman of the Christie for Governor campaign in 2009.
The political landscape in New Jersey is ripe for a historic shift this November. But a shift in New Jersey’s representation in Washington is not likely to happen because the New Jersey Republican Party is wholly unprepared for the opportunity. The nincompoops who lead the NJGOP gave up on the U.S. Senate race in January. They gave up on picking up seats in the Congressional Delegation in 2012 when the new congressional map was drawn.
According to a Fairleigh Dickinson Univeristy Public Mind Poll released this morning, President Barack Obama’s approval rating among New Jersey registered voters is a dismal 36%. 49%, including 21% of Democrats and 45% of Independents, disapprove of the President’s job performance. Senator Cory Booker is 8 points below the magic number of 50% that an incumbent needs to be comfortable in a reelection race. Those are the kind of numbers any opposition party/candidate would pray for 8 weeks before an election.
TRENTON — State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. has purged his leadership ranks of two men who attempted to oust him last year. Kean (R-Union) announced the Senate Republicans’ leadership team in a press release today. Absent from the list were…
Former Governor Tom Kean, Sr dealt a body blow to his former protégé today in an interview published by The Washington Post.
Governor Chris Christie and former Governor Tom Kean Sr celebrate the first annual Livingston Day, April 11, 2013. Photo by Tim Larsen/Governor’s Office
“On the one hand, I think he’s got a lot to offer. I think he’s the most able politician since Bill Clinton,” Kean (R) said in an interview with The Washington Post. “On the other hand, you look at these other qualities and ask, do you really want that in your president?”
Kean’s comments come as the current governor is beset by controversy over revelations that officials loyal to Christie engineered closure of part of the George Washington Bridge in September, inconveniencing tens of thousands of state residents in an apparent act of vindictiveness against a local mayor.
There is no evidence that Christie knew of the actions of his subordinates and appointees, some of whom he has since fired. But Kean — who has known Christie since the current governor was a teenager — faulted Christie for establishing a culture in his tight inner circle in which no one “will ever say no to him, and that is dangerous.”
He also said that Christie’s approach to governing is overly aggressive and his agenda is personal.
In a press conference last month, Christie said he had not talked to Kean Sr since the attempt to oust Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr from his leadership post. Kean Sr has characterized Christie’s ill-fated attempt to replace Kean Jr with State Senator Kevin O’Toole as a personal betrayal.
Happy New Year MMM readers! 2014 has been a great year so far!
Here’s what we expect in the year ahead.
Senator Cory Booker will narrowly defeat Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick in the U.S. Senate election. Bramnick will be the instant front runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the 2016 special election.
Marlboro Mayor Jonathan Hornik will be a speaker at numerous Democratic Clubs throughout New Jersey and will establish himself as a major fundraiser for Democratic candidates on the municipal and county levels. Hornik will proclaim that the only thing he is running for is reelection as Marlboro’s mayor in 2015.
The 11 incumbent New Jersey Congressmen running for reelection will win. The Republican nominee in the third congressional district seat currently held by Congressman Jon Runyon, who is not seeking a third term, will be elected. Tommy DeSeno will write a column complaining about gerrymandered districts.
Senate President Steve Sweeney will keep picking on Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr.
Governor Chris Christie will have more public appearances in Iowa, South Carolina, Texas and Florida, combined, than he will have Town Hall Meetings in New Jersey.
Anna Little will seek the Republican nomination for Congress in the 6th district, hoping for a third shot at Congressman Frank Pallone. Little will lose at the Monmouth and Middlesex nominating conventions and wage a primary. The Bayshore Tea Party Group will sit out the 6th district primary, citing their commitment to Dr. Alieta Eck’s campaign in the 12th district. Eck will be unopposed for the 12th district nomination to take on Congressman Rush Holt.
Congressman Frank J. Pallone, Jr. Since losing the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate to Cory Booker in a special primary, New Jersey’s longest serving Democratic Member of Congress has gone off the rails with bizarre rants is defense of ObamaCare. As the healthcare plan proves to be increasingly unworkable and unpopular, Pallone’s credibility will tank.
Pallone’s once formidable campaign war chest of roughly $4 million is down to $1.2 million after the special primary, as of the September 30th FEC reports. That $1.2 million is not as high as it might seem, as the congressman historically burns through about $1 million per year in “campaign” expenses during years when he doesn’t have to face the voters. Given that his seat is considered “safe,” he’ll have a tough time competing for campaign dollars with candidates who are in districts considered “competitive.”
There is a talk of an Asian-American from Middlesex County who is willing to spend $1 million of his own money to unseat Pallone. It will take a guy like that to exploit Pallone’s obvious vulnerability.
Tom Kean Jr. Kean overplayed the best hand dealt to New Jersey Republicans since Jim Florio’s toilet paper tax, Chris Christie’s overwhelming popularity, and lost. He picked a fight with Senate President Steve Sweeney and thought he knew better than Christie’s strategists how the Republican legislative campaign should be waged. His only winning option was to defeat Sweeney’s reelection bid and pick up at least another two state Senate seats. He failed on all counts, not winning even one Senate seat.
It was Christmas season, a light snow covered the ground, and all across New Jersey children were mailing letters to Santa Claus swearing they had been good. But in the state Senate, a political brawl was breaking out, one that guarantees the New Year…
It’s not that Booker is invincible, as was widely thought prior to the Special Senate Election last October. He is beatable. Steve Lonegan exposed the fallacies of the Booker myth and Patrick Murray documented that Booker’s support is shallow. Had Washington Republicans not followed Senator Ted Cruz’s lead to shut down the government in October and had State Comptroller Matt Boxer released his audit of Newark’s City Government which exposed millions of wasted taxpayer money and management practices that encourage fraud in September instead of this week, Lonegan might have pulled off the upset that Booker deserved.
There’s nothing wrong with 4 of the 5 Republicans reported to be looking to challenge Booker. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, Senator Minority Leader Tom Kean JR, Senator Mike Doherty or Assemblyman Jay Webber would all serve New Jersey well in the U.S. Senate.
That Darryl Isherwood included Assemblyman Chris Brown is his list of 5 Republican of potential candidates to challenge Booker is more of a reflection of Isherwood’s sense of humor than it is of Brown’s viability as a candidate for any office in the future. After blaming his Assembly running mate John Amodeo’s 39 vote loss on Governor Christie, Brown will be lottery winner lucky if he is even re-nominated for his Assembly seat in 2015. “What will Brown do after politics?” MMM asked a senior Republican strategist after the gaffe. “We’ll find out soon,” the strategist said with a laugh.
(Correction: As a commenter pointed out, Isherwood was referring to a different Assemblyman Chris Brown (the LD 8 Brown) than the one who blamed Christie for his running mate’s loss. My mistake makes my overall point. MMM readers are more informed than the average voter. How many knew there was even one Chris Brown in the Assembly prior to the LD 2 Brown’s gaffe? There isn’t a member of the legislature with the statewide name ID to compete with Booker~ Art)
With Election Day behind us and the end of the year approaching, there is still one political question that has yet to be answered: Who will challenge Sen. Cory Booker in next year’s Senate contest? So far, no challenger has emerged, though several…