We’re hearing plenty about Bridgegate and Governor Christie’s response to it from cable news pundits and late night comedians. MMM thought it would be interesting to hear what our Monmouth County leaders, from both parties, have to say about the controversy and Christie’s response to it at his press conference last Thursday.
Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long, said “No, and I’m angry that some are tossing by name around as if I’m waffling about my endorsement,” when we asked her if she regretted endorsing Christie in light of the Bridgegate scandal. “Bridgegate is terrible, but it does not undue the Sandy recovery. My endorsement was based on the Sandy recovery. Let’s wait and see what happens when all the facts come out. Right now it’s a feeding frenzy.”
Senator Jennifer Becksaid, “The governor has always straight forward me with, and he was forthcoming in his press conference on Thursday. I believe him.”
Monmouth County Republican Chairman John Bennett said, “Governor Christie was open and sincere in his press conference. He said that he will now talk to everyone on his staff himself to get to the bottom of what happened. This issue may have gotten away from him because he departed from his usual practice of doing it all himself.
“Unfettered and overzealous politicos on Christie’s staff went way over the mark. The lane closures were a bad, bad idea that never should have happened.”
Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal hasn’t returned our calls since we debunked his malicious and inaccurate attempted character assassination of a Red Bank Republican Council Candidate last October, so we asked his predecessor, Victor Scudiery, and the man who opposed him in the chairman’s race in 2011, Frank LaRocca to comment.
Former Monmouth Democratic Chairman Victor Scudiery said, “I take Chris Christie’s word for it. We’ll have to play it out and see what happens. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, it’s frightening, but we have to wait and see.”
Reports out of Long Branch are that Frank Pallone was shocked and dismayed that he lost his first election ever last night.
The story is that it took him two hours after the Associated Press called the primary for Cory Booker to show up at McLoone’s Pier House because he was holed up in his office, unable to compose himself. It was only after he heard the media was leaving that he was able to pull himself together and join his own party while Senate nominee Cory Booker was delivering his victory speech on live TV from Newark.
But the big story, and what Pallone should really be upset about, is not that he lost a primary few thought he could win, but that he is now exposed as vulnerable for reelection in the 6th Congressional District. Pallone performed poorly in his Middlesex and Monmouth base.Numbers and graphics from Politico.
Former Monmouth Democratic Chairman Victor Scudiery
Former Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Victor Scudiery is breaking with the organization he lead for over 20 years by endorsing Newark Mayor Cory Booker over Congressman Frank Pallone in the Special Senate Primary on August 13.
“I was born and raised in Newark,” Scudiery told MMM, “I have great admiration for Mayor Booker and what he has accomplished in the city and with their schools. I believe he is the right person to move up to be our next United States Senator.
“Newark is not an easy city to govern, but they’ve made great strides under Mayor Booker. I am proud to support him.”
Scudiery said that the Monmouth County campaign headquarters of the Booker campaign will open on Thursday in the Airport Plaza Shopping Center which he owns.
He was best known for his portrayal of Tony Soprano and his most famous Monmouth County scenes were in Sea Bright and Asbury Park, but James Gandolfini kept working here after the HBO classic ended in 2007.
Gandolfini starred in the independently produced Down the Shore which was shot in Keansburg, Hazlet and Atlantic Highlands in 2008. The film grossed only $4800 when it opened last April.
While shooting in Down the Shore, Gandolfini shopped at IEI, Victor Scudiery’s retail electronics outlet at Airport Plaza in Hazlet. Scudiery tells us that the actor bought a stereo receiver for his trailer. IEI’s staff let Gandolfini be, not bothering him for autographs or pictures, but they excitedly saved the security footage of his purchase.
Since a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Quill v North Dakota) online sales have largely been exempt for state sales taxes. In Quill, SCOTUS ruled that sellers did not have to collect sales taxes unless they had a physical presence in the home state of the buyer.
Consumers in many states, including New Jersey, are required to pay the sales taxes on online purchases themselves. Few do and few states do anything to enforce the tax.
In 1992 online sales were not such a big deal. However 20 years later, America makes $200 billion per year in online retail purchases and states are losing out on $23 billion in sales tax revenue, according to a Washington Post report.
Large “brick and motar” retailers complain that the online exemption creates a pricing disadvantage for them and a cost, as consumers shop for items in their show rooms but then purchase items online at the lower price, often from smart phones while still in the retail show room.
Local retailer Vic Scudiery, owner Hazlet electronics seller IEI and the former Chairman of the Monmouth County Democratic Party, has long held that the state is losing out by not taxing online sales. Scudiery told MMM that IEI’s monthly sales tax paid to New Jersey was over $20 thousand before the majority of its sales shifted from store visits to the Internet. Now, Scudiery says his store generates less than $8000 per month in sales tax for New Jersey while overall revenues continue to grow.
Mega online retailer Amazon had long been opposed to collecting sales taxes, in part because the process of collecting and reporting sales taxes for thousand of jurisdictions is too cumbersome and confusing. But Amazon has abandoned that argument as it has changed its business model. As the company aggressively opening new distribution centers in many states, including New Jersey, to reduce the time and cost of its shipping of consumer products, it is cutting deals with states that would allow it avoid collecting sales tax for a year or two and get state income tax credits if they build and hire. In New Jersey, Amazon will build two huge distribution centers, create 1500 jobs. The company will start collecting New Jersey’s 7% sales tax from Jersey residents in July of next year under a voluntary agreement with the Christie administration.
NetChoice, a trade association lobbyist, who’s members clients include eBay, facebook, Overstock.com and Internet wine sellers, are continuing to fight sales taxes based on the complicated and cumbersome argument.
Bi-partisan federal legislation, The Marketplace Equality Act, would authorize states to collect sales tax from online retailers shipping products into their jurisdictions and require, that if the states choice to impose that tax collection on retailers, that they simplify the process and, in some circumstances, provide software to the sellers that would calculate the appropriate tax.
Republican governors, lead by Gov. Chris Christie, have dropped their long term opposition to taxing online sales and endorsed the Marketplace Equality Act, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Former Monmouth Democratic Chairman Victor Scudiery
Former Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Victor Scudiery told MMM that he thinks his party’s nominees for freeholder and county surrogate should resign their candidacies and let the new Chairman, Vin Gopal, and the Democratic County Committee select new candidates.
The freeholder candidates, former Hazlet Mayor Kevin Lavan and former State Trooper William Shea, along with surrogate nominee Michael Steinhorn, all supported Gopal’s opponent, Marlboro Council President Frank LaRocca, in last month’s Chairman’s race. Gopal won the chairmanship with over 70% of the vote, over 80% excluding Marlboro.
“I don’t know why they did that (took a position in the Chairman’s race),” said Scudiery, “LaRocca must have promised them something. I don’t see how the rank and file supports them now.”
Vin Gopal, Candidate for Monmouth County Democratic Chairman in the upcoming June election, has selected State Committeewoman Mary F. Foster as his running mate. Foster, a lifelong Democrat, is a retired retail and textile executive. In addition to being an appointed State Committeewoman, she is also an active county committeewoman as the District 29 female representative in Middletown, representing the district alongside longtime county Democratic Party Chairman Victor Scudiery, who is the male representative for the district. For the past 12 years, Foster has been an elected member of the Middletown Democratic Party Executive Committee, serving as Corresponding Secretary. In recognition of her lifelong dedication to the Democratic Party, Foster was recently selected as a District Delegate to this year’s Democratic National Convention. She will go to Charlotte this summer to cast her vote in support of the Obama/Biden ticket.
“I am excited to join Vin as his running mate and build on the successes that Vic Scudiery built throughout this county. Nobody can fill Vic’s shoes but together we can build on what he has started,” stated Foster.
“Mary Foster will make an outstanding Vice-Chairwoman. She has worked hard for Democrats here in Middletown and is well-respected throughout the Bayshore. Vin’s commitment in challenging Republicans throughout this county is complimented in his choice of Mary Foster,” stated Middletown Democratic Party Chairman Joe Caliendo and Middletown Democratic Club President Don Watson in a joint statement.
“I am honored that Mary has accepted my offer to run on the ticket with me. Together, with so many Democrats around this county, we will continue to fight to elect Democrats at the municipal, county, state and federal levels,” stated Gopal.
Along with her husband Mike, Mary volunteers at her church. She is also involved in other community organizations.
Former Monmouth County Democratic Chairman John R. Fiorino of Sea Girt, passed away last week after a long illness.
A World War II Navy veteran, Fiorino’s career was in the real estate and insurance industries as owner of the Vans Agency in Matawan.
Fiorino served as Monmouth County Democratic Chairman for 19 years, preceding current Chairman Victor Scudiery. Early in his tenure, during the post-Watergate era, the Democrats won control of the Monmouth County Freeholder Board and held five Monmouth County seats in the State Legislature.
Red Bank Mayor Pat Menna, wrote of Fiorino on facebook, “He was always a loyal friend and passionate Democrat; a successful and respected collegiate county chairman who motivated many of us to continue in public service.”
Senatorial Courtesy, an oft written about unwritten rule of the legislative confirmation process that is in the news in New Jersey due to a battle that Governor Chris Christie is having with the Essex County senate delegation over the confirmation of Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf.
On the federal level, both U.S. senators of a state, or the senior senator of the presidents party, can block the confirmation of a presidential appointee who resides in the state the senators represent.
In New Jersey, a senator can block the confirmation of a gubernatorial appointee who resides in the senator’s home county.
On both the federal level and in New Jersey, the senators don’t need a reason to block the confirmation.
The Democrats who control the New Jersey Senate are apparently stung by Governor Christie’s campaign against senatorial courtesy and the Essex County Democrats that Christie has targeted with criticism. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) has instructed the Office of Legislative Services to restrict access to the data base of who is exercising senatorial courtesy to only the Senate President and top staffers, thereby preventing Republicans from finding out who is blocking the governor’s appointments, according to The Star Ledger.
We don’t hear much about the Monmouth County delegation invoking senatorial courtesy. The last time I can recall it the tradition being discussed publicly regarding a Monmouth County nominee was when Democratic County Chairman Victor Scudiery asked then Republican Senator Joe Palaia to block Luis Valentin’s appointment as prosecutor in 2005. Palaia declined and Valentin was confirmed.
Just because we don’t hear about it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
Marlboro Councilman Frank LaRocca and businessman Vin Gopal, an Assembly candidate from the 11th legislative district last month, are building their alliances and working the phones. LaRocca is the law partner of Marlboro Mayor Jon Hornick. Gopal, a business partner of Scudiery. Hornick, considered a Democratic rising star statewide, is all in for his political and business partner as they seek to build an organization to propel the young mayor into higher office. Scudiery is officially neutral.
During Scudiery’s two decade tenure as chairman he has fought against the state Democratic organization bringing “outsiders” in to fill appointments in the county. Perhaps the most notable example is the Monmouth Prosecutor’s job in 2005. Acting Governor Richard Codey nominated Essex County resident Luis Valentin to succeed Republican John Kaye who had held the job for 21 years. Scudiery objected, wanting the job to go to Monmouth resident Allan Falk. Scudiery asked State Senator Joe Palaia, a Republican, to block Valentin’s appointment via senatorial courtesy. Palaia stayed out of the Democratic family feud, but Trenton Democrats responded by sending U.S. Senator/gubernatorial candidate Jon Corzine and Congressman Frank Pallone to Airport Plaza to demand that Scudiery step down as chairman. He didn’t.
LaRocca and Hornick, “LaHornicca,” are seen to be allied with the Trenton Democratic establishment. They have strong ties to State Democratic Chairman John Wisniewski. Democratic legal powerhouse, DeCotiis, FitzPatrick and Cole, of Teaneck, are the Marlboro borough attorneys.
Gopal, despite having a statewide network of his own, including a close alliance with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, is seen to represent local interests. During his Assembly campaign he expressed a commitment to building a homegrown Democratic organization.
Alliances in the chairman’s race are breaking along similar lines. Middletown Democratic Chair Joe Caliendo is backing Gopal. Caliendo and Howell Democratic Chair Steve Morlino often align their forces, creating an insurmountable voting block. If that alliance stands, Gopal will likely win.
“LaHornicca” has the support of former Red Bank Mayor Ed McKenna, who challenged Scudiery in 2000. McKenna’s law partner, Michael DuPont is also in the “LaHornicca” camp. DuPont is the treasurer of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. DeCotiis is the law firm for the Turnpike Authority.
However, the Red Bank Democrats are split. Ed Zipprich, the municipal chairman and a councilman supports Gopal.
Democratic campaign and media consultants Pat Politano, of Union County, and Jon Evans of Morris County, famous in Monmouth County for running Brian Unger’s Long Branch mayoral campaign in 2010, are supporting “LaHornicca.” Politano is closely aligned with former State Democratic Chairman Joe Cryan, a Union County Assemblyman and Undersheriff, and with Cryan’s running mate, Senator Ray Lesniak.
As hard as Gopal and “LaHornicca” are working on building their alliances with current municipal chairs and committee members, most of the voters may not yet be identified. The entire county committee, of both parties, is up for election in the June 5, 2012 primary. The current Monmouth County Democratic Committee has over 400 vacancies. The team that gets candidates to run for those empty seats could control the Monmouth Democratic Organization through June of 2014.