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Who Will Face Gottheimer? – Insider NJ



The contest for CD-5 is going to result in a conservative congressman, regardless of the outcome.  If incumbent Democrat Josh Gottheimer, captaining a multi-million dollar campaign warchest, is returned to office, the congressman frequently bashed by CD-5 based progressive groups as being a Republican-in-all-but-name (he isn’t) will serve another two years.  Following re-districting, the new CD-5 will have more of a Bergen County orientation, although there is still plenty of territory in Passaic and Sussex Counties to be represented.  This change may require a slight ideological shift left for Gottheimer, but the congressman who prides himself on being a bipartisan champion, should remain, for the most part, a case of what you see is what you get.

Love him or hate him, there are no surprises when it comes to Gottheimer.  He won’t be aligning himself with “The Squad” and he’s not a “Bernie Bro” but that doesn’t mean the CD-5 Republicans won’t throw everything they have at him.

The question is, which of the Republicans will be the one to do it?

They say to win the Republican nomination, you lean to the right; to win the election, you lean to the left.  In the purple region of north-east New Jersey, that is certainly a truism.  Looking at CD-5’s Republican primary candidates, they seem to be swaying together in almost perfect synch.  Nick De Gregorio, a former marine who saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the Bergen County Republican Organization’s favorite.  The Fair Lawn father-of-two is running against Frank Pallotta, a businessman and banking executive whose resume includes Phil Murphy-familiar turf such as Goldman Sachs, but also Morgan Stanley.  He has also founded financial firms of his own, including one which focuses on Canadian residential assets.

Also in the race is Sab Skenderi, a libertarian Republican from Wyckoff, Gottheimer’s hometown.  Skenderi was a Ron Paul delegate when the former congressman made his last bid for the presidency a decade ago.

Fred Schneiderman, who earlier said he was undaunted by his poor showing with the BCRO, cited family matters and dropped out of the race.

Pallotta tried to unseat Gottheimer in 2020, besting John McCann in the primary and coming up 45% to Gottheimer’s 53% in the general.  Bergen County establishment support for Pallotta fizzled out in the years since.  De Gregorio swamped Pallotta in the BCRO vote for the line, taking 69% to go up against Gottheimer.  Passaic County, however, went for Pallotta.

The exchange between Pallotta and De Gregorio turned sour.  The latter accused the former of denigrating his military service in saying that Pallotta was better qualified for the job.  Pallotta countered, saying he did not mean any disrespect to De Gregorio’s military background, but that his background in finance made him the better choice for handling CD-5’s economic challenges.

By their own words, from policy perspectives, De Gregorio and Pallotta seem very similar.  The Englewood Cliffs debate, (which did not include Skenderi, a candidate who most likely would’ve shown some interesting deviations from Republican Standard) demonstrated that they both essentially agreed with President Biden’s commitment to stand by Taiwan, but took swipes at Biden anyway.  They both agree with the idea of concealed carry and their interpretation of the 2nd Amendment.  Both believe that parents should have input on what kind of potentially controversial gender-identity material is taught in classrooms, although that is a state issue and they are running for a federal office.

Pallotta touted his NJ Right to Life endorsement and posited himself as the ultimate pro-life choice between the two, but De Gregorio is on the same page, saying he would support a bill to ban third trimester abortion, and require parental notification if a minor is to have an abortion.

On border security and immigration, they seem to be in lockstep; likewise in support of SALT deductions, using the tried-and-true Republican talking points of high taxation and how expensive New Jersey is to live in.  Few people can argue that.

All in all, there does not appear to be all that much daylight between the two candidates as far as policy goes.

Pallotta, who calls himself an outsider and a reformer, although his financial background shares some similarities with former Governor Corzine and Governor Phil Murphy, has put himself forward as the guy with the best resume to take over Josh Gottheimer’s job.  He claims he has the business expertise to address CD-5’s biggest issues, which he says are fiscal ones—Clinton strategist James Carville said it crudely but accurately in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  Pallotta also has tried to make lemonade from 2020 electoral lemons, asserting that he has traveled around the district and is campaigning on behalf of the whole, while trying to frame De Gregorio as having his focus just on Bergen County.

De Gregorio, younger than Pallotta, is new to politics and is a politically fresh clean slate.  By touting his experience as a Marine Corps officer, he says that he is the man best equipped for the task.  He also characterized himself as a suburban everyman, concerned for the well-being of his family and those of other families with young kids.

Looking at the numbers, according to the FEC as of March 31, De Gregorio had $454,466 cash on hand to Pallotta’s $83,216.  Gottheimer had $13,071,464 to put to use.  De Gregorio assailed Gottheimer, saying that he is afraid, and has been interfering with the Republican Primary on behalf of his 2020 rival, Pallotta.  Pallotta denies this and says, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Gottheimer is actually afraid of him, and trying to erode at his base of support.

So, in essence, De Gregorio and Pallotta seem to agree more than they disagree on the issues, so Republican voters should be reasonably content with whomever the winner is.  Each candidate also agreed to support the Republican nominee as well, echoing one another in saying that defeating Gottheimer was more important than their own victory.  Bold rhetoric, indeed, but perhaps comforting for CD-5’s casual GOP rank and file.  Where they do disagree appears to be on themselves: specifically, matters of qualification and experience.  They also seem to disagree as to whom Gottheimer is more worried about, but that is a given.  Ultimately, the voters will determine whether Gottheimer goes for a second round against his banking executive rival, or head to head with the combat veteran determined to carry the flag forward and victoriously plant it on election day.

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Senate Dems Ram Budget out of Committee Without Transparency



The state Senate Budget Committee passed a $50.6 billion budget Monday night, which features an additional heavy infusion of federal funds ($24 billion); and includes $2 billion in property tax relief, $4.2 billion toward the debt avoidance, $6 billion in surplus, and many last-minute line items totaling billions.

“It’s a significant investment of one-time unprecedented federal dollars,” said state Senator Paul  Sarlo (D-36), chair of the budget committee.

Republicans didn’t like the bill, and to a person, voted against moving it out of committee, which the democrats control.

“There are 200 line items that we’re going to go through,” said state Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13). “We’ve only had this document for under 20 minutes. We would give back a lot more of this money. In reality, the ANCHOR program is not substantial.”

The GOP senator from Monmouth County highlighted the lack of transparency in the process around a proposed $5 billion in special projects funding.

“There was no competitive nature to this,” O’Scanlon complained.

“When you think about the number of opportunities that were missed in this budget,” added senate Minority Leader Steve Oroho (R-24), who lamented what he described as the structural groundwork for what he anticipates will be the largest tax hike in state history.

The Republican leader praised Sarlo for navigating complicated issues in the budget, however, “It’s something that is the full legislature’s responsibility.”

“The legislature was kept out of the process for the better part of two years,” said state Senator Mike Testa (R-1).

“Our citizens are hurting out there right now,” added state Senator Sam Thompson (R-12), moments before joining his Republican colleagues in expressing a “no” vote. “There’s so much more we could have done. We really haven’t seen the budget.”

State Senate President Nick Scutari (D-22).


On the other side of the Statehouse, the Assembly Budget Committee likewise passed the budget bill along party lines, with Republicans opposing.

Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) issued a statement:

“I am pleased with the work of the Budget Committee led by Chairwoman [Eliana] Pintor Marin today. We have advanced a budget bill that will deliver for the working and middle-class people and families of our state.

“Our planned investments build meaningfully on the Governor’s proposal and months of public input to support New Jersey communities now and into the future. Representing a steadfast commitment to fiscal responsibility and answering the call for greater affordability with historic tax relief, I will be proud to put this bill up for a vote in the Assembly.

“I thank the Governor and Senate President for their partnership and equal commitment to producing a strong and fair budget that speaks to what New Jerseyans need and value.”

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Post – Roe v. Wade reversal: While GOP will capture control of the US House of Representatives, Democrats will retain control of the US Senate



In the spring of 1992, James Carville, then the political strategist for the ultimately successful presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, hung a sign in his office, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  The message:  The state of the economy is the most significant and decisive issue in a federal presidential campaign.  The ultimately victorious Clinton campaign would focus almost exclusively on the recessionary state of the Bush 41 economy.

Three years later, America’s leading political demographer, the late Ben Wattenberg, would author a book, Values Matter Most.  This classic on American politics vigorously disputed the Carville thesis that the Bush recession enabled Clinton to prevail in Campaign 1992.   Instead, Wattenberg attributed the Clinton 1992 victory to four values issues that attracted the support of Reagan Democrats, namely, crime, education, welfare, and affirmative action.

Since the publication of Values Matter Most, political professionals have intensely debated the question of whether economic or values issues are the more determinative of election outcomes.  The election of 2022 is likely to signify a split verdict in this debate.

The major economic issue in the 2022 federal campaign is the devastating inflation.  The electorate blames President Joe Biden and the Democrats for the inflation, although somewhat unfairly, in my view.

Perception becomes reality, however.   The issue of inflation will enable the Republicans to capture control of the US House of Representatives from the Democrats.

Yet during the last week, a values issue has emerged that is at least likely to be equally determinative of the 2022 federal elections as the economic issue of inflation.  That issue is the US Supreme Court, specifically their rulings of the past week on abortion choice (reversal of Roe v. Wade) and guns (declaring unconstitutional the New York statute limiting the carrying of guns in public).

These rulings are directly contrary to the values of the vast majority of the American electorate.  A Gallup poll taken before these two decisions reported confidence in the Supreme Court to be at a new 50-year low.

The electorate overwhelmingly will blame Republican presidents, particularly Trump, for appointing these justices and the Republican Party, whose Senators voted to confirm them.  To the vast majority of the American electorate, these decisions on guns and abortion choice are repulsive to their basic values.

And while American voters will elect a Republican House of Representatives because of the economic issue of inflation, they will simultaneously vote for a Democratic US Senate because of the values issue, the reactionary Supreme Court.

Now ultra-partisan Republican journalists and media personalities will contend that abortion has not been a voting issue in the past and is not likely to be in this election.  If the elimination of reproductive freedom in the past was not then a voting issue, it was because pro-choice voters never took seriously the possibility that Roe v. Wade could be reversed by a Republican appointed and confirmed Supreme Court.  Now that leading Republicans like former Vice President Mike Pence are calling for a Congressionally-enacted national ban on abortion, the prospect of an end of reproductive freedom in America is truly the Republican elephant in the room.

The elimination of reproductive freedom in America is now likely to be a top-tier issue in elections for years to come.  The possibility of this issue doing significant harm to the outlook for GOP candidates this November is being recognized privately by none other than Donald Trump himself, the man who made this situation a reality.

Yet the most compelling evidence for the likelihood of Democratic retention of US Senate control can be found by an examination of the electoral political math.

The Democrats and Republicans each have 50 US Senators.  The Democrats have control of the US Senate by virtue of the tie breaker, Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris.

In the forthcoming November elections, it is becoming most likely that Democrats will capture two seats currently held by Republicans: 1) the seat currently held by departing  Republican Senator Pat Toomey, with Democratic Candidate John Fetterman holding a lead over Republican Mehmet Oz in virtually all published polls ; and 2) Wisconsin incumbent Senator Ron Johnson, whose diminishing reelection chances were further damaged by allegations raised during the House Committee on January 6 that his chief of staff was complicit in the “fake elector” conspiracy.

The capture of these two seats by the Democrats would require the Republicans to wrest from the Democrats three seats in order to achieve Senate control.  There are only three vulnerable Democratic senators (Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona), and it is very unlikely that the Republicans will be able win all three of these seats.

In Georgia, former Georgia  football star Republican Herschel Walker appears to have a slight edge over incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, Jr., but in Nevada, incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has the advantage over Republican challenger Adam Laxalt. And in Arizona, incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly has a lead over all prospective challengers is only considered vulnerable by virtue of the GOP registration advantage and the fact that they held the seat for so many years.

So the outlook is improving daily for the Democrats to retain US Senate control.  That will be very good news for Joe Biden regarding his ability to gain Senate confirmation of his appointees.  If he had a choice for the Democrats to only control one house of Congress, the Senate doubtless would be his selection.

Alan J. Steinberg served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

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Countdown To July 1st: Insider NJ’s Budget Special Edition (PDF)



The final train wreckage of time will likely not reveal a New Jersey budget as that single offending piece of timber on the tracks. The self-sustaining culture of government, wherein elected officials who simultaneously hold public jobs ratify spending for the rest of us, will probably emerge in the aftermath of a full investigation – if there’s anyone left at that point to investigate – as at least a major culprit.

But according to Governor Phil Murphy, Democrats in Trenton are doing their level best to avert total disaster or to at least assist taxpayers beset by bills on average totaling $9,300 annually. In an ad released by his Stronger Fairer Forward PAC, the governor – standing in a Norman Rockwell neighborhood – gushes, “That [American] dream is out of reach for too many. That’s why we’re cutting taxes and making New Jersey more affordable.”

Making New Jersey more affordable.

It would be hard to find someone who actually believes that statement, even as Murphy, ever the effervescent Wall Street salesman, this week heads toward voting sessions in both the state Assembly and Senate, certain of lawmakers in his party passing the $48.9 billion behemoth that is this year’s state budget.

A strictly partisan divide has Democrats making a case that Murphy’s budget (the first on his watch without political foe Senate President Steve Sweeney obstructing him; more on that in a minute) imperfectly but adequately balances making the public payroll, setting aside some surplus cash, and giving individual lawmakers a chance to champion different special projects in their respective districts.

According to John Reitmeyer of NJ Spotlight: “Lawmakers last year tacked on $1.6 billion in new spending eight days before the state’s July 1 deadline for a new budget, with millions of that going to pet projects and other add-ons that are often referred to in the State House as ‘Christmas-tree items,’ a phrase that invokes the image of state largesse as a bounty of cheerful holiday gifts….

Download Insider NJ’s Budget Special Edition or view it below:

Budget Special Edition

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