A 2020 InsiderNJ Political Primer

Congressman Josh Gottheimer voiced his support of Governor Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s lawsuit against the IRS and US Treasury Department following the the gutted State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction.

The new InsiderNJ year beckons and with it, a slew of tantalizing political stories. It’s common for some to make predictions, but rather than do that, let’s just identify some of the more intriguing questions for 2020 and let readers ruminate on them.

So, in no particular order let’s begin setting up some issues:

Congressional District 7 – One may be tempted to ask, will the name of Tom Kean and his extensive political lineage propel him to victory over freshman Democrat Tom Malinowski?  But before we get there, let’s wonder about how competitive the primary is going to be.

Rosemary Becchi, who is challenging Kean, is more ideologically conservative than the senator, which is a good thing in a GOP primary. But don’t tell any of this to Bill Palatucci who a few months ago expressed great annoyance that some Republicans were – perish the thought – donating to Becchi.

Congressional District 2 – Things are suddenly wide open here. The identity of the Democratic candidate is one unknown, but perhaps more intriguing is the GOP side of the house, where incumbent Jeff Van Drew now resides. The Republican candidates already in the primary race are bravely vowing to stay in. But you have to wonder how determined they will be to do so if the president, who used the Van Drew switch to bolster a post-impeachment event, comes to the district to campaign for him.

There also is a primary of quite a different type in Congressional District 5. It’s hard to see Josh Gottheimer being seriously challenged. But the question is how much of an irritant to the incumbent will Arati Kreibich prove to be. After all, left wing voters in the district have been disappointed with Gottheimer for a long time.

Over in Congressional District 11, the question for Republican Larry Casha – he’s the only one running so far – is establishing himself as a viable alternative to Mikie Sherrill. Keep in mind that the district is changing seemingly by the day and it won’t be shocking if registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by next November. Right now, the GOP’s lead is only about 2,000.

Moving up the ladder on the federal level, an obvious question is, just how long can Cory Booker remain in the presidential race?  That’s a more polite way of asking, when is he going to give it up?  The Booker camp continues to send out positive emails, but it’s a pretty tough spin when there’s a debate and you’re watching on television.

And in this same vein, how much of an effort will Republicans make to try to defeat Booker in his presumed Senate reelection bid next year? Sure, there will be great lip service to doing that, but the reality is that Booker will be running in a Democratic state in a high-turnout presidential election. And his opponent will have little name recognition, especially among average folk.

Now, let’s move to an issue that straddles both the state and federal levels. Bridgegate may have slipped from public consciousness, but the U.S. Supreme Court  is set to hear arguments on Bridget Kelly’s appeal of her conviction  on Jan. 14. The appeal covers  Bill Baroni as well. Baroni, if you recall, entered prison, but was released when the Supreme Court agreed to hear Kelly’s appeal. So, if the appeal is successful, Baroni spent time in prison needlessly. All experience is valuable, one supposes, but still.

The coming year in state politics wouldn’t be complete without looking ahead – already – to the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. The last two years saw Gov. Phil Murphy and his Democratic colleagues in the Legislature battle it out over the millionaire’s tax and making pot legal. The pot issue has been solved with next fall’s planned referendum, but raising income taxes on the very rich is still out there. Murphy has raised the issue the last two years and lost both times. Is he finally due for a win?

And turning to the nuts and bolts of government, there are still a number of key appointments that the governor eventually will have to make. There are judicial vacancies and in some cases, county prosecutors whose terms expired six months ago. Something here has to happen soon, no?

One interesting local issue to watch is what happens this June in Morris County. Republicans there pride themselves on an “open primary,” which encourages many candidates to run. Some say the problem with contested primaries is that they cost money, cause hard feelings and sometimes result in poor candidates winning. In years past, none of this mattered,  but now that Democrats are more emboldened, it does. And so Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco told a convention in November that it’s time to eschew primary fights and concentrate on beating the Dems.  Ah. but will everyone listen?

No looking-ahead will be complete without wondering what, if anything, comes next following state charges filed Dec. 19 against five politicos from both parties. – three from Morris and two from Hudson. Sure, people want to see how the case unfolds, but the juicier part is who are some of the others approached by attorney Matt O’Donnell, the presumed “cooperating witness.”  Common sense suggests he didn’t only approach the five who were charged. It would nice to find out. They should be proud to say they turned the “cooperating witness” down.

We end with a delightful combination of football and power politics. 

During last week’s Cowboys-Eagles game, power broker George Norcross was pictured on this website with his face painted in the green color of the Eagles. Yes, one of the most politically powerful people in New Jersey went to a football game with a painted face like a drunken frat boy. He was pictured with Chris Christie, a notorious Cowboys’ fan. Christie, who clearly got around that day, also was seen on TV sitting next to Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones.

So, this raises a humorous question. This Sunday is the last week of the NFL’s regular season. Either the Eagles or Cowboys will make the playoffs, but not both of them.

So as we move into playoff season, which New Jersey political honcho will we see in the games to come – the buddy of Jerry Jones or the guy with the painted face?

Christie and Norcross.
Christie and Norcross.
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