WHO’S UP AND WHO’S DOWN with InsiderNJ: Week of Sept. 10th

Kirk Douglas as Spartacus.


Kirk Douglas 

Cory Booker’s Spartacus shout-out gave the 101-year old liberal lion (father of fellow lib – and deep-pocketed New Jersey native Mike Douglas) his own reanimated new millennial Spartacus moment. The latest version – with George Helmy as Stanley Kubrick, Donald Trump as Marcus Lascivious Crassus, Tom Pietrykoski as Crixus, and Dick Durbin dutifully undertaking the Tony Curtis role of the doomed Antoninus, obviously lacked the production values of the original, although Booker – on the strength at least of his baldness – actually bears a passing resemble to Woody Strode.

Ray Lesniak

The eternally ebullient former state senator from the 20th District – who ran unsuccessfully for governor last year – is engaged to be married to longtime girlfriend Salena Carroll.

Maureen Shaw and Brian Murphy

Maybe the Republican town is too heavy a lift for them but actress Alyssa “Charmed” Milano endorsed the two Allendale Democrats with a check.

Chris Christie

He already has a bridge with his name on it, and now he gets his own street in his home county of Morris. More importantly, the mob-inciting Christie actually comes across as a voice of reason in Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House. Look, the whole bloody tome is a reminder of how our 21st Century version of American politics is profanity, deprived of elegance or grace, at its core a debasement and degradation of language – and a revelation of spiritual despair – that has the ghosts of Bill Buckley and Jim Baldwin (and the best former self of defrocked Cardinal McCarrick, with one foot already in it) huddling in some graveyard somewhere for animal warmth. But it was Christie in the book (which he derides as inaccurate) who expresses the horror of a rational human being (and father) in the aftermath of the Access Hollywood fiasco, and – albeit in predictably primitive fashion – goes after Woodward wild man Steve Bannon.

Ben Graziano

The long-serving legislative director in the 7th District – he worked for both Jack Conners and Herb Conway – is going to the Chemistry Council of New Jersey to work as the outfit’s director of policy. Good luck, Mr. Graziano.

Tom Malinowski

Team Lance will spin this as a negative, of course, on the strength of the Eeyore-like John Kerry perpetually supplying GOP banquet halls with a go-to punchline (Kerry??? Blahh-haaahaa!!), but the former assistant secretary of state is bringing in two former secretaries of state to campaign with him as he seeks to oust U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7): Kerry in October and Madeline Albright later this month.

Randy Brown

Announcing this week that he will not pursue reelection after 12 years on the job, the Republican Mayor of Evesham- and old football jock –  served with distinction. But as he looks ahead to possible opportunities in the NFL – and we wish him well on that front – we also thank him for sparing the public – and for being openly contemptuous of – that always reliably insipid phrase about having to retire to spend more time with family.


Chris Smith

The incumbent Republican Congressman from the 4th District may not have given Democratic challenger Josh Gott… er, Welle the Scott Garrett moment he craves, but the tongue-stumbling rep. didn’t exactly nail a question about the adoption of children by same-sex couples. At the very least the tape should help Welle on the fundraising front.

Phil Murphy

It’s no major loss to the indefatigably positive New Jersey Governor (and you could make the case that any smaller bore political loss is more than offset by this), but the state Board of Education’s decision to delay a vote on cutting back on PAARC testing does set back a key agenda item for the moment, prompting the inevitable chest-thumping from allies of Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).

The Ocean County Democrats

The long-suffering organization led by Wyatt Earp had to off-load their candidate for freeholder after he endorsed Republican Bob Hugin for Senate over incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

The New Jersey Education Association

You could easily put them on the up side on the strength of sheer power and money. But the NJEA fell just short of the billion mark in dollars spent last year on campaigns and elections and influence-mongering, according to a report prepared by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). Oh, well. There’s always this year!

New Jersey Taxpayers

There were high fives all around among Jersey lawmakers looking to unbind the state from the feds’ capping of a write-off for state and local taxes, but now Congressional Republicans want to make the cap a permanent part of the tax code. According to John Reitmeyer of NJ Spotlight, “What’s more, the Internal Revenue Service has changed its regulations in order to make it harder for states to create effective workarounds that let individuals donate to a civic charity that would then be used to pay for government services.”

John Gavin

No one ever remembers his serviceable turn as Caesar in Spartacus.


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