Friday, July 28, 2006

Menendez - Bergen Record - Fears Farber flap may hurt him

Published in the Bergen Record, Friday, July 14, 2006

Menendez fears AG flap may hurt him


A state Democratic insider said Thursday that U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is concerned that state Attorney General Zulima Farber's role in a Fairview traffic stop involving her boyfriend could become a thorn in the side of his reelection campaign.

"I know he's extremely concerned about the potential political fallout," said one Democratic insider following a recent conversation with the senator. "What transpired with Zulima's boyfriend .... is an unfortunate situation, and he doesn't want it to blow back in his face. And that's a legitimate concern."

The May 26 incident centers on whether Farber improperly influenced police intending to impound the car of Hamlet E. Goore, Jr. The matter is now the focus of an unprecedented investigation by a special prosecutor appointed by Governor Corzine.

Republicans have said the incident reflects poorly on Menendez, who has worked to promote Farber as an emerging star of New Jersey's Hispanic community.

Menendez has so far remained silent since the incident was first detailed in The Record two weeks ago.

On Thursday, the senator's campaign issued a statement: "The governor has appointed an independent investigator and both the public and the Attorney General deserve for that investigation to proceed. It would be inappropriate to comment while that investigation is ongoing."

However, insiders said Menendez and some of his aides are nervous about the issue.

Others, meanwhile, agreed the incident could become a flashpoint during Menendez's reelection campaign.

"It's about him and his character, because he went to bat for her and advocated so hard for her – not only for the Supreme Court but also for this [attorney general] appointment," the Democratic operative said.

Menendez was the chief proponent of a 2003 effort to have Farber named as a justice on the court during the tenure of Gov. James E. McGreevey. Menendez's advocacy was so vigorous, one Democrat recalled, he effectively "made it a war with McGreevey."

The effort failed after details of Farber's driving history became public. McGreevey then moved to answer calls from the African-American community by appointing a black justice.

When Corzine was elected last November, Menendez lobbied to have Farber named attorney general.

Those Democrats who spoke on the record said they doubt the Farber issue will seriously hurt Menendez. Federal issues dominate voters' concerns in a U.S. Senate race, they said.

"I think the Kean people would be making yet another vast mistake if they try make this a campaign issue at a time when people care about the direction of this country, the war in Iraq and the economy," said Julie Roginsky, a Democratic campaign strategist.

However, earlier this week, Menendez's Republican opponent, state Sen. Tom Kean, Jr., called on Farber to resign.

"Ms. Farber acted inappropriately, clearly lacks good judgment, and should step down," his campaign's statement said. "With the case of Zulima Farber, Menendez has an opportunity to stand up and do the right thing, and he should ... ask her to resign immediately."


July 13: 'Click it' violators wish they knew AG

July 11: Tow for van canceled after Farber arrived

July 8: Lawyer says cop thought he got order from Farber

July 8: New light shed on Farber incident

July 5: Special prosecutor on AG's case

July 5: Farber to face state ethics probe

June 30: Tickets voided for AG's beau?

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.