Monday, August 14, 2006

The Auditor - Ledger - August 13, 2006

Published in the Star-Ledger, Sunday, August 13, 2006

[Note: the Ledger's online post omitted the opening segment on McGreevey's birthday party. -- Dan]

The Auditor: An inside look at the week in New Jersey

Two years after he stunned the state by announcing he was a "gay American" and would leave office because of an extramarital affair, former Gov. James E. McGreevey is getting ready to hawk his tell-all book.

Book-signing for the ex-governor's "The Confession" are being lined up; copies will be available as of Sept.19. Among the Jersey dates: Sept. 23 at Barnes & Noble in Edison, Sept. 24 at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair and Sept. 30 at Borders in Bridgewater.

It was two years ago yesterday that McGreevey dropped his Statehouse bombsshell. Last week, after a short visit to China on behalf of Kean University, McGreevey celebrated his 49th birthday. His partner, Mark O'Donnell, his parents and about 50 friends surprised him with a party at the couple's new digs in Plainfield.

Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Union), one of the guests, said it was a "low-key" catered barbecue complete with expensive French wine and steak entrees. In addition to Lesniak, others helping McGreevey celebrate included Rahway Mayor Jim Kennedy and lobbyist Kevin Hagan, both longtime friends, and state-worker union leader Carla Katz.

One high-profile McGreevey event, however, is on hold: His first return to the Statehouse for the unveiling of his official portrait.

The ex-governor had planned tohave the portrait hanging ceremony earlier this summer, but it never came off. It will not be scheduled until after the book is released because Gov. Jon Corzine won't allow his office to become parat of a publicity tour.

Meanwhile, the official portrait for the guy who replaced McGreevey, Richard Codey, will be done by Sept. 20. But Codey says he'll respect the line of succession and let McGreevey go first.

"That's the way it should be and that's the way it will be," Codey said. "And, hey, by the way, two public hangings of politicians in such a short period of time should delight the people of this state."

Loyal to Lieberman

This week, while Democrats were bailing on Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, one party loyalist was willing to stump for him: Cory Booker.

The Newark mayor appeared on the campaign trail with Lie berman last Sunday and defended him in a radio interview Monday evening. Lieberman lost Tuesday's Senate primary to a wealthy upstart, Ned Lamont, largely because of the three-term senator and former vice presidential candidate's support for an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.

"To throw this guy out be cause he has different views from the core of the party is absurd," Booker said during the interview.

Booker said Lieberman has been an outspoken advocate of issues that affect cities such as Newark. If voters are upset with Lieberman for his support of the Iraq war, said Booker, then they should also take a look at the other senators who also voted in favor of invading Iraq.

"You have to hold accountable more than half of the Democrats who voted for the war in the first place," he said, noting that Sen. Hillary Clinton had also supported the war.

After Lieberman lost and said he intends to run as an independent in the November general election, top Democratic leaders urged the rest of the party to rally around Lamont.

Which way will Booker go? He hasn't decided yet, according to Desiree Peterkin Bell, a spokeswoman in City Hall.

Democratic d├ętente

The two dominant Democrats of Woodbridge -- Sen. Joe Vitale and former state Treasurer John McCormac -- have buried the hatchet.

A rift developed between Vitale (D-Middlesex) and McCor mac earlier this year when word circulated that McCormac was considering a primary run for mayor against then-Woodbridge Mayor Frank Pelzman, a close ally of Vitale. When Pelzman died of cancer in June, there was even talk that Vitale and McCormac would face off for the town council's interim appointment to replace Pelzman.

But, before his death, the terminally ill Pelzman asked Vitale to succeed him as mayor, and McCormac did not challenge that. After some behind-the- scenes peace talks, McCormac and Vitale reconciled over coffee about a month ago at the Galaxy Diner in Rahway.

Last week, McCormac was nominated, with Vitale's support, to run as the party candidate in a special mayoral election in November. Vitale said he also will support McCormac for his own four-year term when that election is held the following year.

"John and I have been friends and are friends," said Vitale. "What matters most is keeping the party together and moving forward. We both agreed that we have much more in common than not."

McCormac, a former Woodbridge business administrator, said, "Joe's a great legislator. I think we'll make a formidable team going forward."

Campaign non-support?

Assemblyman Joe Vas was beaten soundly when he ran against Assemblyman Albio Sires in the Democratic primary for the 13th congressional district in June. Now the Auditor is told he stiffed some of his top campaign staffers.

One campaign worker, Donna Gefter, a researcher based in Maryland, has filed suit for non- payment of $4,000.

Others may have gotten the shaft as well.

Vas also owes money to Barry Brendel, a consultant, and Vin Gopal, his campaign manager, according to reliable sources. Neither man would confirm or deny it.

According to final campaign reports, Sires (D-Hudson) spent $1.3 million and Vas (D-Middlesex) spent $826,000 -- including an $80,000 personal loan he made to the campaign. Vas, who also serves as mayor in Perth Amboy, could not be reached for comment.

Link to online story.

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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.