It is Main Day- POLITICO

Good Tuesday morning!

It’s primary day in New Jersey. And boring primaries don’t attract readers, so let’s just say this one is filled with excitement.

I think the biggest question today is whether any far-right candidates with some iteration of “America First” in their names manage to upset an establishment Republican. At this point that looks unlikely, in part because the field in most districts is so crowded. But for all I read about “Trump fatigue,” we’re still talking about him, as you’ll see below.

I’ve never asked him, but I bet Andy Kim would rather run against Ian Smith than Bob Healey (the DUI commercials write themselves, along with plenty of other material). But that just seems unlikely. And the chances that 42-year incumbent Chris Smith could be knocked off by a challenge from the right seems much more remote.

The big question going forward is just how bad the political environment will be for Democrats in November. Will candidates like Kim, Josh Gottheimer, Mikie Sherrill or even Frank Pallone have to sweat? If some far-right Republicans pull off any upsets, they may not have to.

Anyway, polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Have fun.


WHERE’S MURPHY? — Voting in Red Bank at 8:15 a.m.

QUOTE OF THEDAY: “The party establishment doesn’t want Trumpy candidates.” — FDU Professor Dan Cassino

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — State Sen. Linda Greenstein, EHT Committeemember Joe Cafero

TIPS? FEEDBACK? HATE MAIL? Email me at (email protected) 

A message from New Jerseyans for Affordable Rx:

Costs in New Jersey are sky high – and that includes prescription drug costs. Every year, Big Pharma raises the price of life-saving medications. Fortunately, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) negotiate with drug companies to reduce Rx costs for patients. As this legislative session ends, let’s remind our representatives to support patient advocates like PBMs and make all entities in the drug supply chain do their part to lower costs.

SUPREME COURT JUSTICES TO INHALE HELIUM AT RETIREMENT PARTY FOR FINAL PERFORMANCE OF ‘ALBIN AND THE BENCHMONKS’ — “Impending departure of ‘constitutional giant’ has some wondering about future of N.J. high court,” by New Jersey Monitor’s Dana DiFilippo: “The imminent retirement of Justice Barry Albin from the New Jersey Supreme Court has some criminal justice reformers anxious about the future. Reformers say Albin, one of the court’s staunchest liberals, brought a unique perspective to the court as the only sitting justice with a background in public defense and civil rights. He will hit the mandatory retirement age of 70 next month after serving on the court since 2002. ‘Justice Albin is irreplaceable,’ said Jenny-Brooke Condon, a professor of law at Seton Hall Law School … Albin’s final weeks on the state’s highest court come as New Jersey’s judicial vacancies are at a historic high and Gov. Phil Murphy’s last pick for the Supreme Court has been blocked for almost a year … Albin authored some of the court’s most controversial decisions, such as its recent ruling that freed Sundiata Acoli, a former Black Panther convicted of killing a state trooper in 1973. The decision was lambasted by a bipartisan group of officials that included Murphy. ‘His decision in Acoli really demonstrates the commitment to the rule of law, even when it is a very loaded and difficult decision to make,’ said attorney CJ Griffin, who has argued several cases before Albin.”

ARRIVALS — “What happens when cops work with mental health experts? N.J. pilot program is saving lives, AG says,” by NJ Advance Media’s S.P. Sullivan: “Platkin on Monday announced his office was expanding the small pilot program launched in rural Cumberland County to two Union County cities, Linden and Elizabeth. Dubbed ARRIVE Together, or ‘Alternative Responses to Reduce Instances of Violence and Escalation,’ the program launched in November 2021 on a small scale, pairing troopers and trained mental health ‘screeners’ on eight-hour shifts twice a week out of the State Police Bridgeton and Port Norris barracks. Platkin on Monday announced his office was expThe move is part of a broader trend nationally to rethink how first responders handle mental health crises … It’s also one of the few things over which proponents of police reform and law enforcement leaders agree: Maybe police officers aren’t the best people to handle a person in mental distress? ‘We’ve asked law enforcement, frankly, to do too much,’ Platkin told reporters during a press conference at the John Stamler Police Academy in Scotch Plains”

—“Building trust between cops and community in Newark begins with talking about trauma” 

DEPARTURES — Top Murphy policy adviser leaving administration to join education consulting firm, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: Zakiya Smith Ellis, Gov. Phil Murphy’s chief policy adviser, will be leaving the administration next month, POLITICO has learned. Smith Ellis will depart the front office July 1 and take over as a principal at EducationCounsel, a national education consulting firm, in August, according to an administration source. Smith Ellis started with the administration as New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education in March 2018 before joining the front office as chief policy adviser in July 2020.

FORMER MACHINE BENEFICIARY TURNS TO VOTERS — “Likely booted from Hudson Line, Jimenez is defiant,” by New Jersey Globe’s Joey Fox: “Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez (D-West New York), who will likely lose the Hudson County Democratic endorsement for re-election in 2023 due to a larger game of political musical chairs, has signaled defiance while not making any firm commitments about what she plans to do. ‘I love the Assembly, I’ve been in it for ten years, and I’m really proud of my accomplishments,’ Jimenez said in an interview on Friday. ‘Listen: it’s the people that elect the candidates. I focus on my track record, I focus on what I believe in, and that’s the bottom line.’”

ENVIRONMENT — “Half of N.J. lives in ‘overburdened’ neighborhoods including parts of Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Deptford, says proposed environmental justice law,” by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Frank Kummer: “New Jersey proposed a new environmental justice rule Monday that officials believe will be the toughest in the nation by carving out nearly half the state’s population as living in “overburdened communities” and limiting the types of polluting businesses that can be built there. Under the rule, the DEP could deny any proposal for a new or expanded power plant, recycling facility, incinerator, sludge operation, landfill, sewage treatment plant, recycling facility, scrap yard, or other major source of potential pollution within an overburdened block group … The goal is to protect areas with concentrations of low-income or sizable populations of Black and brown residents such as Camden from further pollution. The criteria used to determine those neighborhoods also put sections of many towns not normally thought of as overburdened such as Voorhees, Cherry Hill, and Deptford into the mix of potentially protected areas, according to an Inquirer analysis.”

—“Senator: NJ still has no plan to save shore towns from pop-up parties” 

—“Not just menthol: NJ looks to make it even harder to find any cigarettes to buy” 

—“N.J.’s economy will get worse this year, accountants say in a survey” 

—“NJ state parks could ‘collapse’ if funding, staffing don’t increase, report says” 

—Half of Ruiz’s 8-bill child care package clears Senate committee

MEDIA MOVES —@dracioppi: “Programming note: I’m now Atlantic Region Politics and Government Editor for the @USATODAY Network and transitioning out of the Statehouse beat.”

WE NEED TO STOP MAKING BASELESS ALLEGATIONS THAT PAST ELECTIONS WERE STOLEN AND START MAKING BASELESS ALLEGATIONS THAT FUTURE ELECTIONS WILL BE STOLEN — “NJ Republicans are embracing, sort of, Trump politics. But it only goes so far,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “For the most part, the Big Lie is not getting the big play in New Jersey Republican primaries, certainly not like Pennsylvania, where GOP voters picked a far-right nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano, who pressed for the overturning of the 2020 election and joined throngs at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C., as they mounted an insurrection. It’s not totally absent, and MAGA candidates in the 4th Congressional District have waved the Big Lie banner in their bid to dislodge longtime Republican Rep. Chris Smith. The 4th District includes Ocean County, the hotbed of Trump support in New Jersey. Yet it has taken a back seat to other pressing, hot-button issues that have dominated voters’ concerns. Issues like inflation, gas prices and the war in Ukraine as well as new wedge issues like critical race theory and LGBTQ curriculum. Political operatives say it reflects an inflection point in the Trump era — voters are willing to embrace much of the conservative Trump agenda, but no longer eager to relitigate the 2020 election.”

—“Donald Trump is just an afterthought in N.J. primaries” 

—“Trump candidates and congress” 

EL(NAHAL) NO VA — “This N.J. hospital CEO seemed like a slam dunk VA nominee. But a GOP senator blocked it,” by NJ Advance Media’s Elizabeth Llorente: “The confirmation of former University Hospital CEO Shereef Elnahal as under secretary for health at the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department hit a snag after a Republican senator blocked an effort to fast-track the vote. Elhanal, who was nominated by President Joe Biden in March, was unanimously approved by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in early May after a hearing. The position of under secretary for health has been vacant for five years … In late May, Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who chairs the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, sought to hold a vote to confirm Elnahal, 37, by ‘unanimous consent,’ a practice in the Senate for fast-tracking a vote by limiting debate. The approach typically is used in the case of uncontroversial nominees. But Sen. Rick Scott blocked the effort, citing what he said was Biden’s inability to “appoint qualified individuals to serve in important roles.” The Florida Republican did not specifically object to Elnahal or raise questions about his eligibility, prompting Democrats to condemn the move as political posturing … Scott’s move doesn’t necessarily doom Elnahal’s prospects. But it does open his confirmation to a long debate on the Senate floor. The Senate may take up the vote again in a few weeks.”

VOTE EARLY AND RARELY — “Early turnout for N.J primary election was dismal, but no surprise,” by NJ Advance Media’s Jackie Roman: “20,230 residents took advantage of the three-day window prior to Tuesday’s primary elections, with the early voters able to cast ballots on machines at centralized polling sites within their counties, state officials said Monday. These numbers only include people who successfully cast a ballot on a machine at one of the state’s 139 early voting sites … Voter participation is historically low during primary elections, especially during a mid-term year. During the last mid-term primary in 2018, only 11% of registered voters cast a ballot and that figure was even lower at 6.6% in 2014.”

A message from New Jerseyans for Affordable Rx:


NETFLIX AND TAX BILL — “Netflix officially bids to turn Fort Monmouth Mega Parcel into production studio,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Dan Radel: “Netflix has bid on Fort Monmouth’s Mega Parcel, putting an end to nearly a year of speculation that the streaming giant wanted to set up a production studio in New Jersey. The Mega Parcel, a large 292-acre parcel located in parts of Eatontown and Oceanport at the former U.S. Army base, was put out to bid in March by the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, the state agency redeveloping the fort with mostly private investors. FMERA opened the bids at 12:30 p.m. Monday, 90 days after it put the site up for sale. The agency didn’t say what was the amount of Netflix’s bid, listed as Netflix Studio Fort Monmouth. Three other investors also bid on the property. The first bid was from Extell Acquisitions, an affiliate of Extell Development, which built the luxury condominiums The Lofts at Pier Village.”

RACIAL PROFILING — “Lawsuit claims Westfield cop’s stops were ‘racially influenced,’” by TAPIntoWestfield’s Matt Kadosh: “A Westfield police officer ticketed a Black driver he pulled over for speeding but did not issue a citation to a white man he stopped for driving more than twice the speed limit early that same morning, according to law enforcement videos obtained by TAPinto Westfield through public records requests. The traffic stops detailed in the footage are at the heart of a March lawsuit filed by Westfield police Sgt. Preston Freeman, an African American man, and Lt. Nicole Stivale, who claim the department suspended them after they alleged that Officer Christopher Forcenito, who was under their command, was racially profiling.”

—“Meet the 4 Camden Co. Democrats trying to make the November General Election ballot” 

—“Bergen GOP line faces a test of strength in primary election” 

—“Emails show ugly, anti-press side of (Jersey City) mayor and wannabe N.J. governor” 

—“A look at Gloucester Co.’s Nov. election ballot, where county power is up for grabs”

—“Burlington County primary election contested races for Democrats, Republicans” 

—“North Plainfield police officer fired for sex with homeless woman won’t get job back” 

—“Absecon takes a step toward recreational cannabis sales in strip mall” 

MAYOR STRESSES THAT THERE IS NOTHING TRAGICALLY POETIC ABOUT THE AMERICAN DREAM DROWNING IN DEBT — “American Dream ‘definitely in trouble,’ says East Rutherford mayor, as more payments missed,” by The Record’s Daniel Munoz: “The developers behind the American Dream mall and entertainment complex missed a June 1 deadline to make a payment on an $800 million municipal bond, in the latest sign of financial struggles for the Meadowlands complex. Triple Five Group in Canada will have until a grace period ends on June 16 to make the interest payment or risk defaulting, according to a notice filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last week by U.S. Bank NA, a trustee for bondholders. In the interim, the bank said it had removed $11.4 million from a debt service reserve account that Triple Five would have to replenish. ‘The mall’s definitely in trouble, there’s no doubt in my mind,’ East Rutherford Mayor Jeffrey Lahullier said in an interview Monday. ‘I don’t think they can make ends meet.’ East Rutherford has its own separate tax break agreement with the mall, known as a payment in lieu of taxes. Lahullier said the mall is behind at least $5.5 million in PILOT payments as well.”

I CAN’T DRIVE 295 — “Investigation pinpoints causes of I-295 collapse in South Jersey but offers no guidance on rebuilding,” by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Thomas Fitzgerald: “The problems began long before a retaining wall collapsed in March last year on an I-295 ramp under construction as part of the $1.1 billion South Jersey highway project to unsnarl one of the region’s worst traffic bottlenecks. Signs of instability had already appeared in the structure as early as 2016, according to a forensic engineering report prepared for the New Jersey Department of Transportation. Hardesty & Hanover LLC, the firm hired to investigate, concluded that Wall 22 in Bellmawr suffered a “complex failure” that included displacement of sandy fill soil used to build the embankment and slope underneath, as well as a faulty foundation. The 700-page report meticulously documents what went wrong but does not address how the wall will be rebuilt, at what cost, and whether taxpayers or the contractors involved will pay for it. So far, the New Jersey Department of Transportation has declined to answer those and other questions.”

THE MARVELOUS MS. MARVEL — “Disney+’s Ms. Marvel has deep NJ cred. A look inside the school that inspired her story,” by The Record’s Hannan Adely: “Ms. Marvel can walk on air and shoot giant energy ‘fists.’ She fights villains in a costume fashioned from a blue burkini accented with a golden lightning bolt. But to the girls at Jersey City’s Dr. Ronald McNair Academic High School, here’s her real superpower: She makes them feel seen. For the group of young Muslim students at McNair, these are exciting times. On Wednesday, Disney+ will debut a new streaming series featuring Ms. Marvel and her teenage alter ego, Kamala Khan, with much of the action set in a school inspired by the Jersey City academy.”

—“Bidding wars end, offers fall: The hot NJ housing market shows signs of cooling” 

—“Wedding Bells for Shawn LaTourette and Michael Marielli” 

—“This new Rutgers wine program will teach you the basics of running a vineyard” 

A message from New Jerseyans for Affordable Rx:

We can all agree that costs in New Jersey are already sky high – and that includes prescription drug costs. Year after year, big drug companies raise the price of life-saving medications to increase their profits. Patients deserve better. As this legislative session comes to an end, let’s remind our elected officials in Trenton to hold Big Pharma accountable and make all entities in the drug supply chain find real solutions to increase access to affordable prescription drugs without impacting services. That means supporting patient advocates like Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) that negotiate with Big Pharma to reduce Rx costs and put money back in the pockets of New Jersey families. It’s time to stand up to special interests, cut unnecessary red tape, and let these advocates do what they do best – save patients money.