BECK v. KARCHER TAB: $5.9 MILLION

J_beck_on_tv_110607State Senator-elect Jennifer Beck on election night last month.

Spending on this year’s legislative races blew past the old record set in 2003 by 21 percent, today’s Star-Ledger reports, with one in four races costing more than $1 million.

And our very own 12th-district contest, to the surprise of no one who followed it, was far and away the biggest churner of cash. From the Ledger:

As expected, the most hotly contested race in the fight for 120 legislative seats drew the biggest bucks: the 12th Legislative District showdown, in which Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) ousted incumbent Sen. Ellen Karcher (D-Monmouth). The two parties spent a combined $5.9 million, making it the second most expensive legislative race ever, behind the $6.1 million clash won by 3rd District Democrats in 2003.

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SEA BRIGHT INCUMBENT GETS RECOUNT

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Sea Bright Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka Adams will get a recount of the ballots in the election that appeared to have resulted in her being ousted by just three votes, today’s Asbury Park Press reports.

The news surprised presumptive mayor-elect Maria Fernandes, in part because her Republican opponent hasn’t been heard from publicly since the Nov. 6 election. Kalaka-Adams hadn’t said or signaled that she might challenge the result. She also didn’t appear at last week’s borough council meeting, the first since the balloting, and news reports indicate she wasn’t returning reporters’ phone calls.

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The mayor couldn’t be reached for comment on today’s report, the Press says.

Fernandes, the council’s president and a Democrat, appeared to have made Kalaka-Adams a one-term mayor after a count of absentee and provisional votes on Nov. 9. (The Press gives the vote count as 272 to 269 in Fernandes’ favor, while the Monmouth County elections website gives the tally as 274 to 271.)

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IN SEA BRIGHT, IT’S FERNANDES BY 3 VOTES

A count of provisional ballots in the Sea Bright election has given the mayoralty to Democratic Council President Maria Fernandes by a mere three votes, redbankgreen has learned.

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The final tally was 274 votes for Fernandes to 271 for one-term Republican Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams.

It was a horserace even after the polls had closed. Out of nine provisional ballots that remained as of Thursday, Kalaka-Adams took four, Fernandes took two, and three were disallowed.

We’ve been unable to reach Kalaka-Adams to find out if she’s planning to ask for a recount.

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SLEDGER: BECK NOW A GOP SHINING STAR

J_beck_on_tv_110607State Senator-elect Jennifer Beck is now in the spotlight statewide, pundits say.

‘Ridiculously outspent’ and yet victorious in Tuesday’s election, state Senator-elect Jennifer Beck of Red Bank is now — wait for it — a GOP pol to watch for higher office, today’s Star-Ledger reports.

One pundit is even forecasting two decades into the Beckian future.

“You’d have to say she’s one of the rising stars in the Republican Party, without a doubt,” said Joseph Marbach, chairman of the political science department at Seton Hall University.

“Jennifer Beck is going to be someone you’re going to hear a lot about in the next 20 years,” Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson said. “I don’t think you could rule out seeing her as a statewide candidate some day. I don’t think you could rule out seeing her as a congressional candidate some day.”

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DOWN BY THE SEA, IT’S STILL UP IN THE AIR

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Sea Bright’s mayoral race remained too close to call early today, and officials don’t expect to know who won before Friday.

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The latest vote count has Democratic challenger Maria Fernandes up five votes on incumbent Republican Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams, 272-267.

But nine provisional votes had yet to be certified as of late this morning, municipal clerk MaryAnn Smeltzer told redbankgreen this morning. A vote is labeled ‘provisional’ when a question or dispute exists over a voter’s registration, polling place or eligibility to cast a ballot.

Five Forty-one absentee ballots have already been counted.

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RED BANK DEMS: ‘COULDA LOST BUT DIDN’T’

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Red Bank Democrats appear to have held their 4-2 council majority with narrow wins Tuesday by Council President Sharon Lee, who bagged a second term, and Zoning Board member Kathleen Horgan.

But Democratic newcomer Ed Zipprich apparently didn’t have enough juice to nudge Grace Cangemi from the seat she’s held as an appointee since March. Uncertified figures have Cangemi beating Zipprich by 59 votes for the right to finish out the term begun by Kaye Ernst, who resigned and moved out of state in January.

The closeness of the race was reminiscent of last year’s finale for mayor and council, in which Cangemi was bested by Mike DuPont by absentee ballots. A recurrence of that seemed unlikely this morning.

“Last year, it swung by 20 votes,” Cangemi said as she awaited the arrival of Jennifer Beck, upset winner in the 12th district Senate race, at the Dublin House early today. “I can’t imagine it swinging by 60 votes this time. We just don’t cast that many absentee votes in Red Bank.”

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IN A STUNNER, BECK PLOWS KARCHER UNDER

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Red Bank Republican Jennifer Beck trounced incumbent state Senator Ellen Karcher at the polls yesterday, despite having been outspent more than fivefold in a campaign widely noted for its bitterness.

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In bootstrapping herself to the Senate, Beck helped secure Assembly wins for Little Silver Councilman Declan O’Scanlon and Caroline Casagrande of Marlboro. They ousted incumbent Mike Panter of Shrewsbury and denied Amy Panter of Fair Haven Beck’s seat in the lower chamber.

“I never thought we’d get a sweep,” Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl told redbankgreen early this morning at a GOP bash at the Dublin House. He said the win came about because “Karcher went negative too early and poured in a lot of money to stay negative at the end. Voters get turned off by that. She stayed negative too long.”

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RED BANK: LEE, HORGAN & MAYBE CANGEMI

Unofficial tallies in the Red Bank Council race indicate that incumbent Sharon Lee and Democratic running mate Kathleen Horgan are winners.

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Grace Cangemi appears to have won the one-year spot over Ed Zipprich by 59 votes. But the borough Democrats were holding onto hope of a sweep when an unknown number of absentee and provisional ballots are counted, a process that will still underway as of 10p.

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IT’S ALL OVER BUT THE VOTING & COUNTING

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Council candidate Grace Cangemi arrives at the 8th district polling station (the Senior Citizens’ Center, on Shrewsbury Avenue), presumably to “re-elect” herself. Joe Parrillo of Madison Avenue emerges from a voting booth at the district 4 station, at the United Methodist Church on Broad Street.

Voting was moderate-to-busy at two Red Bank polling stations visited by redbankgreen at midmorning today.

The 4th district had seen about 75 voters come in. Over at the 8th, about 40 citizens had pushed the buttons. Workers at both stations said those numbers were on par with activity seen in the last general election.

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DID CURLEY’S FLIER SLIME DUPONT’S WIFE?

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Councilman Michael DuPont contends that this flier, distributed by Republican Councilman John Curley to Red Bank residents last week, is a smear on his wife. [Click on flier to enlarge]

In a letter to the editor published in the current issue of the Two River Times (print version only), DuPont says the handout — printed on vivid green paper — defames his wife, Doreen, who gave birth to twins earlier this year.

As evidence, Dupont cites the flier’s claim that “Our new Mayor [Pasquale] Menna appointed DuPont and [former Mayor Ed] McKenna’s wife to the Planning Board. How cozy.”

On his first day as mayor in January, Menna nominated Christine McKenna to serve as an alternate member of the planning board for a term that ends Dec. 31. The nomination was part of an omnibus reorganization resolution that included several dozen appointments. Curley voted no on the measure, which was passed by the Democratic majority. Download rb_appointments_10107.pdf

DuPont, however, is not on the planning board and has never been, he says.

Here’s an excerpt from DuPont’s letter:

Councilman Curley, your lime-green letter endorsing your colleagues defames my wife with falsehoods and insinuations. You owe her an apology and the truth to the residents of Red Bank. Your lime-green letter is simply political slime.

But Curley’s handout does not make any mention of DuPont’s spouse, unless it is interpreted as meaning DuPont and McKenna are maried to the same woman.

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ONCE AGAIN, RUMSON DEMS HAVE NO SHOT

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Along Rumson Road in the borough of Rumson, at least five campaign signs for Democratic hopefuls for state office can be seen.

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And the county Democratic Party is gearing up to run two candidates for Rumson council — in the 2008 elections.

But thus far in the history of this upper-crust borough, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, no Democrat has ever been elected mayor. And if any have made it to the council, historian George Moss is unaware of them.

“I don’t think there were any,” says Moss, who served on the governing body from 1944 to 1984.

No history will be made in that regard this year. Even with President Bush’s approval levels approaching that of linoleum, a GOP sweep, as usual, looks like a pretty sure thing in Rumson. Mayor John Ekdahl and his two running mates for the council, Joan DeVoe and Joseph Hemphill, are unopposed.

Ekdahl became mayor in 2003; he was unopposed then, too. His campaign budget this time around? “I’m not spending any money this year,” he says.

So, with apologies to Maureen Dowd, are Democrats necessary in Rumson?

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DEMS: BECK’S DRIVING RECORD ‘CRIMINAL’

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Another day, another mailboxful of slime.

Today’s delivery includes the same attack-and-counterattack voters (and, presumably, ex-voters) have gotten accustomed to in recent weeks. But one item in particular stands out not only from today’s load, but from much of what’s preceded it.

It’s a flier from the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. On the cover is what appears to be a mugshot of substance-abusing starlet Lindsay Lohan, looking as though she just went bobbing for apples in a piranha tank while stoned, and a headshot of Paris Hilton looking, well, not as bad.

The text: “GUESS WHO HAS THEM BOTH BEAT?”

Answer: Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck.

“Jennifer Beck: Her driving record is criminal,” it reads, just like that, with the word ‘criminal’ in bold.

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SEA BRIGHT RACE: CANDIDATES & ISSUES

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

At the top of the fight card in Sea Bright this year, Republican Mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka-Adams faces a challenge from Democratic Councilwoman Maria Fernandes, a member of the governing body since 1997.

Kalaka-Adams was a political neophyte when she won election to her four-year term in 2003. Among the issues that she and Fernandes have disagreed upon recently were whether to purchase the oceanfront Donovan’s Reef property for the town and bulkhead regulation.

Republicans Brian Kelly and Peggy Bills are trying to keep their council seats against a challenge by Democrat Susana Markson, Fernandes’ only running mate and a member of the Recreation Committee. Markson won nearly a fourth of the vote in the 2004 election, when Bills also ran unsuccessfully (she was appointed to her three-year term in December, 2004, after Clark Craig resigned).

Here’s the candidate 411:

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SLEDGER: ‘GO WITH BECK’

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Though vastly outspent in her race with incumbent Ellen Karcher for the 12th-district state Senate seat, Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck today landed a major plum: the endorsement of the state’s largest newspaper.

The Star-Ledger, while noting that the race race “has deteriorated into an exchange of distorted facts used for personal attacks” by both candidates, says the Red Bank Republican is “passionate” while Karcher is has been a sponsor of “halfway” reform measures in her first term.

From the editorial:

On Tuesday, voters in the 12th District will confront a difficult choice. Our advice is to go with Beck.

In her time in the Legislature, Beck has shown herself to be a bright, articulate legislator who is passionate about representing the interests of her constituents. With the state about to devise a new school aid formula, Beck has thrown herself into the issue, absorbing information and demonstrating a determination that needy students in her district will not be shortchanged.

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BECK ADDRESSES LICENSE SUSPENSIONS

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Today’s Asbury Park Press has a story on Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck’s three license suspensions, which have been publicized by her opponent for the 12th-district state Senate seat, incumbent Ellen Karcher.

The most recent suspension was in 1995, and Beck hasn’t had a moving violation ticket issued to her since 1996, a state DMV spokesman told the Press.

The Press’ Larry Higgs reports that Beck “had her driver’s license suspended three times for failure to appear in court to answer three traffic tickets, twice for a parking ticket and for failure to pay a surcharge, in the mid-1990s.”

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Beck’s license was suspended by the courts twice in 1994 and once in 1995 for failure to appear, said Michael Horan, an MVC spokesman.

Beck said that at the time she had just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and moved to New Jersey. In the course of several moves, Beck said she lost track of the summonses and it took time for court notices to reach her, resulting in the license suspensions.

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POLICE SEEK INPUT ON SUMMER SHOOTINGS

Police investigators looking into the four shootings that occurred in July and August are appealing to witnesses to call and tell them what they know, even anonymously.

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“I truly and strongly believe that there are people in the community who have information” about the shootings, Capt. Steve McCarthy tells redbankgreen.

No injuries resulted from any of the four incidents between July 31 and August 22, though a bullet entered the bathroom of a house near Drs. Parker Boulevard and South Pearl Street and another was lodged in the siding of a Clinton Place residence. All the shootings occurred west of Maple Avenue and no arrests have been made.

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BECK’S FARM TAX STANCE IRKS GOP MATRON

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It appears that Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck of Red Bank, in attacking 12th-district Senate opponent Ellen Karcher over Karcher’s use of a state farmland assessment program, has put herself at odds with one of her own backers: Judith Stanley Coleman.

Today’s Asbury Park Press has that story, along with another that says the Beck v. Karcher mudfest is on track to become the costliest legislative race in New Jersey history.

As part of a package of stories on the farmland assessment, Press reporter James W. Prado Roberts says that Beck’s attack on Karcher for taking a farmland deduction on her Marlboro property “broadsided a long-time supporter.”

Monmouth County Republican Party matriarch Judith H. Stanley Coleman has a similar tax break on the scenic tract surrounding her home on the Navesink River in Middletown.

For at least 10 years, Stanley Coleman has raised bees on 5.4 acres surrounding her house. This year she sold 540 pounds of honey and wax at $1 per pound. In return, she pays $125 a year in taxes on that parcel. (She did pay $47,820 in taxes last year on her house and an acre surrounding it.)

The Press reports that Stanley Coleman has held fundraisers for Beck on the estate. In fact, one was scheduled last Thursday, but Beck canceled it because of her position on the bee farm tax assessment, Stanley Coleman told the newspaper.

Beck denied that was the reason, saying she recently held three fundraisers, and her campaign couldn’t arrange the logistics.

“I just made a judgment call,” Beck said. “It didn’t have anything to do with that.”

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BECK v. KARCHER MUDFEST GETS MORE INK

The race for 12th-district Senate seat continues to get more attention for the accusations flung back and forth between incumbent Ellen Karcher of Marlboro and Red Bank Republican Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck than for any other aspect.

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In today’s Star-Ledger, political columnist Tom Moran ponders the “irony” of two women he says are widely respected in and around the statehouse trading constant, personal fire in the race.

From the column:

Both these women are known in Trenton as decent people. Spend time with either of them, and you come away confident that they have the public interest at heart.

And that brings us to the big irony in this race — each woman is accusing the other of being the perfect sleazeball.

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ZIPPRICH BUCKSHOTS CANGEMI SIGNS

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Democratic council contender Ed Zipprich has filed complaints with state and the county election-monitoring agencies, asking them to investigate the propriety of campaign signs that encourage voters to “re-elect” incumbent Republican Grace Cangemi.

Cangemi, who narrowly lost a general election last November, was chosen by a vote of the council on March 15 to replace Kaye Ernst, who resigned in January. She’s seeking the one-year balance of Ernst’s term, and faces Zipprich on the ballot.

Zipprich told redbankgreen this morning that he has filed complaints with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission and the Monmouth County Board of Elections, “asking them to investigate why she felt she could print ‘re-elect’ on her campaign signs.

“I think that she’s completely inappropriate and off-base on this,” he said. “I think she is stretching the truth. And if she does that with something as simple as a lawn sign, what else is she going to try to tell the public?”

Cangemi told us she hadn’t been aware of the complaints, which she disparaged.

“I think it’s more than a little ridiculous, and I think it’s a campaign ploy,” she said. “If that is Ed Zipprich’s biggest issue, then he has once again missed the point.

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FOUL HUMORS DOMINATE COUNCIL: I

Councilman Michael DuPont subjected the head of Parks & Rec to a cringe-inducing dressing down.

Mayor Pasquale Menna pre-emptively lambasted a resident for a letter not yet published by a weekly newspaper.

Art Murphy wigged out on fellow councilmember Grace Cangemi for something she said at the West Side Community Group’s Candidate’s Night earlier this month.

Coming off a couple of bad weeks of crime reports, campaign rhetoric and skirmishes over unanticipated library costs, Red Bank’s governing body was in a colicky mood last night at its final session prior to next month’s election.

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FOUL HUMORS IV: MURPHY BLOWS A GASKET

The Murphy boys had bones to pick with Councilwoman Grace Cangemi last night.

Most notably, Councilman Art Murphy erupted at Cangemi for a statement she made about policing at the candidate’s forum earlier this month.

But his brother Sean also got into it during the public comment portion of the council meeting.

Art Murphy’s outburst occurred during a brief presentation Murphy gave on recently released crime data, which showed an increase from 2005 to 2006.

The increase was out of the ordinary, Murphy said, because 2005 was the lowest-crime-rate year the borough had seen in nine years. On a year-to-date basis, crime this year is down 14 percent, he said.

Moreover, he said, the police are making investigative progress into a recent outbreak of shootings that left some property damage but no deaths or injuries. He said he was not at liberty to disclose details, but “if I told you the story, you’d say, ‘Wow.'”

At that point, Murphy turned to Cangemi — seated as usual immediately to his left — and lambasted her for saying that borough should consider talking to the police union about instituting foot patrols on the West Side.

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MENNA TO AXE MAYORAL HEALTH PERK

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In a move that puts more daylight between himself and his fellow Democrats on the issue of health benefits for elected officials, Mayor Pasquale Menna today said he would move to eliminate insurance benefits for himself “and all future mayors” of Red Bank.

Citing public sentiment, Menna said in a press release that since the coverage was instituted during the administration of Mayor Michael Arnone in the late 1980s, “the cost of health insurance has skyrocketed and is now seen by many in our community as a benefit that should not be provided to elected officials.”

“My sense is that the electorate is saying that they believe officials performing their duty should be adequately compensated but that health insurance should not be provided,” Menna says in the release.

Earlier this year the council, led by rookie member and finance committee chairman Michael DuPont, rejected calls that the coverage for elected officials be dropped, and instead opted to have officials pay the same percentage of the premium costs as borough employees. That change is expected to take effect in 2008.

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GLOVES-OFF IN THE 12TH-D SENATE RACE

Today’s Star-Ledger drops in for a look at the “she slurps her soup”/”she kicks puppies” rhetoric in the 12th-district state Senate contest between incumbent Ellen Karcher of Marlboro and Red Bank Republican Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck.

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From the article:

In the 12th Legislative District, which has seen one corrupt official after another hauled off to jail, touting one’s ethics while disparaging one’s opponent’s is the order of the day.

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FEW SPARKS FROM COUNCIL CANDIDATES

Img_7126Republicans John Tyler, upper left, and Grace Cangemi draw lots from forum moderator Amy Goldsmith to see who will speak first as Democrats Ed Zipprich, Kathy Horgan and Sharon Lee, all in foreground, look on.

They came, they saw, they spoke in generalities.

Five of the six candidates for Red Bank Borough Council turned out for last night’s candidates forum put together by the West Side Community Group at River Street Commons.

“Overdevelopment” was a concern for several, including Democrat Kathleen Horgan, a member of the Zoning Board who’s seeking her first elective office.

“Educating our children” was high on Republican John Tyler’s agenda.

“Quality of life” was mentioned by most, as were pleas for residents to “get involved” in their neighborhoods and in local issues.

Once in a while, the candidates hinted at what they might actually do if elected — push for police foot patrols, for example, a goal voiced by the sole incumbent among the candidates, Republican Grace Cangemi, who’s running for the remaining year of the unexpired term she was appointed to earlier this year when Kaye Ernst quit and moved away.

For the most part though, while they clearly brought distinct perspectives, the contenders offered little in the way of specific plans of action. Rather, the event proved more an opportunity for voters to size up the candidates as in-the-flesh beings.

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