NJ Republicans can’t agree on how to deal with Trump

By Matt Friedman (mfriedman@politico.com; @mattfriedmannj)

It was probably a clue when Tom MacArthur left his election night party without saying anything, while Andy Kim came out to to talk to his supporters.

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Yesterday, Burlington County finally counted thousands of vote-by-mail ballots. MacArthur’s 2,000+ vote lead flipped. Now Kim’s leading by a couple thousand votes. And last night, Kim declared victory.

It’s far from official yet, even if it’s looking that way. Mail-in ballots that arrive by today still have to be counted as long as they’re postmarked by Tuesday. And there are thousands more provisional ballots to count.

But it’s hard to see how MacArthur makes up the margin, unless more uncounted votes are unexpectedly concentrated in deep red Ocean County. For now, he’s not conceding. But Democrats are confident that the outstanding votes don’t give MacArthur a path.

Even if MacArthur pulls off a miracle, it’s clear he misread his district by standing so prominently with Trump and lending his name and insurance expertise to the Obamacare repeal attempt. Then again, Leonard Lance read his district perfectly and still lost.

Just two years ago, New Jersey had six Republicans and six Democrats in its House delegation. If Kim did indeed win, come January it will be represented by just one Republican and 11 Democrats.

I do think Republicans will eventually win back some House seats in New Jersey. But maybe not with Trump as president.

WHERE’S MURPHY? At the 10 a.m. Blue Mass in Newark, followed by a 2 p.m. bill signing on banning “ghost guns”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Catholic HealthCare Partnership’s Sister Pat Codey, AAMG’s A.J. Sabath

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Taxes have never come up [with Amazon] in terms of what we did in the budget,” Murphy said at a press conference in Newark. “I appreciate Sen. Kean weighing in. I notice he’s weighing in a lot over NJ Transit over the last 9 months, bless his heart, I’d like to know we are fixing the damn thing.” — Gov. Phil Murphy, responding to Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean’s criticism


LUCKILY FOR NJ REPUBLICANS, TRUMP WILL BE LOW-KEY OVER THE NEXT COUPLE YEARS — New Jersey Republicans debate how to handle Trump after major losses, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: Looking over the aftermath of Tuesday night’s bloodbath for the New Jersey GOP, Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick thinks he has a fix. The party, he said, needs to clearly and forcefully repudiate the kind of rhetoric on which President Donald Trump closed the election. “Trump’s rhetoric created an atmosphere that unified the opposition, meaning that he got people so mad that they reacted to his divisive language,“ Bramnick said. “Even a moderate like [Republican Senate nominee] Bob Hugin or a moderate like [U.S. Rep.] Leonard Lance couldn’t overcome the opposition that was reacting to this divisive environment created by the president in New Jersey.“

The problem for Bramnick is that his sentiment is far from universal among Garden State Republicans. The party’s state chairman and at least one pro-Trump state lawmaker strongly disagree with his assessment of the president. Increasingly, GOP strength is being marginalized to rural areas in a deep blue state dominated by cities and suburbs. At the same time, Democrats have increased their party registration advantage over Republicans to more than 930,000 voters. Come January, the state GOP, already with little power in Trenton, will have its smallest delegation in the House of Representatives in more than 100 years as it watches once solid Republican areas shift to the Democrats. Read the report

NAA… — Trump: Hugin could have beaten Menendez if he stood with me, by POLITICO’s Ryan Hutchins: Read the report

SMOKED SESSIONS — “Booker says Trump sacked Sessions because he’s afraid of Mueller’s Russia probe,” by NJ Advance Media’s Jonathan D. Salant: “U.S. Sen. Cory Booker on Wednesday called Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ dismissal ‘an alarming development’ and warned that curtailing the probe into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials could lead to ‘a constitutional crisis.’ The investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller has been overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but the acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, could take over supervision and limit the scope of the probe. Whitaker took over the Justice Department Wednesday as Trump requested and obtained the … resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions a day after the midterm elections. ‘Jeff Sessions’ firing at the hands of the president is an alarming development that brings us one step closer to a constitutional crisis,’ said Booker, D-N.J.” Read the report

DON’T BLOW IT NOW BY EATING POP ROCKS WITH PEPSI, MIKIE —”In Jersey, Sherrill is the star in a blue tsunami,” by The Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran: “The margins were remarkable. Mikie Sherrill, the rock star of the evening, crushed her Republican opponent by 13 points in a district that Trump won two years ago. She is 46, and if she plays her cards right, is destined to become the most powerful woman in New Jersey politics since Gov. Christie Whitman … If Democrats want to lose, a heavy dose of moral condescension would help, driving a message that every last Trump supporter is a bigot. I don’t think New Jersey Democrats are that stupid. And that brings me back to Sherrill, the star of the night. Sherrill’s strategy was to run as herself, a centrist who is offended by what Trump is doing to the country, a patriot who flew Navy helicopters in the Mideast before a second career as a federal prosecutor in Newark. Her opponent, Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, ran as a mini-Trump. He lied about Sherrill over and over, inventing stuff like the charge that she wanted to eliminate ICE. But when Sherrill debated him, she answered not with anger, but with a steely resolve, and a relentless appeal to common ground.” Read the column

—“How Mikie Sherrill won,” by The Record’s Bruce Lowry: “What always made Mikie Sherrill such an attractive congressional candidate was the part of her resume that included Naval Academy graduate, and Navy helicopter pilot. What carried her across the finish line, however, was not the Navy, but rather “Mikie’s Army” of volunteers that spread its wings and kept growing, and that helped her campaign continue to build momentum all the way to the end, by which time Sherrill, a moderate Democrat who set records for congressional fund-raising, had overwhelmed her opponent, Republican Assemblyman Jay Webber. The impressive thing about “Mikie’s Army” is that its ranks swelled enough to include a wide array of volunteers, from a trio of middle-aged Essex County women who’d grown weary of former Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, a so-called “Rockefeller Republican” who’d lost touch; to energized teen-aged girls from Chatham High School who rushed to join the Sherrill campaign even though they couldn’t vote; to a Parsippany native who described himself as a “nominal independent” who’d been up since 5 a.m. on Election Day, he said, working as an “election challenger” at Brooklawn Junior High School.” Read the column

HOUSE REPUBLICANS SAY THEY’LL PROTECT SOCIAL SECURITY BUT THEY DON’T WANT ANYONE TO RETIRE — “How the House fell: Republican chaos and Democratic focus,” by The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin: “Representative Ed Royce of California was not the first Republican to decide he would not run for re-election in 2018. But his announcement, in January, was the warning bell that tolled most ominously for Republican leaders … Within weeks, Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, followed suit. Though he had pledged to seek re-election, Mr. Frelinghuysen was incensed over the way Mr. Ryan treated him during the tax overhaul debate — the speaker, Mr. Frelinghuysen told associates, had threatened to eject him from his chairmanship. ‘He was appropriations chair, and there were lots of people trying to tell him what he could and couldn’t do as appropriations chair,’ said Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, the head of the N.R.C.C. ‘At that point you’re not as much of a chair.’ … Beyond the speaker, Mr. Stivers said he pleaded with colleagues to run again and named several — including Mr. Frelinghuysen and Representatives Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey and Dennis Ross of Florida — as having undermined the party. He sniped at Mr. Ross, who quit the day Mr. Ryan retired: ‘He saw the cover of Paul retiring, and he slid right under it.’ Mr. LoBiondo suggested he could change his mind and run for re-election, provided he could hang on to the chairmanship of a congressional subcommittee he was scheduled to relinquish. Republican leaders assented, but it was not enough. ‘He got what he said he wanted, and he still retired,’ Mr. Stivers said.” Read the report

—“A Trump-Fueled ‘Wipeout’ for House Republicans in Northeast” Read the report

WHAT $36 MILLION GETS YOU — “Menendez by the numbers,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “In the end, Hugin’s 44% was about what a Republican U.S. Senate candidate typically receives. Steve Lonegan got 44% against Cory Booker in 2013 and Jeff Bell got 42% in 2014; neither spent anywhere near what Hugin did.” Read the report

CHAIRMAN — Pallone pledges vigorous oversight, green energy push at E&C, by POLITICO’s Anthony Adragna: Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said in a statement today he’ll seek to invest in clean energy and drinking water infrastructure — and conduct vigorous oversight of the Trump administration, if he leads the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee next year as expected. “We will follow through on pushing policies that build a stronger economy, create more good-paying jobs and protect consumers from skyrocketing costs that make it increasingly difficult to make ends meet,” Pallone, current ranking member of the panel, said. “We’ll also conduct vigorous oversight of the Trump Administration.” The New Jersey Democrat also said he’ll examine the impacts of climate change on communities and the economy, and he would seek to restore environmental protections that have been weakened under the administration. Read the report

—“Election 2018: Here’s why N.J. voted for Menendez and opposed Trump” Read the report

—“Election 2018: N.J. voter turnout surged for hot Menendez-Hugin Senate race” Read the report

—“NJ election results 2018: How Jeff Van Drew flipped a red House seat to blue” Read the report

—”A Trump job Chris Christie wanted the most just opened upRead the report

GATEWAY TO GATEWAY? — Democratic House gives hope to backers of cross-Hudson project, by POLITICO’s Dana Rubinstein: They’re not planning a groundbreaking yet, but backers of what is arguably the region’s (and nation’s) most pressing infrastructure project are expressing hope for the project’s prospects for the first time since President Donald Trump turned on it. Ultimately the fate of the $13 billion Gateway tunnel-and-bridge project continues to rest with the Trump administration. But the House of Representatives will soon be controlled by a party that is both friendlier to big cities and more inclined to use its subpoena and oversight authority to pressure the president to, at a minimum, let the project proceed. “I’m told my folks who know a lot better than I do … that he plays the hand he’s been dealt,” Gov. Phil Murphy said, referring to Trump. “And if you believe that, and there’s more checks and balances from the House, maybe he has a different impulse on Gateway. I hope he does. I remain optimistic.” Read the report

OBAMACARE — Murphy: Democratic gains bode well for preserving health care policies, by POLITICO’s Sam Sutton: With a new Democratic majority secured, New Jersey’s delegation in the House of Representatives will be in position to reinforce major planks of Gov. Phil Murphy’s platform — particularly regarding health care and preservation of the Affordable Care Act. “Because we won the House of Representatives last night, in large part due to what happened in New Jersey, the attack on the Affordable Care Act has ended,” Murphy said in a speech at the Greater Abyssinian Baptist Church Wednesday morning. “How many of you — and you don’t have to raise your hand, but think of this — how many of you or your family or your friends have pre-existing conditions? The Republicans wanted to take your right to health care away from you. That has ended. That is over.” … After his remarks, Murphy told reporters the likely ascension of Rep. Frank Pallone to House Energy and Commerce chairman presents a major opportunity to advance New Jersey’s relevance in the House. Read the report

—”Mother of sickened teen sues Wanaque center where 10 have died in adenovirus outbreak” Read the report

THE DRUG TEST? — “Thousands have applied to be NJ Transit engineers. Now comes the hard part,” by NJ Advance Media’s Larry Higgs: “NJ Transit does not have enough engineers and it is one of the reasons why trains are continually late. Commuters though may get some relief, although it may not happen soon. More than 5,000 people have applied to be locomotive engineers and the deadline for procrastinators to do so is Nov. 9, NJ Transit officials said … Applicants must meet minimum requirements, pass a pre-employment test and interview process to be considered, she said.” Read the report

—“The race for Van Drew’s Senate seat begins today” Read the report

—“High volume of mail-in ballots a challenge for county clerks” Read the report

BY(E) GEORGE! — “George Youngkin announces plan to resign from Freeholder board after taking oath,” by The Burlington County Times’ David Levinsky: “Embattled Democrat George Youngkin now says he will not serve on the Burlington County Board of Freeholders. Youngkin suspended his campaign for the county board in late September after it was revealed he was arrested in 2006 following a domestic incident with his ex-wife, but both he and fellow Democrat Felicia Hopson were still elected to the two available seats Tuesday night over Republican incumbents Kate Gibbs and Linda Hughes. Their two victories ensure the Democrats will take majority control of the five-member Freeholder Board for the first time in more than 40 years. Former Democratic Freeholder Joanne Schwartz also was elected to the county Clerk post over Republican incumbent Tim Tyler. While the victories represented a historic moment for the party, Youngkin generated controversy Tuesday night when he announced he planned to serve in the seat. But hours later — following a Wednesday morning meeting with Burlington County Democratic chairman Joe Andl — the Medford Democrat announced he had reconsidered his plans and agreed to resign from the post immediately after taking the oath of office in January.” Read the report

‘WE WERE CONFIDENT THE BOB FROM UNION CITY WOULD WIN ALL ALONG’ — “Hudson Dems on Menendez: What, us worry?” by The Jersey Journal’s Terrence T. McDonald: “Hudson County Democrats spent months fretting about U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s chances this year, only to have all their fears vanish in an instant on Tuesday night. Poof. Many of them didn’t even get to experience the euphoria political supporters feel when they’re stuck in a ballroom together awaiting results and watch them flash across a monitor. The televisions at the Menendez party on the second floor of the W hotel in Hoboken were tuned to CNN, which did not mention the New Jersey senate race until 9:45. The race had been called by others more than an hour earlier, when some of Menendez’s top allies weren’t in the room … The comparative closeness of the Menendez-Hugin contest had Democrats in Hudson County antsy well into the fall that they might lose their guy in the U.S. Senate the same year they lost the state Assembly speakership and two years after losing the chance to nab the governor’s mansion. Not that they’d ever admit that publicly. While sipping wine and munching on gourmet sliders at the W on Tuesday night, Democrats told The Jersey Journal they never doubted Menendez’s chances. ‘Every race I’ve ever been on, you always run scared,’ said Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla. ‘This is no different but we’ve always had confidence in Bob Menendez.’ Jersey City Assemblyman Raj Mukherji also admitted to no fears that Hugin had a path to victory. ‘No, because New Jerseyans aren’t that dumb,’ Mukherji said.” Read the report

—“Takeaways from Election Day in Hudson County” Read the report

GOOD LUCK WITH THAT — “The brutal race for one of N.J.’s top-paying mayoral gigs isn’t over yet,” by NJ Advance Media’s Cassidy Grom: “Daniel Reiman, the longstanding Democratic mayor of Carteret, appears to have beaten out his Republican challenger Fred Gattuso by about 3,000 votes Tuesday, according to preliminary results. Gattuso, however, said he plans to call for a recount, claiming several instances of voter fraud. ‘I have no problem losing fair and square,” he said. ‘I have a problem with being cheated.’ The contentious race for mayor of Carteret — one of the top-paying mayoral gigs in the state — was preceded by months of turmoil, including controversies involving accusations of racial social media posts and allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage boys. Gattuso, a political newcomer, sought to take over Reiman’s $116,355-per year post after four terms.” Read the report

NEWARK SCHOOLS — “We want to elect school board members, not have the mayor do it, voters say,” by NJ Advance Media’s Karen Yi: “The state ended its takeover of the Newark and Paterson school districts this year, leaving residents to decide the key question of how they want their schools to be run: by an elected school board or one appointed by the mayor. On Tuesday, residents in both cities — as well as in Camden where the state still maintains control of the district — overwhelmingly voted for locally-elected boards and the power to hold those board members accountable at the ballot box.” Read the report

BUT REALLY, DOES ANYONE FEEL WELCOME AT NEWARK AIRPORT? — “Baraka tells Newark crowd that Trump unwelcome at Newark Airport,” from InsiderNJ: “Appearing this morning before friends and allies with Governor Phil Murphy, Mayor Ras Baraka said President Donald J. Trump is not welcome at the local airport. ‘It matters to us,’ Baraka said to cheers on the heels of his home city performing at the polls in the rain on Tuesday, electing incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and dealing a Garden State loss to the president.” Read the report

—Newark, health department will encourage pediatricians to test children for lead Read the report

—“Palisades Park elects first Korean-American mayor” Read the report

—“The erotic film actor did not win a school board seat” Read the report

TRUMP NOT THE ONLY PERSON DENYING REALITY — “Murphy, Baraka decry Amazon reports as ‘speculation’,” by NJ Biz’s Daniel J. Munoz: “Gov. Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka cast as “speculation” published reports that Amazon has chosen sites in New York and Virginia for its second North American headquarters, bypassing New Jersey’s largest city. Baraka, appearing at a press conference Wednesday with the governor to discuss the previous day’s midterm elections, decried media reports saying Amazon chose to split its HQ2 between Arlington, Va., and Long Island City, N.Y. And Murphy said that much of this week’s fervor about Amazon has been ‘a lot of speculation.’ ‘It’s not over until it’s over,’ Baraka told NJBIZ. ‘Amazon, [CEO] Jeff Bezos, hadn’t made the call yet. So that’s the one that counts, that’s the one that matters.’” Read the report

JERSEY BOY TO BECOME PRISON BOY — “Craig Carton found guilty on all fraud charges, faces 45 years in prison,” by The New York Post’s Kaja Whitehouse: “A Manhattan federal jury has convicted sports radio personality Craig Carton of fraud — setting the fallen ‘Boomer and Carton’ co-host up for as much as 45 years in prison. After less than a day of deliberations, the jury of three men and nine women found Carton guilty on all counts, including securities fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. Carton looked straight ahead as the jury read the verdict. The roughly one-week trial included testimony from hedge fund executives who said they gave Carton millions as an investment in bulk event tickets, including a national tour by Metallica and two Barbra Streisand concerts. Documents showed that the money instead went to pay Carton’s personal expenses, including his gambling loans.” Read the report

—“Pastor resigns after taking $500K from church. Confesses it was his ‘compulsive behavior’” Read the report