On 4/17, '96 nominee/ex-Rep. Dick Zimmer (R) "formally announced his candidacy" by saying "he is a fiscal conservative and the best candidate for office." Zimmer replaces millionaire businessman Andrew Unanue (R). State Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R) "quickly challenged Zimmer's right to replace Unanue," saying Unanue was never a serious candidate. Zimmer "dismissed that" 4/17, "saying Unanue had filed an affidavit of intent." Pennacchio's camp could not prove the charges "unless they have someone with telepathic powers at his disposal" (Atlantic City Press, 4/18).
Pennacchio's camp accused Zimmer of "thuggery" in relation to the suit. According to the Pennacchio side, Zimmer counsel Mark Sheridan accused Pennacchio mrg. Mike Gallic "of improperly practicing law without a license." Even after Gallic "substituted the name of a registered lawyer on the complaint," a Pennacchio aide says, "Sheridan sent a letter" to the Morris Co. Court detailing the charges against Gallic. Gallic: "We will not give in one inch to people who use threats and intimidation against those they see as weaker" (Isenstadt, PolitickerNJ.com, 4/17).
Meanwhile, Zimmer, announcing: "I have the vision to reflect the view the people of the state of New Jersey, I have the leadership ability which I've shown in my years in the Legislature and in Congress, and I have a record of accomplishment" (Rispoli, Asbury Park Press, 4/18).
More Zimmer: "What I want to do in the long run is completely revise the tax code. It's a nightmare. There's a lot of pork in the tax code -- corporate welfare -- and I want to get rid of that as well" (Schwaneberg, Newark Star-Ledger, 4/18).
The NJ Dem cmte "criticized Zimmer's job as a lobbyist while he denouncing wasteful spending." Dem spokesperson Rich McGrath: "How much 'pork' and special interest favors are linked to the long list of lobbying clients for Dick Zimmer's Washington lobbying firm?" (Asbury Park Press, 4/18).
The Rule Of Threes
In announcing, Zimmer became "the third person to receive the backing" of the GOP establishment. Pennacchio "greeted Zimmer's entry into the race by suing him, saying his candidacy was a sham." Pennacchio "also beat Zimmer at a restaged party convention on Zimmer's old turf in Hunterdon County" (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/18).
Zimmer "acknowledged that he was surprised" that the Hunterdon Co. GOPers voted 34-30 to keep Pennacchio on the line, "but he said that no harbinger of bad fortune for his fledgling campaign." He "noted that two committee members who voted for Pennacchio" at the convo "told him that they planned to vote for Zimmer in the primary." Zimmer said that he still expects to win Hunterdon in the primary by a "very large margin."
Zimmer: "This was an issue about keeping their commitment that they made personally to Joe to endorse him, and they felt that just because there was another vote that they weren't going to change their commitment. They looked him in the eye and said they were going to vote for him and they did. In Hunterdon County, I guess they don't like re-dos" (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com, 4/17).
Zimmer "acknowledged" that "he will have trouble raising money thanks to his late entry" into the race. Zimmer "said he has no budget and was phoning past supporters to ask for donations." But even if he raises more than his fellow GOPers, "he would face one well-funded" Dem opponent or the other (Young, Bergen Record, 4/18).
On the Dem side, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-01) announced 4/17 "that he's filing suit against 13 mostly northern county clerks" to seek a "fair and open Democratic primary" that requires county clerks to give "fair and equal" ballot position to both candidates. In effect, Andrews wants to render Sen. Frank Lautenberg's (D) "county line advantage obsolete."
While Andrews "has the county line in seven southern counties, Lautenberg has the line in the 12 other counties that award it -- a big advantage in a primary with an expected low turnout." Lautenberg spokesperson Julie Roginsky "said that Andrews" had no problems with the bracketing system until it worked against him. Roginsky: "This lawsuit smacks of hypocrisy and desperation. ...Most remarkably, Congressman Andrews is bringing lawsuits only in the counties he couldn't win. It is clear the Congressman wants a new set of rules for himself and another for everyone else." Andrews spokesperson Bill Caruso said that, while the south Jersey county clerks aren't named in the suit, the same principle should be applied to all 21 counties (Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com, 4/17).
A "Superior Court judge, however, ruled against Andrews' request to stop printing ballots and hear his case" (McAlpin, Bergen Record, 4/18).
Meanwhile, a "challenge" to Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello's (D) candidacy "was withdrawn" 4/18 "after it became clear he had enough valid signatures to remain" on the 6/3 ballot. Cresitello "immediately kicked his campaign into attack mode," accusing Andrews of secretly engineering the challenge. The Andrews camp denied that. Cresitello: "They don't have the courage to confirm this. If you're running for public office, the best thing is to be honest with the voters."
By law, Cresitello needed 1K valid signatures. His petition had 1,384 names, and 704 of them were disputed by a pair of lawyers from Metuchen. The 1,000th name was confirmed 4/18. Atty Lawrence Mezzacca then called his partner, John Kwasnik, who agreed to drop their challenge. Both attys "maintained the challenge was their own idea, although an assistant, Jean Lidon," said 4/16 they were representing Andrews. Lidon "later retracted that," saying she had been "confused." Caruso "stuck by an earlier statement." Caruso: "They weren't our attorneys. They don't represent us" (Coughlin, Newark Star-Ledger, 4/18).
Both the Andrews and Lautenberg camps "are pointing to their differences in trying to paint one another as out of step" with NJ voters. But some "political insiders think that Andrews might be able to pull off an upset if he focuses more on his style and minimizes those policy distinctions, because they highlight his more conservative bent."
Unlike Lautenberg, Andrews voted for a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning, a fense along the U.S.-Mexico border, legislation making it harder to declare bankruptcy," a '03 funding bill for the Iraq war and a '00 repeal of the estate tax. Lautenberg "remains the heavy favorite." The "policy difference will almost certainly emerge as the campaign season kicks into full gear ahead" of the 6/3 primary (Raju, The Hill, 4/17).
This article appears in the April 18, 2008, edition of Latest Edition.