The Bray -- June 24, 2014

Dear Friend --

It’s been another busy couple of weeks, and the General Election is officially underway. We continue to monitor Governor Christie’s activities, notably his vain effort to rehabilitate his reputation. For someone in such a deep hole, politically, the enthusiasm he brings to digging that hole deeper is a little strange, don't you think?

On June 3, New Jersey Democrats chose a great crop of candidates for the upcoming mid-term elections. Our ticket is the most diverse batch of congressional candidates our state party has ever seen, while the GOP ticket is just more of the same.

Our ticket advances three women congressional candidates: Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard, and Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach — a fact that I take great pride in. Our delegation has not included a woman for more than a decade, and that's too long.

On the Violence Against Women Act, paid family and medical leave, and the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Republican Congress creates obstacles rather than making progress. That needs to change. And electing capable, qualified Democratic women to Congress could give Republicans in Washington the attitude adjustment they need.

We also need to improve the electoral process. As this editorial explains, Democrats are pushing early-voting initiatives, like those in effect in 33 other states and D.C., that would increase voter convenience and turnout, while easing the chaos that can be created by natural disasters. It should be an easy idea to get behind, but, as you may know, Governor Christie vetoed an earlier attempt. Why? Because Republicans fear that more voting opportunities will boost the turnout of poorer voters who might be unable to get to the polls on Election Day.

The board overseeing the largest public-employee pension fund in New Jersey, the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS), voted 6-0 to join numerous union organizations and sue Christie over his plan to pinch $2.4 billion from the contribution he promised to make to the state pension system. PERS includes 280,000 active employees and 139,000 retirees, and more than 10,000 letters were submitted by public workers worried about the financial security of their retirement plans.

The New York Times, stating the obvious, said that unless Governor Christie funds pension obligations properly, "his claims to fiscal prudence will be nothing more than bluster."

This report notes that a hearing on all the lawsuits will be held tomorrow, June 25, in state Superior Court in Trenton. We are hopeful that our brothers and sisters in the Labor movement prevail.

After making Bridgegate the punchline of an awkward dancing joke — a performance that Gawker said makes one “want to scrub your eyes with bleach” — Christie made a campaign stop in California, where he evaded questions about the ongoing investigations of his administration.

From my perspective, given the harm Christie's failed economic policies have caused to middle class New Jersey families, the governor should be focused on the state’s policy problems, not late night comedy appearances. Besides, his scandalous behavior has already made the Garden State the laughing stock of the country.

But the Governor really seems to believe that he can convince us that his problems (and ours) are a figment of our imaginations. At a recent conference hosted by Mitt Romney, he referenced Bridgegate and brashly told major donors that they’ll “get over it.”

“Back in reality” as this extraordinary report highlights, U.S. Attorneys are closing in on Christie and his team. The New Jersey legislature continues to subpoena administration officials in its investigation of the lane closures. And the Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly looking into the management of the Port Authority too, zeroing in on Christie's involvement in possible securities law violations related to the Pulaski Skyway.

In other words, as Bergen Record columnist Charles Stile observed, “Nero fiddled, and Christie, well…he danced." (A reference to the ancient emperor, Nero, who is believed to have started the fire that destroyed much of Rome in 64 AD.)

Meanwhile, the ruins of the Chris Christie economy continue to smolder:
·         A record six state credit downgrades, with further downgrades threatened.
·         An $800 million hole in the New Jersey’s 2014 budget — a result of his overly optimistic revenue projections.
·         New Jersey is ranked 48th in the nation in job creation, and maintains the highest unemployment among its neighbors.

Clearly, when we speak of Governor Christie's economic policy failures, it's not partisan rhetoric, it is fact.

Check out your NJDSC team as we arrived in the historic Maryland State capitol for an Association of State Democratic Chairs’ training. It was a fun and interesting trip that brought us together with our Democratic counterparts in other states.

I caught up with New Mexico Chairman Sam Bregman for this photo, and we discussed how Chris Christie and his GOP pal, the unimpressive Susana Martinez, have both devastated state economies with their cronyism. The same is also true for Republican candidate for governor in New Hampshire, Walt Havenstein, a CEO with a record of fiscal mismanagement.

Havenstein turned to Governor Christie for assistance with his gubernatorial campaign, and I joined New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley for a conference call with the press to help warn Granite Staters that the Christie record is something to run from, not toward.

Our governor, who ought to know a thing or two about criminal allegations, also rallied to the side of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Walker has been accused by prosecutors of being central to an extensive "criminal scheme" to bypass state election laws. Sadly, these days, the Republican Governor's Association looks less like a political organization, and more like a crime syndicate.

It’s Pride Month -- a great time to remember that the fight for equality has continues.

For sure, we’ve made progress on equal rights. “Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was repealed, the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down, and more and more states are embracing marriage for same-sex couples. However, in some states, it is still legal for someone to be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity — one of the reasons that President Barack Obama is pledging to to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity through executive order.

Our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus applauded the president's move because no one should be fired for who they are or whom they love.

President Obama might not need to act, if Speaker Boehner would allow a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect all LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination. Tell the speaker of the House that he is standing on the wrong side of history by adding your name to this petition.

Last, but not least, with the summer upon us, we must remember that thousands are still reeling from the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy in October of 2012. Some 6,300 people remain on a waiting list to receive grants for house-raising and fewer than half of the 5,400 applications approved are under construction, according to Bloomberg reports.

Governor Christie made a name for himself in the aftermath of Sandy, promoting himself while pledging to make relief a priority. Many rallied to his side. But, now, it’s clear — Chris Christie was only in it for himself, and his promises on Sandy relief were empty ones. He's put the desires of his cronies and big donors, as well as his delusional pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination, ahead of the people's needs.

As one Toms River resident said, “I used to love Chris Christie, but I think he let us down.. Everybody wants to blame the other guy but at the end of the day the governor is ultimately responsible.” If you ask me, this is a very good point.

I'll connect with you again soon. In the meantime, enjoy your summer.


John Currie
New Jersey Democratic State Committee

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