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Montclair’s PlanetCivic goes statewide

in Community/Environment/municipal government/State politics/Township Council

Just in time for the November election, the Montclair-based group PlanetCivic on Friday expanded beyond taking on just local issues to statewide ones. The group, founded by township resident Javier Guardo, has set up a New Jersey page on its website and will be seeking feedback on state issues.

“This means you now belong to PlanetCivic’s Montclair community as well as its New Jersey community, and you can cast votes and propose initiatives in both groups,” Guardo said in an email on Friday.

He launched PlanetCivic earlier this year as a mechanism for residents to bring issues to the attention of the Township Council, but has now decided it is time to go statewide.

“Our state political system has been at a stalemate for too long,” Guardo said. “As New Jersey heads to the polls this November, voters deserve action on the issues that matter most to them. PlanetCivic provides a way for you to demonstrate to your candidates and elected leaders the level of support behind your ideas at this pivotal moment.”

The group’s New Jersey page already has information regarding proposed initiatives regarding “stopping the PennEast Pipeline, resisting the Concealed-carry Gun Reciprocity Act, fast-tracking the Gateway Project, re-entering the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.”

Murphy, Guadagno win their parties’ gubernatorial slots, Montclair’s Johnson loses

in State politics
DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF
Howard Mills, a Democrat, comes out of a polling place at Trinity Presbyterian Church on High Street Tuesday after voting in the primary election. He voted for Phil Murphy, the victor laying claim to be the Democrat’s gubernatorial candidate in November.

by LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

Phil Murphy, a millionaire former Wall Street executive, secured the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor in November, to be pitted against Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in the general election.

Statewide, Murphy won 49 percent of his party’s votes in Tuesday’s primary election with 98 percent of precincts reporting, totaling 237,226, according to The New York Times. Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs executive, ex-finance chair for the Democratic National Committee and former U.S. Ambassador to Germany.

Montclair Democrat Jim Johnson was the runner-up, receiving 107,905 votes (21.9 percent). He was a federal treasury official under President Bill Clinton.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19), finished in third place with 106,789 votes, or 21.7 percent, while State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-20) had 23,883, or 5 percent, The Times said.

In the statewide GOP primary race, Guadagno managed to overcome the taint of Gov. Chris Christie’s rocky tenure, which included the Bridgegate scandal and a close alliance with President Trump, before and after his election to the Oval Office. She won a runaway victory with 47 percent of the vote, more than 111,900 votes cast.

She was followed by Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R-16), with 31 percent, or 74,328; Hirsh Singh, an aerospace executive and engineer from Atlantic County, garnered 10 percent, or 23,326; Joseph Rullo, an actor from Ocean County, won 6.5 percent, or 15,556; and Steven Rogers, a Nutley Township Commissioner had 6 percent, or 13,919 votes.

In Essex County, with roughly 94 percent of the precincts reporting as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Murphy garnered 56 percent of the votes, or 34,647.

He was followed by Johnson, who tallied 29 percent, or 17,757 votes. Wisniewski received roughly 11 percent, or 7,052 votes, followed by Lesniak,  with 1,068 votes, or  2 percent;  former Teaneck firefighter William Brennan, with 852, or 1.4 percent; and Mark Zinna, president of the Tenafly Borough Council, with 167, or 0.3 percent.

Democratic turnout exceeded 26 percent in Essex County, far exceeding the turnout for the 2013 governor’s primary, when just 16 percent of county Democrats voted.

But Guadagno didn’t beat Ciattarelli in Essex County.

In the GOP race for that party’s gubernatorial candidate, Ciattarelli outperformed Guadagno, winning 2,927, or 43 percent, of the Essex vote versus her 29 percent, or 1,984 votes. They were followed by:  Rogers, with 969 votes, or 14 percent; Singh, with 665 votes, or 10 percent; and Rullo, awith 242 votes, or 3.5 percent.

The county website as of Tuesday night didn’t break out election figures for Montclair.

In the township, some of the voters who did turn up at the polls were adamant about the importance of casting their ballots in the primary.

“It’s my right to decide who I would like to have,” said Mabel Squire, a Democrat. “ And if you don’t come [to vote], then don’t complain.”

DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF
Mabel Squire outside the Trinity Presbyterian Church on High Street Tuesday.

She voted at Trinity Presbyterian Church, a Fourth Ward poll, as did Howard Mills, a Democrat who said that he gave Murphy his vote.

“I vote in all the elections,” he said. “Even if I like ’em [the candidates] or not, I vote.”

As for his support of Murphy, Mills said, “Get rid of Christie and his crowd.”

Gregory Peniston was also at the church polling place, and said it’s important to vote in primaries, citing the struggle that a noted civil-rights activist went through for African-Americans to exercise their right to vote.

“Fannie Lou Hamer went through a lot of grief, down in Mississippi with the civil rights cause, she went through so much grief, I said the least I can do is vote,” Peniston said. “There are so many who can’t vote, and didn’t vote, but now have the ability to vote.”

DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF
Gregory Peniston took time to vote the straight Democratic line at Trinity Presbyterian Church Tuesday.

He said that he voted the straight Democratic party line on the ballot, including Murphy as the party’s gubernatorial candidate in November.

At the United Way building on South Fullerton Avenue, Democrat Andre Blake said that the primaries are important.

“I came out to vote because unfortunately everybody thinks that it’s just about the big election, the presidential election,” he said. “But as you can see by the current climate that we live in, these smaller elections count … I don’t like what I see in politics right now. I’m just trying to exercise my rights that were so greatly fought for.”

DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF
Andre Blake voted in the primary at the United Way Building on South Fullerton Avenue.

At the same polling place, Ruth Frankel said that this primary was particularly important because only two states this year, New Jersey and Virginia, have gubernatorial races this year.

“I always do [vote in primaries], because I think it does matter in the end. I think that you have to have a voice in the primary, too, particularly this year,” Frankel said. “This year I think there’s a lot at stake. And the person I voted for I know of. I know his background and I’ve liked him. And I certainly don’t want to give you the name because I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for.”

DEBBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF
Ruth Frankel, a Democrat, stressed the importance of voting in New Jersey’s primary because it is one of only two states to have a gubernatorial election this year.

Kate Webber was another voter at the United Way location.

“Why voting [in the primary]?” she said. “Just because I’ve always thought it’s really important to vote and I want to send a message that people care, especially this day and age of Trump being our president. So it feels even more important as a result. And also, I have kids and I want to set an example to them, too, so I’d say that’s mostly the reason.”

DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI/STAFF
Kate Webber said she wanted to present a good example for her children by voting in the primary.

Piscopo still weighing independent bid for governor

in State politics
Joe Piscopo spoke at a Montclair Republican Club lunch at the Greek Taverna restaurant on Wednesday. At right is John Van Wagner, president of the club. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

By LINDA MOSS

moss@montclairlocal.news

“Saturday Night Live” veteran and North Jersey native Joe Piscopo didn’t tip his hand on Wednesday at a luncheon for local Republicans, still declining to say whether he will run for governor as an independent. Even his mother is wondering about his decision. 

Piscopo, who has a show on conservative radio station WNYM, spoke at a Montclair Republican Club luncheon at the Greek Taverna restaurant, regaling about 35 attendees with his reasoning for considering a bid to seek election for the state’s highest office, but not on the GOP slate. Cracking jokes as well as talking about serious issues, Piscopo told the crowd that he just didn’t have enough time to mount a try as a Republican gubernatorial candidate, that the primary window was too short.

“I had my family to think of,” he said. “I had my work to think of.  I just signed a new contract at the radio station. I said, ‘How can I do everything and then run in it’ …  So we think, ‘Do I run right down the middle as an independent just to rip it up?’”

He has more time, until June 6, to file a petition to run as an independent.

The comedian has caused a stir in New Jersey political circles with his possible campaign and comments about it being unlikely that the GOP will win the governor’s race in November after Chris Christie held that post for eight years. The Republican gubernatorial field this year includes Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, R-Somerset.

Piscopo, describing himself as “fired up,” said that some have complained that if he runs as an independent he will siphon votes from the eventual Republican GOP candidate.

“I think I’d take more votes away from the Democrats,” he said. “I may get Kim elected. I’m not sure.”

Piscopo’s mother, Edith Piscopo, 92, clad in a purple blazer and bright print scarf, attended the luncheon. 

“I am very proud of him,” the North Caldwell resident said of her son.

Even she is mulling the consequences if he decides to run for office. 

“I’m praying to God that Joe makes the right decision,” she said.

Piscopo said Republicans have a chance to make inroads in state government in November. 

“The Democrats are not happy,” he said. “There is a golden opportunity to take back Trenton. … If the Democrats get in, the state will be unsustainable in two years.”

“No one’s talking about property taxes,” he said, referring to other candidates for governor. “What you pay in property taxes in Montclair, New Jersey, should be criminal.”

Describing himself as “a pro-union conservative,” Piscopo said he supports giving tax breaks to teachers, police and firefighters, and then telling them, “Now let’s renegotiate pension and welfare” benefits.

“That’s the way to do it,” he said.

He also blamed administrative costs, superintendent not teacher salaries, for making taxes in the state soar. 

“You have to put a cap on the administrative costs of education,” Piscopo said. “There’s more school districts than municipalities. That’s crazy.”

The state needs to generate more revenue, and can do so by encouraging manufacturing, with one option being private-public partnerships with nations such as China, according to Piscopo. He also described initiatives to bring back pharmaceutical companies to New Jersey, including attracting generic drug firms to Camden.

Originally from Passaic, Piscopo now lives in Lebanon, New Jersey. He told the luncheon attendees that he grew up in Bloomfield and North Caldwell, and went to West Essex High School in Caldwell. During his remarks Piscopo spoke about the high taxes in the Garden State as well as in the township. He said he has been talking to union and political officials, as well as business executives, as he mulls a run for office.

“I’m an entertainer, but I listen,” he said. “And from the radio show, it’s been like going to a political science class. I have access to everybody.”

Roland Straten, chairman of the Montclair Republican Committee, was at the lunch. 

“I’m here to listen,” he said. 

It would be very hard for an independent candidate to win the gubernatorial race in New Jersey, according to Straten.

“A lot of people will just vote a line,” he said.

John Van Wagner, president of the Montclair Republican Club, said of Piscopo, “A lot of the ideas he’s espousing right now if he does run as an independent are very much ideas that would have serious relevance to New Jersey.”

At the lunch Piscopo said that he voted for Donald Trump for president.

“I make no apologies for it,” Piscopo said. “He talked about infrastructure. He talked about jobs.”

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