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The thawing of tensions is likely a combination of the coronavirus upending politics as usual in Trenton, Murphy’s political popularity skyrocketing in the wake of the pandemic and the increasing independence of Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and his Middlesex County Democrats from the South Jersey Democrats who helped install him in the leadership post in 2018.

There’s also a feeling that it makes little sense for the two sides to openly feud when South Jersey Democratic lawmakers and Murphy will be on the same ballot next year.

“Maybe they just got to know each other better,” former state Sen. Ray Lesniak, a Democrat who has been a Norcross ally in recent years, said, laughing.

Whatever the reason, the Democratic Party in New Jersey is more unified now than it‘s been in years as Norcross, Murphy and Sweeney have put aside their personal distaste for each other — at least temporarily — a year ahead of Murphy’s reelection campaign.

“Things evolve and, frankly, the pandemic has changed a lot of the focus of the discussions, whether it has slowed some things down or caused other things to be placed on the back burner” said Assemblymember John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), a running mate of Sweeney‘s.

“Priorities get shifted when you have to talk about how you borrow $4.5 billion and then try to hold the economy together,” Burzichelli said, referring to a bill that authorized the state government to borrow up to $4.5 billion — a proposal first floated by Murphy and passed with Sweeney and Coughlin’s cooperation and input.

The good will has produced other results.

In September, Sweeney relented from his previous position and cut a deal on the top issue Murphy has pushed since his 2017 election: Instituting a higher tax on millionaires. Sweeney, who had been a champion of the tax until Murphy became governor, had refused to implement the tax for more than two years.

The Coughlin-brokered deal was part of a largely drama-free pandemic budget that came two years after Sweeney and Murphy’s fight over the millionaire‘s tax came within hours of shutting down state government.

Sweeney has also backed off a plan to form a committee with subpoena power to examine the Murphy administration‘s handling of the pandemic, including how the virus swept through the state’s long-term care facilities, killing more than 7,200 residents and staff.

At the same time, the administration’s investigation into the state’s tax incentive programs has quieted — a final report issued in the fall didn’t focus on Norcross — and Murphy, Sweeney and Coughlin are now negotiating on the future of programs after a year of head-butting which resulted in the programs expiring.

In October, Murphy attended two events with Norcross’ brother, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), who has has endorsed the governor’s reelection.

And most recently, a top Murphy ally, Democratic State Chair John Currie, granted Sweeney’s request and appointed him to the Democrats’ state legislative redistricting team, allowing the Senate president to protect his South Jersey district, which leans more conservative than many of the safe Democratic districts up north.

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That appointment was not an easy one for Murphy’s allies.

Currie, whose desire to become Passaic County clerk was blocked legislatively by Sweeney, resisted putting Sweeney on the redistricting commission, according to two sources with knowledge of the appointments — and not only because of a personal grievance. Despite growing populations, the Democrats’ delegation includes no Hispanic or South Asian members, and also lacks a voice from the state’s increasingly powerful grassroots progressive community. The five-member delegation includes just one woman.

“The Chairman’s picks for the redistricting commission protect and entrench 1) Dual officeholders 2) Steve Sweeney and 3) The patriarchy,” tweeted progressive activist Jay Lassiter.

There’s also been little chatter about a major primary challenge to Murphy, whose approval rating in recent polls has been above 60 percent.

Assemblymember Jamel Holley (D-Union) has said he’s considering a run, but likely wouldn’t be a serious contender as he’s promoted anti-vaccine conspiracy theories that have alienated some of his fellow Democratic lawmakers while developing a right-wing following online.

Former Newark mayoral candidate Shavar Jeffries, who has ties to Norcross, said in early 2020 that he was considering a run for governor, but has not made any recent moves or appearances that hint at a run.

Sweeney, persistently rumored to be considering a primary challenge to Murphy, ended that speculation for good when he secured enough votes from his caucus to return as senate president in 2022. His success in putting together the coalition, aided by the support of Bergen County senators, also ended any hopes that Murphy‘s allies would neutralize Sweeney’s political career.

“The governor’s approval rating is at an all-time high. While many of us were on the Phil Murphy train from the get-go, it’s good to see George Norcross and Steve Sweeney finally getting on board,” said Sue Altman, director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance and vocal Norcross critic.

Sweeney and Norcross did not respond to requests for comment.

But Brendan Gill, a top Murphy political adviser who was mocked by George Norcross at a 2019 Super Bowl party in Puerto Rico, acknowledged that relations have thawed.

“There have been differences of opinion on some of the substantial policy issues that the governor put forward. But what I’ve seen is the natural progression over the first two years and now deep into the third year of an administration where they have started to find areas of mutual concern and be able to work more closely together,” Gill said. “I think it’s a natural progression for an administration to make after having the ability to kind of get planted, so to speak.”




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Trump super PAC to hold first fundraiser at Bedminster

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A pro-Donald Trump super PAC is holding its first fundraising event on May 22 at the former president’s Bedminster golf club, according to two people familiar with the planning.

The event will benefit Make America Great Again Action, a super PAC spearheaded by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Trump is expected to attend the event, which will include reception and a dinner. The minimum price for entry is $250,000.

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Trump tapped Lewandowki earlier this year to oversee the super PAC as part of his post-White House political operation. It’s the second big money group Trump has formed. Shortly after the election, he launched Save America PAC, a leadership PAC that has raised tens of millions of dollars.


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Pierre ‘Pete’ du Pont IV dies; ran for president in 1988

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“I was born with a well-known name and genuine opportunity. I hope I have lived up to both,” du Pont said in announcing his longshot presidential bid in September 1986.

As a presidential candidate, du Pont attracted attention for staking out controversial positions on what he hoped would reverberate with voters as “damn right” issues. They included random drug testing for high school students, school vouchers, replacing welfare with work, ending farm subsidies, and allowing workers to invest in individual retirement accounts as an alternative to Social Security.

Some of those ideas have since become more mainstream.

He won the endorsement of New Hampshire’s largest newspaper but failed to gain traction among voters. He ended his campaign after finishing next-to-last in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.

Afterward, du Pont remained engaged in politics. He frequently wrote opinion pieces for publications such as the Wall Street Journal and co-founded the online public policy journal IntellectualCapital.com. He also served as chairman of Hudson Institute, the National Review Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan public policy research organization.

Pierre du Pont IV was born Jan. 22, 1935, in Delaware. After attending Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, he graduated from Princeton University in 1956 with an engineering degree. Following a four-year stint in the Navy, he obtained a law degree from Harvard University in 1963.

He joined the Du Pont Company, where he held several positions, resigning as a quality control supervisor in 1968 to begin his political career.

After running unopposed for a state House seat in 1968, he immediately set his sights on Congress, running as a fiscal conservative and winning the first of three terms in 1970.

Elected governor in 1976, du Pont fought successfully to restore financial integrity to a state he had declared “bankrupt” shortly after his inauguration. He presided over two income tax cuts; constitutional amendments restricting state spending and requiring three-fifths votes in the legislature to raise taxes; and establishment of an independent revenue forecasting panel.

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After a rocky start with Democratic legislators, including an embarrassing override of a 1977 budget veto, du Pont forged successful relationships with lawmakers from both parties to tackle thorny issues including prison overcrowding and corruption and school desegregation. He was re-elected in a landslide in 1980, winning a record 71 percent of the vote and becoming the first two-term governor in Delaware in 20 years.

In his second term, du Pont signed landmark legislation that loosened Delaware’s banking laws, including removing the cap on interest rates that banks could charge customers. The Financial Center Development Act made Delaware a haven for some of the country’s largest credit card issuers.

Under du Pont’s leadership, Delaware also established a nonprofit employment counseling and job placement program for Delaware high school seniors not bound for college. It served as the model for a national program adopted by several other states.

Prohibited by law from seeking a third term, du Pont briefly withdrew to the private sector, joining a Wilmington law firm in 1985. A year and a half later, he announced his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, becoming the first declared candidate in the 1988 campaign.

During an appearance at the Hotel du Pont in downtown Wilmington, where du Pont announced he was abandoning his presidential campaign, he praised an electoral process that gave a shot at the White House to a former small-state governor with unorthodox ideas.

“You’ve given me the opportunity of a lifetime. You listened, you considered and you chose. I could not have asked for any more,” du Pont said. “For in America, we do not promise that everyone wins, only that everyone gets a chance to try.”

Du Pont is survived by his wife of over 60 years, the former Elise R. Wood; a daughter and three sons; and 10 grandchildren.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a memorial service will be held at a later date, Perkins said.


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Larry Hogan decries ‘circular firing squad’ within GOP

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday the Republican Party experienced its “worst four years we’ve had, ever” under President Donald Trump, noting the party’s losses in both chambers of Congress and the White House.

“We’ve got to get back to winning elections again. And we have to be able to have a Republican Party that appeals to a broader group of people,” said Hogan, a Republican, on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “Successful politics is about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division.”

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Hogan’s comments comes as Republicans deliberate on the future of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) in the party’s House leadership, particularly over her repeated criticisms of Trump, which many Republicans view as breaking ranks and distracting from the party’s opposition to President Joe Biden. House Republicans are expected to strip Cheney of her role as conference chair and replace her with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).


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