Connect with us

Published

on



Murphy will be the first name on the Democratic Party line in the June 8 primary, heading up machine-backed tickets and, in some cases, running directly opposite progressive-backed candidates pushed into “ballot Siberia.” The attorney general Murphy appointed, Gurbir Grewal, has sided against progressives in a lawsuit they filed this year seeking to eliminate that balloting system.

“If anything, this is a case study in why these machines should be weaker, because you have a governor who’s extraordinarily powerful who still feels a need to dance a certain way for their pleasure,” said Sue Altman, executive director of the progressive New Jersey Working Families Alliance and one of Murphy’s biggest supporters.

Those progressives may have had an early and powerful ally in the governor, but they’re now experiencing first-hand how difficult it is to fundamentally alter a power structure with built-in advantages for incumbents, and where relatively few party bosses — mostly men, some elected and some not — exercise outsized influence over who has a realistic chance of getting elected.

The ballot system is one of the most obvious examples of how Murphy has taken positions that threaten to alienate the progressives who have supported him and who he’s relied on in his political battles with the Democratic bosses who tend to be far less liberal than the activist left whose influence grew during the Trump administration.

Though liberal, Murphy didn’t become governor by working against the political machines. The former Goldman Sachs executive paved his way into office with hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to Democratic county parties around the state, beginning years before he actually ran. Many of those bosses had other candidates in mind for their first choice, but once Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop — favored by most North Jersey bosses — dropped his expected candidacy, Murphy exploited the deep divisions between North and South Jersey Democrats to become the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Not long after taking office in 2018, Murphy went to war with the South Jersey Democratic machine, which had been a key ally of former Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Murphy’s nascent administration launched an investigation into the use of tens of millions of dollars in tax incentives by Norcross and his allies that resulted in state and federal investigations.

At the same time, the governor was backed by millions of dollars in donations from the New Jersey Education Association to a nonprofit called New Direction New Jersey that essentially acted as the governor’s political arm. Four years ago, NJEA battled with Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Norcross ally, and supported a Republican against him in a multimillion dollar state legislative race that was the costliest in New Jersey history.

Things have changed dramatically over the last year.

The investigations have gone silent. Norcross-linked companies, their tax incentives once put on hold, have gotten key approvals from the Economic Development Authority, the agency that administers the incentives, and a new law signed by Murphy could give businesses billions more in state-backed tax breaks. The NJEA, meanwhile, has pumped at least $1.25 million into a new super PAC controlled by Norcross.

“Liberals who feel betrayed by this should probably work on their expectations management, and I say that as someone who’s mismanaged my expectations many times,” said Jay Lassiter, a long-time progressive activist from South Jersey who called the fairly restrictive cannabis legalization law the governor signed earlier this year “dog shit.” “Hopefully when [Murphy] gets reelected, he’ll go back to [fighting with party bosses] because it was great watching him shake things up in a really meaningful way.”

Spokespersons for Murphy and Norcross declined to comment.

In the Legislature, Sweeney — a Norcross‘ friend and his strongest ally in the Statehouse — has eased up on Murphy. Early in the governor’s term, the Senate and Assembly held joint hearings into the administration’s decision to keep a former campaign worker on staff despite allegations of sexual assault by another staffer during Murphy’s 2017 campaign.

But last year, after Sweeney announced with Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. that he would form a bipartisan committee to look into the administration’s handling of the pandemic and nursing homes, where thousands died, several Senate Democrats resisted and Sweeney reneged, sparing Murphy the political headache.

Now, the governor and Senate president are sharing a ticket on the June 8 ballot in South Jersey’s 3rd Legislative District. And in Camden — where local officials in 2019 held a press conference to tell Murphy to stay out of town because of his attacks on local Norcross-linked comapnies’ tax incentives — Murphy is sharing the county line with the machine-backed mayor, Vic Carstarphen, while three other mayoral candidates share a column in far off to the right.

“I suspect that Murphy’s personal feelings are that ‘the line‘ is not a good thing because that is really what undergirds the political machine in our state, but I think there’s also just the reality of politics,” said Julia Sass Rubin, a professor at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy who advocates against the county line system. “If you are counting on parties to get the vote out for your election, is this the time you want to have that battle with them? I think we have to wait and see what he does after the election.”

Despite the apparent peace with the party bosses, residual fights remain that reflect a Democratic divide.

Murphy is pushing the Legislature to pass the Reproductive Freedom Act, which would expand access to abortions and contraception. But Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin have been hesitant to post it for a vote because it could inject a wedge issue into some some state legislative districts.

At the same time, Murphy’s fighting with Sweeney and state Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-Hudson), himself a political boss in part of North Jersey, over a Sacco bill that would end mandatory minimum sentences for political corruption offenses while the son of Sacco’s longtime girlfriend faces some of those charges.

Murphy is also facing pressure from the party’s left flank.

Immigrant rights groups, often in lockstep with the governor, have been deeply frustrated with him. Groups like Make the Road New Jersey have aggressively lobbied for the state to provide cash relief for undocumented immigrants. Murphy recently allocated $40 million in what‘s left of eligible CARES Act money to help thousands of undocumented immigrants with one-time cash benefits of up to $2,000, an amount that advocates have called “peanuts.”

A group of progressives is suing in state Superior Court to end the county line system. Among them is Hetty Rosenstein, the recently-retired head of the New Jersey Communications Workers of America — the state’s largest public workers union and a key ally of the governor. Now Rosenstein is working for Murphy’s campaign as an adviser for progressive coalitions an outreach.

“Many progressives believe that the New Jersey ballot design is undemocratic and puts the thumb on the scale in favor of candidates chosen by leaders of both parties, instead of by voters, and therefore needs to change,” Rosenstein said in a statement. “However, the Governor is running in an election that reflects the system that currently exists, not the system that we want to exist, and I do not see how that fact diminishes the tremendous progressive accomplishments we’ve achieved by working together.”

Despite their frustration with Murphy, progressives aren’t writing him off and are hoping the peace he’s made with the political bosses, though fragile, is one of convenience that will crash shortly after the November election.

“I remain hopeful that in his second term [Murphy] can continue to portray himself and be a reformer,” Altman said. “I think that if he has national ambitions beyond New jersey, and I don’t know if he does … being a reformer who cleans up New Jersey is a far more compelling message to a national audience than having New Jersey in fair but corrupt working order.”

Katherine Landergan contributed to this report.

Comments

Politics

Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

Published

on

By



“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

Continue Reading

Politics

Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

Published

on

By



In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Continue Reading

Politics

Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

Published

on

By



“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2021 Right Wing Uncut by TSD