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Menendez: Lawyer's query to U.S. attorney prompts a new salvo from Kean

Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. yesterday questioned why Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez would enlist the services of one the state's top defense lawyers if he isn't under a federal criminal investigation.

Menendez has said the lawyer, Joseph Hayden, contacted the U.S. attorney around the time a subpoena was issued for records from a federally funded nonprofit agency that paid more than $300,000 to rent a row house that Menendez owned in Union City.

APP: Elect Kean to Senate

The U.S. Senate campaign pitting Thomas Kean Jr. against Sen. Robert Menendez hasn't been pretty. But it has succeeded in getting people's attention and delineating the candidates' differences.

Kean's priorities have been clear from the outset of his bid for a Senate seat: restoring government integrity and reducing taxes. While we haven't been enamored with his campaign, which has hammered away incessantly at Menendez's shortcomings in those two areas, Kean clearly felt a need to contrast their candidacies on the two issues he believes matter most.

Menendez: Waterfront Project Reflects 2 Images of a Senator

BAYONNE, N.J. — Senator Robert Menendez is not directly involved in building the new waterfront development that will soon rise here in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. But his influence can be seen throughout it.

The project, which occupies the 437-acre site of the abandoned Military Ocean Terminal, is being built with the help of nearly $30 million in federal funds that Mr. Menendez secured using his trademark policy expertise and aggressive politicking. His work provided the seed money for a plan to produce movie studios and shops, marinas and waterfront parks, and 6,600 homes.

The project has also produced considerable work for some of his chief political supporters.

Menendez: Union City doctor alleges Menendez shakedown

Less than two weeks before the election, Union City psychiatrist Oscar Sandoval yesterday filed court papers accusing U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez of shaking him down for political contributions and jobs for others in exchange for "protection" of the doctor's county contracts.

The accusations were included in a request to add Menendez as a defendant in Sandoval's countersuit against Hudson County. The county, in a wide-ranging civil complaint filed in January, claims Sandoval received lucrative contracts at the county jail and psychiatric hospital after bribing former County Executive Robert Janis zewski, who is now in prison.

On taxing and spending

The following exchange between former New Jersey Govs. Brendan T. Byrne and Tom Kean took place in a teleconference on Wednesday.

Q: One suggestion put forth by the governor's appointed legislative committees considering ways to lower property taxes was to put schools under county-wide juris diction. Would condensing more than 600 districts into 21, which proponents say would result in enormous savings, have a prayer of becoming a reality?

BYRNE: Once you put a school district that has a positive image with one that has negative image, you're going to get resistance -- and, frankly, that kind of resistance is worth worrying about.

Speculation on Gay Marriage Ruling Swirls in New Jersey

TRENTON, Oct. 22 — The New Jersey Supreme Court is carrying much constitutional freight as it considers whether the state will be the second in the nation to find that gay couples have the right to marry. But for those watching the court, speculation has centered lately on smaller issues, like the chief justice’s birthday and the re-election prospects of Senator Robert Menendez.

Lawrence S. Lustberg, who argues frequently before the court and represents the gay plaintiffs in the case at hand, said the decision in the case, Lewis v. Harris, “is the most eagerly anticipated opinion” he has ever seen.

Privatizing the Turnpike?

Until Gov. Jon Corzine raised the subject, talk in New Jersey of selling off or leasing the turnpike and some of the state’s other assets was not going anywhere. After all, the state’s privatization of its auto inspection system and its early experience with E-ZPass were hardly smashing successes. But Mr. Corzine, with his background in the business world, gave the idea immediate credibility.

At the Corzine administration’s behest, a financial services company is studying the situation and is expected to make recommendations next month. A State Treasury spokesman, Thomas Vincz, said last week that just about everything is on the table, including the sale, partial sale and management of numerous highways in addition to the turnpike and of other state assets as well.

Ethics panel implodes

The first meeting in more than a year of a special committee set up to police ethics in the Legislature collapsed into an eye-gouging, name-calling political brawl this morning.

"This is a dictatorship; this is not a democracy here," Assemblyman Peter Biondi, (R-Somerset) complained as Democrats on the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards pressed forward with a vote to make former state Labor Commissioner Ray Bramucci, chairman.

Democrats and Corzine split over local taxes

Less than a month before the Nov. 15 deadline for lawmakers to propose ways to lower property taxes, legislative leaders are already at odds with Gov. Jon Corzine over one big question: whether municipalities should be allowed to impose other taxes.

Corzine has proposed giving municipalities an alternative to the much-hated property tax in July, and he reiterated it last week. He supports letting towns tack a 1 percent local sales tax onto the 7 percent that goes to the state.

Menendez lead over Kean Jr. growing

Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez appears to have opened a significant lead over Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr. as voters focus more on the war in Iraq and the GOP's congressional scandals.

The latest Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll shows Menendez's lead at nine percentage points. Nearly half of the likely voters, 48 percent, said they would vote for Menendez, while 39 percent said they would vote for Kean.