Sweeney and Christie Strange Political Bedfellows, Says Political Analyst

Montclair State University Political Science and Law Professor Brigid Harrison sat down with NJToday Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss some of the current political issues in the state, including the death of Rep. Donald Payne, Super Tuesday results and the budget process in New Jersey.

Harrison said late Congressman Donald Payne has left a legacy both nationally and internationally. He was the first African-American congressman for New Jersey and worked hard for his constituents and to aid those in Africa. Payne lived in Newark and Harrison said he will be missed there. She called him “a gentleman” who was never associated with any scandals.

Since Payne was still in office when he died Tuesday, there is some uncertainty about his successor, Harrison said. Ron Rice, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Payne’s son Donald Payne Jr. may try to get the seat, according to Harrison. “We may actually see an unknown contender entering the playing field,” she added.

After the Super Tuesday results came in, Mitt Romney, who Gov. Chris Christie has supported, is in front of other Republicans in the presidential primary, but Harrison pointed out that there is a continuing battle among the party based on ideology and geography. She said Christie campaigning on behalf of Romney is helpful to him for future races.

“I think that he’s primarily interested in keeping his name out there on the national scene,” Harrison said. “I think by keeping these connections alive he’s also keeping the money connection alive for his own ability to raise money for his own reelection campaign in 2013.”

With the budget, Harrison said, “I think there is a kind of strange bedfellows alliance between Sen. Steve Sweeney and the governor,” which she said could be because of their individual relationships with George Norcross. She also said that Christie has seen the link between property tax relief and income taxes as common ground. Currently, Senate Democrats have proposed an income tax cut linked to property taxes for residents who make less than $250,000 a year while Christie has proposed a 10 percent income tax cut across the board.

“I think the proposals right now are very different,” Harrison said. “And in fact the money each will cost the state is very different and i think that needs to be addressed in the budget process.”