Friday, October 21, 2011

Trying to shake up Buono, GOP State Committee zeroes in on Diegnan in LD18

PolitickerNJ   By Max Pizarro | October 21st, 2011 - 6:44pm   

Political forward observers said it would happen and it just did.

The almost clear, post industrial skies of the Democratic Party-leaning 18th District filled with a steady, two-week GOP barrage targeting the team of Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-18).

The heaviest artillery fire – in fact, all of it – landed on Buono’s running mate, Assemblyman Pat Diegnan (D-18), South Plainfield, in the form of five mailers paid for by the Republican State Committee and launched after the ELEC’s 29-day pre-election day deadline.

Its coffers boosted by nationwide barmstorming by Gov. Chris Christie, the GOP sneak attack bombarded Diegnan as a public dime attorney.

“The devastation of the Great Recession was not felt by Pat Diegnan who was paid quite well while many in New Jersey lost their jobs, homes and life savings,” said 18th District Republican Assembly Candidate Joe Sinagra of Helmetta, irritated by Diegan making $1.5 million since 2000 from public paychecks.

“Pat Diegnan approved 115 tax increases last decade including many such as taxes on payroll, income and sales, which had a direct impact on the businesses that shed jobs,” the Republican challenger added. “If you hear Pat Diegnan talking about creating jobs, be sure to ask whether he’s talking about creating jobs for us, or creating jobs for himself that we’ll pay for.”

A New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) point person and impediment to the GOP governor's charter schools agenda, Diegan brushed off the attack as the handiwork of Tea Party extremists.

“A portion of that is my assembly salary,” said the incumbent Democrat, who currently retains one contract in Spotswood.

“But, look, I’m not embarrassed by that. I’m proud of my public service record. I’m brought of having served in South Plainfield and Millstone, and served with Democratic, Republican and nonpartisan mayors. Believe me, these are not no-show jobs.”

The assemblyman said he doesn’t intend to go negative, but couldn’t help scratching his head over the employment record of one of his rivals: Sinagra running mate Marcia Silva.

“The only jobs Pat Diegnan created are ones that drain tax dollars,” jabbed Silva, a former Assistant Middlesex County prosecutor.

That flabbergasted Diegnan.

“She is the public defender in South River!” exclaimed the incumbent Democrat. “If she thinks it’s improper for me to serve in the assembly, she must think the same about herself.”

The CW here is the state GOP doesn’t want to wound Diegnan so much as rattle top-of-the ticket incumbent Buono, a potential 2013 challenger to Christie.

Although Sinagra ran against Diegnan two years ago and came within 2,000 votes in a roughly 24,000 to 26,000 loss, some sources attribute 2009’s relative closeness to anti-Corzine rage more than anything.

The Democrats say they know anger abides – admit rage might be the better word at this point, and the GOP is definitely working with the idea that the atmosphere may be sufficiently combustible for LD 18 Dem casualties.

In a statement, GOP Campaign Manager Mandi Stirone made sure Buono's and Diegnan’s running mate, Assemblyman Peter Barnes (D-18) didn’t go undinged in making the GOP case.

“Pat Diegnan and Peter Barnes are Trenton politicians who have made life harder for working class families,” Stirone said. “…Joe Sinagra and Marcia Silva are fresh faces with new ideas. They are committed to work across the party aisle to make Middlesex County and New Jersey more affordable again and to create good paying jobs. Joe and Marcia fighting to make sure life in New Jersey is better for their children and grandchildren. They aren’t looking for the next taxpayer funded politically appointed position."

A Republican source told the intent with the mail is a very real attempt to demolish Diegnan, remove a rumble strip from Christie's education designs and steal an Assembly seat in the process. But most insider sources on both sides still say the Republican's ultimate target here remains Buono, who Democrats say has solid approval numbers in her home district, and who appears focused on using a senate re-election victory as leverage for a statewide run against the governor.

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