People and Politics: January 2010
Switch in Jersey. The New Jersey Senate Democratic Caucus has ousted long-time Senate President and former Governor Richard Codey and handed the top leadership post to Senator Steve Sweeney. The sometimes contentious contest pitted two of the Senate’s most powerful men. Codey had been Senate president since 2004, and, because of a quirk in the New Jersey constitution, governor from November 2004 to January 2006. Sweeney had been Senate majority leader since 2008. Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts retired in the summer, which set in motion leadership races in both houses. New Jersey has a tradition of splitting leadership posts along geographic lines. Roberts and Sweeney are from south Jersey, Codey from the north. As Sweeney’s challenge gained support, politicos looked to find a new speaker from the northern part of the state. Sweeney came to power with Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, from Codey’s home county, who was unanimously elected speaker the same day Sweeney became Senate president. She is the first African-American woman to hold the post in the state. Senator Barbara Buono became the Senate’s first female majority leader, succeeding Sweeney. The new leadership team will be working with Republican Chris Christie, who beat Jon Corzine in the governor’s race. That will be “an interesting challenge,” according to Sweeney.
Taking over for dad. Rhode Island Representative Scott Slater was sworn into office in November after winning the seat held by his father for 15 years in a special election. Representative Thomas Slater died in August at age 68 after a long battle with cancer. House Speaker William J. Murphy and Majority Leader Gordon Fox hosted a reception for the chamber’s newest lawmaker after the swearing-in ceremony. Slater, 34, is a budget analyst for the city of Providence.
Invited guests. Party crashers grabbed most of the press about the state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted by President Obama in November. Two state legislators of Indian descent, however, were on the guest list legitimately. Kansas Representative Raj Goyle, a member of the Taxation Committee, has served in the legislature since 2007. He is a graduate of Duke University and Harvard Law School, where he founded a small technology firm with two classmates. Representative Jay Goyal is in his second term in the Ohio House of Representatives, where he is vice chairman of the Faith-Based Initiatives Committee and a member of the Finance Committee. A graduate of Northwestern University, he is vice president of Goyal Industries, the manufacturing firm his father founded.
Bonusgate fallout. The general counsel to the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus retired in November several weeks after state prosecutors requested his testimony in the so-called Bonusgate probe. Brett Feese, a former lawmaker, was the state’s highest paid staffer, at $197,000. He was one of up to a dozen people who received the letters, including Representative John Perzel. Feese was the long-time leader of the House Republican Campaign Committee while in office. When he retired Dec. 1, 2006, he immediately became the caucus’ chief legal counsel. The state attorney general has been investigating corruption in Harrisburg since 2007. Last year, a dozen people involved with House Democrats were charged with handing out millions of dollars to campaign aides on the state payroll.
Another campaign. Alabama’s oldest lawmaker, who announced in September he would not seek re-election, has changed his mind. Bill Dukes, 82, was first elected in 1994, and has run unopposed in the past. But in 2010 he will face opposition from Republican Jason Putnam, who has announced for the seat.
Lawmaker assaulted. Indiana Representative Edward DeLaney was hospitalized in November with facial fractures and a broken rib after being attacked by the son of a man involved in a legal dispute over an adult bookstore 26 years ago. Augustus Mendenhall has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery and criminal confinement in the brutal beating. A witness to the attack called police. DeLaney, an attorney, thought he was meeting a prospective client about a land deal, but instead was allegedly attacked by Mendenhall, whose gun jammed before he could shoot the lawmaker. Burke Mendenhall was sued in 1983 when the county prosecutor attempted to close down adult bookstores, one of which was located in Mendenhall’s property. DeLaney represented the company that developed the mall where the store was located and his wife was an assistant county prosecutor at the time. Six years later the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the seizure of bookstore material was unconstitutional, and Mendenhall sought $75 million from the city and the prosecutor for lost business and harm to his reputation. The U.S. District Court determined the prosecutor had civil immunity.
Goodbye in Colorado. Elaine Calzolari, the first woman sergeant-at-arms of the Colorado Senate, and later calendar clerk, died of ovarian cancer in November. She resigned from the Senate in April when her cancer, which had been in remission, returned. The legislature honored her at a lunch, and custodians to lawmakers presented her with a gift to help her travel the world while she could. Although her tenure was relatively short in the legislature, her impression was lasting. Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Philip Brown said Calzolari’s voice is the one on the office voice mail. “We never changed it, and we’re never going to change it,” he said. Before turning to politics, Calzolari had a distinguished career as an artist. She studied sculpture in France, and had numerous public commissions in Colorado and the nation. It was the basis for her philosophy as she faced death: “Look every day for what is beautiful.”