National Roundup 05-16: Fulop Distances Himself from Kushners As Mayor’s Race Nears; Questions Raised About $650K Florida Security Grant To Jewish Schools
The following is a round-up of national news from several major states across the country that will be featured on our site on a daily basis:
Fulop Distances Himself from Kushners As Mayor’s Race Nears: It was a sunny morning in May 2014 and Steve Fulop and Jared Kushner were all smiles. The two men – Fulop, then the recently elected mayor of Jersey City and presumed candidate for New Jersey governor, and Kushner, the hot-shot real estate developer and CEO for the company he took over from his father – were showering each other with praise at the groundbreaking for Trump Bay Street, a Waterfront high-rise Kushner was developing with KABR Group.
Three years and one stunning presidential race later, Fulop, a Democrat seeking re-election in this liberal bastion where President Trump’s name is nearly an expletive, is sprinting from his connection to Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. The mayor last week said he will not support a critical tax break Kushner’s family requested for their One Journal Square project; denied knowledge of a $10,000 donation to the Hudson County Democratic Organization that Kushner’s sister and her husband made three months before that project was announced; and responded to inquiries about the Kushners with statements stressing his opposition to Trump.
Experts say they are not surprised Fulop is distancing himself from Kushner. In this city of 136,000 registered voters, Trump received 11,705 votes in November. A Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll from March found Trump’s disapproval among New Jersey Democrats was 88 percent.
“If Fulop has political ambitions beyond where he is today, it probably is not going to hurt him too much, trying to create some daylight between himself and the Kushners,” said Krista Jenkins, a professor of political science at FDU and director of the school’s poll. [Jersey Journal]
Trump and Christie Overshadowing N.J. Governor’s Race: Even without such fanfare, election years when the governor’s seat tops the ballot are usually high profile for Garden State residents who know that governors have a lot of say over their lives.
But this race has surprisingly been starving for attention, largely because of one man: Donald Trump. “Trump is taking up all the oxygen,” Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, said of the highly scrutinized Republican president. “Whatever issues there might be get swallowed up in the media by the latest trials and tribulations emanating from Washington.”
And don’t forget: That often involves Christie, too. With only about three weeks to go before voters cast ballots in the primary elections to determine who will win the Democratic and Republican nominations, polls show many people haven’t made up their minds on whom to vote for and don’t know much about the top candidates. [NJ Advance]
GOP Rips Pritzker For Getting $230K Property Tax Reduction: Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker has received a nearly $230,000 reduction in property taxes for a Chicago mansion the billionaire bought next to his home.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports Pritzker let the home fall into disrepair then appealed his property tax assessment, saying the home is “uninhabitable.” The Cook County assessor slashed the value from $6.25 million to about $1.1 million, reducing his taxes 83 percent.
The Illinois Republican Party is criticizing Pritzker, saying the move took money away from Chicago Public Schools and social services. Pritzker says he did nothing wrong and some 50,000 Cook County property owners seek similar reductions annually. His campaign says GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner also appealed the assessment of his Chicago condo. But it was Rauner’s condo association that appealed and the request was denied. [NBC5]
Obama Foundation Donations Jump to $13 Million in 2016: Barack Obama Foundation contributions jumped to a little more than $13 million in 2016, according to an IRS filing released on Thursday, and donations are expected to skyrocket in 2017 with the lifting of a self-imposed $1 million cap and former President Barack Obama free to make direct appeals.
Obama discussed plans for his Obama Foundation with potential mega donors — and gave them a sneak preview of the model of his Obama Center in Jackson Park — at an exclusive April 24 dinner he hosted at Cindy’s rooftop restaurant at The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.
The Obama Foundation is making the transition from reliance on political-style fundraising, which by nature is usually short term, to the longer term institutional giving a high-profile nonprofit will need to flourish in perpetuity. The Foundation, headquartered at 5235 S. Harper Court in Hyde Park, with a branch office in Washington, is overseeing Obama Center construction as well as domestic and international program development.
Obama has a big lift ahead of him, with an estimated $675 million in spending needed for construction, operations and programming costs for the Obama Center between 2015 and 2021. Of that, potential donors have been told about $520 million to $550 million is the estimate to construct the Obama Center campus, to stretch along Stony Island Avenue near 60th, that will have a museum, library, event space, offices and plazas. [Chicago SunTimes]
Questions Raised About $650K Florida Security Grant To Jewish Schools: Florida’s new state budget includes a $650,000 grant for security at Jewish schools — a line item that’s raising questions among First Amendment advocates, the Miami Herald reports.
The item was included in this year’s budget in response to the bomb threats to Jewish institutions that spread fear across the country. Those bomb threats were later found to be hoaxes, perpetrated by a young Jewish man from his apartment in southern Israel. According to the Herald, the funding would support security needs at private Jewish schools across the state. Critics say it could be unconstitutional.
“The fact that the funding singles out one religion raises serious concerns about unconstitutional discrimination, whether intentional or not,” ACLU of Florida legislative counsel Kara Gross told the Herald.
Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, has yet to sign the budget. [Forward]
Adam Putnam Brings ‘Florida First’ Tour to Altamonte Springs: Republican gubernatorial candidate and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam brought his “Florida First” campaign to the Orlando area for the first time Tuesday afternoon, promising conservative, pro-growth values and belittling liberals he expects to go after him.
The fifth-generation Floridian and former state and U.S. lawmaker continued the opening themes of his brand new campaign, declaring “Florida exceptionalism” is why people want to visit and move here and vowing to promote that as Florida’s governor, and to prevent it from turning into a liberal and high-tax bastion like California, Illinois and New York.
“I believe there is a special obligation to be a Floridian, to keep Florida special, knowing that people from all over the world want to visit or move here. I want to Florida to be more than a prize for a life well-lived someplace else. I want Florida to be the launch pad for the American dream!” Putnam said to a warm reception of more than 100 people at the Eastmonte Civic Center in Altamonte Springs. [FL Politics]