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John Celock   |   January 22, 2013    5:20 PM ET

Ohio Democrats are calling on the president of the state Board of Education to resign after she compared President Barack Obama with Adolf Hitler on her Facebook page.

State Board of Education President Debe Terhar (R-Green Township) denied she was comparing Obama to the Nazi dictator and removed her Facebook page after she shared a Hitler reference posted by another group over the weekend. Groups opposed to Obama's gun control proposals have been comparing the president with Hitler.

The Columbus Dispatch reports:

Terhar, a Cincinnati Republican elected last week by the 19-member school board to a second term as its president, recently posted the picture with this commentary: “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ -- Adolf Hitler.”

The photograph apparently originated with the Facebook page of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, which features a variety of anti-Obama, pro-gun posts and photos, such as scantily clad women hoisting large guns, a polar bear with the words “Holy f*** I’m glad I’m white,” and another saying “Where’s Lee Harvey Oswalt when you need him?”

Terhar told the Dispatch that she was not suggesting that Obama was Hitler. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Terhar sought to clarify the statement. Terhar removed her Facebook page following the explanation, according to Ohio Democrats have distributed a screen shot of the explanation.

In her explanation, Terhar said that she was reposting someone else's comment and did not share her own thoughts. She said that she would stop sharing thoughts on the social media site.

"I received a photo that had a quote attributed to a tyrant," Terhar wrote. "The quote referred to gun control. I did not research to check that the quote was accurate. Not sure everyone does. I also made no comment on the repost."

Terhar, a former Montessori teacher, was elected to a four-year term in 2010 representing a Cincinnati area district. She was elected earlier this month to a one-year term as board president. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern has called on her to step down from the post.

“While there is always room for respectful differences in opinions, State School Board President Terhar’s Facebook posting crossed a clear line by connecting the President’s national discussion on guns to Adolf Hitler,” Redfern said in a statement. “President Terhar’s invocation of Hitler is dangerous and should not be tolerated by Governor Kasich and the rest of the State School Board.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly listed Terhar's name as Dede instead of Debe. We regret the error.

John Celock   |   January 17, 2013    3:49 PM ET

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) wants to be able to carry a gun in her purse.

Fallin, who owns handguns, has applied for a concealed carry permit so that she does not have to leave her gun behind at the governor's mansion, reported. Fallin, who has an armed security detail, explained that she wanted to carry the gun with her for safety. reports:

“It's good for my own personal safety to be able to carry if I choose to do that,” she said. “From a private citizen's standpoint, it's a matter of personal safety to be able to carry if a person chooses to do that. It may be right for some; it may not be right for others.”

Under current state law, Fallin would not be allowed to bring the gun into the state Capitol with her.

Fallin has been a defender of the Second Amendment and noted that she believes Oklahoma's current gun laws work and that President Barack Obama's proposed assault weapons ban would not pass Congress. She has advocated for more funding for mental health care, which she promoted last week during the National Governors Association's State of the States Address. Fallin currently serves as NGA vice chairwoman.

Fallin told The Huffington Post last week that she did not have a position yet on proposed legislation in Oklahoma that would allow teachers to be cross-trained as reserve police officers, allowing them to carry guns while teaching. Fallin said she has yet to read the legislation by state Rep. Mark McCullough (R-Sapulpa).

McCullough has defended the legislation, saying that it would allow teachers to shoot mass murderers who enter school buildings. McCullough said that he's been praised and called a "fascist" for the legislation.

The issue of arming elected officials has been debated in recent years nationally. This week, officials in Johnson County, Texas, voted to allow elected officials to carry guns in the county courthouse. Earlier this year, the New Hampshire state Legislature revoked a two-year -old rule that allowed legislators to be armed in the state Capitol. The gun rule was passed in 2011 by the then-Tea Party-controlled legislature.

Last year, New Hampshire state Rep. Kyle Tasker (R-Nottingham) dropped one of his guns on the floor during a House Public Safety Committee meeting. Tasker, who carried two guns in a shoulder holster, later explained that he was feeling "loopy" after giving blood.

During the 2009 campaign, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R), who was the Monmouth County sheriff at the time, carried a gun with her while campaigning.

John Celock   |   January 17, 2013    1:32 AM ET

The powerful Democratic leader in southern New Jersey is backing state Sen. Barbara Buono as a gubernatorial candidate, potentially ending the party's frantic search for an opponent to Gov. Chris Christie (R) in November.

South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross told Wednesday night that he was throwing his support behind Buono (D-Metuchen), the only announced candidate, in her bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Norcross' support comes as Democratic leaders have been searching for an alternative to Buono, who has trailed Christie in initial polls. State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland), a former governor, has emerged as the principle alternative to Buono in recent days, but Norcross indicated he did not want Codey, a longtime nemesis.

Norcross described Buono as "a high-quality candidate" and said "in the absence of anyone else" Democrats should unite behind her. reported that Norcross did not mince words when describing his opposition to Codey.

“I’ve never had any confidence in Dick Codey’s courage and I don’t expect that to change,” Norcross said. “I think he likes to have people say, ‘Run Dick run’ and I think at the end of this period we will look back and say, ‘This looks like the Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers fiasco that played out over four cycles and the party will be in a position where we don’t have a standard-bearer and aren’t in a position to compete in the election this year.'”

Norcross' backing will likely hand Buono support from county Democratic organizations throughout South Jersey and from elected officials in the region, who largely take their cue from Norcross, a Christie ally. Buono has already picked up the support of Democratic leaders in Middlesex, Somerset and Monmouth counties.

Codey, backed by powerful North Jersey state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth), has emerged as the principle alternative to Buono in recent days, following merry-go-round of potential opponents to Buono. Rep. Bill Pascrell has ruled out a gubernatorial run, while state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage both told HuffPost that they were considering campaigns. Last week, a movement started for Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill (D-Montclair) to make a bid for the governor's mansion. Norcross' support for Buono likely ends Sweeney's gubernatorial hopes, given the close relationship between the men.

Codey is planning a trip to Washington next to rally national support for his candidacy, including his goal of seeking roughly $30 million in outside funding for his campaign. Codey's ambitious goal would be just shy of the $40 million in outside funds spent last year in an unsuccessful effort to defeat Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Codey told that he was not surprised that Norcross opposed him.

Democrats have been calling for the search to end, warning of the impact on the party.

"I think the party will unite behind a candidate," Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley told HuffPost Wednesday. "We need to unite soon or it will be the destruction of our party in New Jersey."

John Celock   |   January 15, 2013    6:05 PM ET

A newly elected Republican state legislator in Texas has proposed legislation making it illegal to enforce a federal gun ban in the state.

State Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) has introduced legislation that would allow Texas police officers to arrest federal law enforcement agents who attempt to enforce any federal bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines within the state. The legislation is a preemptive strike by Toth against proposals by Vice President Joe Biden's gun task force that are expected to be released on Wednesday. Toth's legislation is modeled after similar legislation that was introduced in Wyoming last week.

"We can no longer depend on the federal government and this administration to uphold a Constitution that they no longer believe in," Toth said in a statement. "The liberties of the people of Texas and the sovereignty of our State are too important to just let the federal government take them away. The overreach of the federal administrations executive orders that are do not align with the Constitution, are not very popular here in Texas."

Toth told that he expects Obama to enact any bans in the form of an executive order in order to get around a congressional battle over gun control. He said that he would continue to press his legislation in the event Congress joins with Obama on the issue.

Last week, Wyoming state Rep. Kendell Kroeker (R-Evansville) introduced legislation that would allow the state to jail federal law enforcement officers for up to five years and fine them up to $50,000 if they attempted to enforce a federal gun ban enacted after Jan. 1, 2013, in Wyoming. At the time, Kroeker told The Huffington Post that the law was needed to protect the Constitution.

"If the federal government is going to pass laws taking back our rights, it is our right as a state to defend those rights," he said.

Jeffrey Fisher, a Stanford University law professor and former Supreme Court law clerk, raised questions over the validity of the state proposal, saying that the Constitution gives supremacy to federal laws over state ones.

"It is elementary that a state cannot pass a statute that blocks enforcement of an otherwise enforceable federal law," Fisher told HuffPost last week.

Kroeker has said that he believes the states can unite to overturn a federal ban from Obama, citing resolutions Thomas Jefferson authored for the Kentucky and Virginia state legislatures in the late 18th century challenging the Alien and Sedition Act. But Jefferson's work differed from Kroeker's, in that Jefferson authored resolutions opposing the federal law, but did not call on the two states to ban the law.

Toth also told that he questioned a ban on assault weapons, including the one used in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting that left 26 dead.

"My daughter's 24, and she has a concealed handgun license and she can squeeze off as many shots with a 40-caliber Taurus as I could with a Bushmaster rifle," Toth told

Arthur Delaney   |   January 15, 2013    4:49 PM ET

AARP CEO A. Barry Rand said during a speech today at the National Press Club that he's no fan of the "chained CPI" -- the alternate measure of inflation that would give Social Security recipients smaller cost-of-living adjustments and that is always standing in the corner of the room with a lampshade on its head, hoping nobody notices it.

Rand called it "one of the worst" things Congress could do to Social Security.

During a Q&A after the speech, I asked Rand and other AARP honchos if they still hate chained CPI even if it's paired with extra money for older retirees and poorer ones. That’s what the White House has been interested in, and that’s what Simpson-Bowles wanted, after all.

“We think there are better ways to talk about Social Security than chained CPI,” AARP’s Debra Whitman. “We think it should be done more comprehensively.”

So, they’re very against it, but not interested in saying flat-out they’d never go along if it were part of a broader reform bill that includes things they might like, such as an increase in the taxable wage base. See you next time, chained CPI.

John Celock   |   January 15, 2013   11:48 AM ET

Birther queen Orly Taitz has announced a trip to Washington for President Barack Obama's inauguration next week, and also is unveiling a new White House petition.

Taitz, a dentist, attorney and real estate agent from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., announced on her website that she plans to be in Washington Jan. 20 and 21 to picket Obama's inauguration for a second term. Taitz is planning 12 hours of picketing over the two-day period.

Her plan includes six hours of picketing the White House on Sunday during Obama's private inauguration in the building. She did not indicate where at the White House she would be meeting supporters.

On Monday, Taitz asked her followers to join her for another six hours of picketing in front of the Supreme Court. Taitz has a petition before the court demanding that it invalidate Obama's victory, which the court is scheduled to discuss during a Feb. 15 conference session. The Monday protest will occur at the same time as Obama's public inauguration at the neighboring Capitol. The Supreme Court is on the opposite side of the Capitol from Obama's swearing in and speech.

"Corrupt officials and judges are committing treason and criminally complicit in cover up of forged IDs for Obama. Regime propaganda media is not reporting," Taitz wrote on her website. "The only way for us to spread the word is by being there in Obama’s face with signs 'Squatter in the WH with forged IDs and a stolen Soc. Sec number'. 'Obama using forged IDs, Supreme Court to decide February 15th.'"

Taitz also announced a new petition on the White House website demanding Obama's resignation for using what she calls forged identification. The petition reiterates previous Taitz claims that Obama is using a false Social Security number issued in Connecticut, along with a false last name.

As of Tuesday morning, Taitz's petition had less than 100 signatures on the White House petition website. She said a previous petition she posted on Monday had close to 1,000 signatures, but was removed from the website, for what she said were terms of use violations. The White House petition website includes a series of terms of use, including prohibiting the disclosure of information that would violate a person's privacy.

Taitz's Supreme Court case involves claims that three minor presidential candidates were disenfranchised by Obama being on the ballot. The three candidates aligned with Taitz includes Keith Judd, a federal prison inmate who received 41 percent of the vote against Obama in the 2012 Democratic presidential primary in West Virginia. Taitz claims that Judd would have been the Democratic presidential nominee if Obama was removed from the ballot based on his support in West Virginia.

Big Boost For Christie Foe

John Celock   |   January 14, 2013    4:09 PM ET

The only declared Democratic opponent running against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) for the gubernatorial seat in 2013 is continuing to consolidate support behind her candidacy even as Democratic Party leaders continue to search for an alternative.

Monmouth County Democratic Party Chairman Vin Gopal said that his party organization, along with 75 Democratic leaders in the county, will formally endorse state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) on Thursday evening. Monmouth County becomes the third county -- after Middlesex and Somerset -- to endorse Buono for the gubernatorial nomination. Buono, a former state Senate majority leader, entered the gubernatorial race in December.

"She is a genuine progressive, she connects with middle class voters," Gopal told The Huffington Post Monday. "It is time to rally around one candidate."

The endorsement by Monmouth County and Gopal, who is considered a rising star in New Jersey politics, comes as Buono attempts to unite Democrats behind her candidacy. Several Democratic leaders around the state continue to frantically search for an alternative to Buono, who has trailed the popular Christie in initial polls. State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland), a former governor, confirmed to The Star-Ledger on Monday that he will be traveling to Washington next week to meet with Democratic Party officials and labor leaders about funding his candidacy for governor.

Codey, who served 14 months as governor following Gov. Jim McGreevey's (D) 2004 resignation, is considered a strong candidate due to his over 70-percent approval ratings during his governorship. Codey has been a state senator since 1982 and held the governorship by virtue of being state Senate president from 2002 to 2010. He was ousted from the Senate presidency in 2010.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) publicly called on Codey to run last week, describing him as Democrats' "Obi Wan Kenobi," the "Star Wars" character. State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage and Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill (D-Montclair) are also considered potential gubernatorial candidates. Bollwage is considered unlikely to run without Lesniak's support, while a movement started for Gill late last week. Sweeney has long feuded with Buono.

Monmouth County is a Jersey shore county which was heavily battered by Hurricane Sandy. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) is a former Monmouth County sheriff. Gopal said that regardless of Guadagno's residency and the county's history as a GOP stronghold, he believes that Buono's platform, which emphasizes the middle class, will do well in Monmouth.

Gopal said that Buono's independence is behind the movement by party leaders to find another candidate. He dismissed concerns that a Buono candidacy would hurt down ballot candidates in November and said that with the June primary rapidly approaching, it is time for Democrats to unite. Buono is the only woman seeking a governorship in the nation this year thus far, and would be the first woman Democratic gubernatorial nominee in New Jersey history.

"It is a little disconcerting," Gopal said of the effort to find a Buono alternative. "She is not a second-tier candidate, she is a first-tier candidate. The fact that she is very independent makes her a great candidate."

John Celock   |   January 14, 2013   10:00 AM ET

The speaker of the New Jersey state Assembly has signaled her interest in a U.S. Senate bid next year, setting up another hurdle in front of Newark Mayor Cory Booker's (D) emerging candidacy.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) confirmed to The Star-Ledger over the weekend that she has "not ruled out" entering the 2014 race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D). Booker last Friday filed papers with the Federal Election Commission setting up an exploratory committee to seek the Senate seat, possibly setting up a competitive primary race against the five-term incumbent. Lautenberg, 88, has not signaled his intention regarding the 2014 race, but his spokesman slammed a news report Friday of Lautenberg's retirement as "not true."

The Star-Ledger reported that Oliver attacked Booker's candidacy during a Friday interview on My9News. Oliver and Booker hail from opposite factions of the Essex County Democratic Party.

"I don’t think anyone is heir apparent to the U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey,” The Star-Ledger reported Oliver as saying on My9News. “And I am certain that once we move past the gubernatorial election cycle, there could potentially be other contenders.”

Booker has been viewed as the frontrunner for the Senate seat since he decided in December not to run against Gov. Chris Christie (R) this year in order to focus on the Senate seat.

Oliver, a former Essex County freeholder, has served in the state Assembly since 2002 and was elected as the state's first African-American woman legislative leader in 2010. She is the second African-American woman in American history to be a state legislative speaker, after Rep. Karen Bass (D-Cal.), who was California's Assembly speaker before being elected to Congress in 2010.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D) is also considered a potential U.S. Senate contender in the event Lautenberg retires. A Pallone candidacy against Oliver and Booker would make him the only white contender against two African-American candidates, in a state that has never elected an African-American to statewide office. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is the nation's only black senator.

If elected, Oliver would be the first woman senator from New Jersey. The Garden State has only elected two women to statewide office, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) and former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R). Only four women, Whitman in 1990, former Montclair Mayor Mary Mochary in 1982, former Rep. Millicent Fenwick (R) in 1982 and Democratic party official Thelma Parkinson in 1930, have been major party nominees for U.S. Senate in New Jersey. State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) is the only announced Democratic candidate for New Jersey governor.

On the Republican side, Guadagno, state Sen. Michael Doherty (R-Washington Township), state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield), Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris Plains) and businessman John Crowley are considered potential 2014 Senate candidates. Kean unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2006, while Webber is a former state GOP chairman.

John Celock   |   January 11, 2013    8:40 PM ET

Sen. Frank Lautenberg's (D-N.J.) spokesman released a one-sentence statement Friday saying that a report on a New York City television station about Lautenberg's retirement is "not true."

NBC New York, citing sources close to Lautenberg, reported Friday evening that the five-term Democrat had decided to retire rather than run against Newark Mayor Cory Booker in the 2014 Democratic primary. Lautenberg spokesman Caley Gray challenged the report about two hours after it was posted on the television station's website.

"The news report that claims Senator Lautenberg has decided to retire is simply not true," Gray said in a statement.

The NBC story said Lautenberg's office did not comment to the station on the retirement.

Lautenberg is the oldest current senator. His spokesman's denial comes the same day that Booker filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission setting up an exploratory committee to seek the Senate seat. Booker announced in December that he was considering the Senate race, instead of challenging Gov. Chris Christie (R) this year.

Lautenberg has previously said that he would not address Booker's candidacy and announce his future political plans immediately. He said he working on gun control and Hurricane Sandy.

Lautenberg, 88, was first elected to the Senate in 1982. He retired in 2000 before returning to office in 2002 after then-Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) dropped his reelection bid. Lautenberg defeated Rep. Rob Andrews (D) in a competitive 2008 Democratic primary before easily defeating former Rep. Dick Zimmer (R) that November.

Lautenberg has been trailing Booker in polls, but is viewed as a strong candidate in a primary due to his wealth and high name recognition. Lautenberg has also been leading the Democratic fight against several Christie proposals in recent months.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D) is considered a potential Senate candidate against Booker in the event Lautenberg does retire.

Ryan J. Reilly   |   January 11, 2013    2:48 PM ET

WASHINGTON -- William Fulton was sitting around drinking in an Anchorage hotel room when the militia members started pulling out their guns. It was February 2011, and the man known to those in Alaska's right-wing circles as "Drop Zone Bill" was at a militia convention he had helped organize.

What his drinking buddies didn't know was that Fulton -- an Army veteran who owned a company that provided security services, hunted down fugitives and sold surplus military equipment -- was working for the FBI. A federal prosecutor and a bunch of FBI agents were stationed in the hotel room on the other side of the wall.

"I said, 'Hey, we're drinking, put your guns away,'" Fulton recalled to The Huffington Post in an interview this week. "So the only thing running through my mind is, f**k, one of these guys is going to shoot a bullet through that wall and we're all going to die."

Fulton spoke with HuffPost for a story published Friday that focused on his work for former Alaska Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller during the 2010 campaign. He also spoke at length with Salon's Jillian Rayfield. A Los Angeles Times reporter flew in to see him for a forthcoming profile.

So why the sudden media push? Fulton says it's partially because he was painted nationally as something he wasn't after he handcuffed an Alaska journalist at a Miller campaign event in October 2010. This is the first opportunity he's had to defend himself. Fulton, revealing he voted for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012, now calls Miller "paranoid" and says he was only feigning right-wing sympathies to boost his business and further embed himself in extremist circles. Handcuffing a journalist helped bolster that image.

"It completely solidified our position within the right wing, which was good, too," Fulton said of the incident. "Because there’s nothing the right wing likes more than you roughing up the left-wing media and such."

Fulton says he grew up in the Northwest and joined the Army when he was 17. He first started working with a federal agency he declined to identify around 2002, two years after he got out of the military because of a medical condition. Soon he started working with the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigative Division, providing what he called "intelligence-based services to the military on their service members that may be involved in things they shouldn’t be." He claims he investigated cases involving extremism, stolen government property and drugs. His first contact with the FBI came, he said, when he "ran into something that was the FBI's kind of area of expertise."

Fulton initially started working for the FBI around 2008, he said. By that point, he had been running his company, Drop Zone Security, for about two years. He says the business wasn't created at the direction of the FBI, but claimed the company "provided information to anyone who needed it, whether it be federal or state." He said Drop Zone never charged for information, but its "intelligence-gathering capabilities were vastly increased the more right-wing" his business went.

Fulton first met Alaska Peacemakers Militia leader Schaeffer Cox, the man he'd later help send to prison for nearly 26 years for plotting to kill government officials, at the 2008 Alaska GOP convention. Fulton said he wasn't initially impressed.

"We’re doing one of those backroom cigars and, you know, brandy meetings. Not to say that we actually had brandy but you know what I’m saying," Fulton said. "We’re sitting there talking about overthrowing the Republican Party in Alaska and here’s this guy that brings his wife in and goes 'Oh, well she’s my wife but she’s my secretary, too.' I’m just like, okay dude, whatever."

It was after the meeting, when Cox addressed a Tea Party crowd at the convention, that Fulton first became concerned.

"Schaffer’s supposed to go down and talk to these Tea Party people and get them all fired up," Fulton said. "I hear this guy go on for about an hour and a half and I’m like, Jesus Christ, this f**ker's dangerous. The Tea Party folks were just eating it up."

But Fulton said he didn't approach Cox on his own. He says the FBI became concerned about Cox's rhetoric around 2009 and asked Fulton for help around August 2010, when Cox told Fulton he was planning to "go to the houses of local cops and burn the houses down with the cops and their families inside." Cox and members of his crew were arrested in March 2011, after Fulton delivered them weapons. Fulton and his family immediately left Alaska. He wouldn't resurface for 14 months.

Fulton was identified in court documents as the man the FBI called "Confidential Source 2." While federal prosecutors never called him to testify, Cox's defense team did.

These days, Fulton says he's still working the right-wing beat, focusing on extremists, militia members and sovereign citizens. He still goes undercover, he says, but only for short-term cases. "I wore glasses the whole time I was up [in Alaska] and had blonde hair and a clean-shaven face and a military haircut," Fulton said. "There's a lot you can do with that."

He's no longer living in Alaska, but would only describe his current home in broad terms: "I'm very happy to be some place where people don't want to kill each other."

John Celock   |   January 10, 2013    1:33 PM ET

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) is "not pursuing" a race against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a move that denies Democrats a candidate some party leaders saw as the strongest.

Pascrell used the announcement of a new federal grant to the Paterson Fire Department to tell that he is not planning to challenge the one-term Christie. State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) is the only announced Democratic challenger to Christie, and some party leaders have been trying to block Buono's candidacy by openly looking for an alternative.

“I’m not pursuing that position,” Pascrell told

State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), a potential gubernatorial candidate, tried to recruit Pascrell into the governor's race, calling him a "strong candidate" last month. Sweeney has long been at odds with Buono, including ousting her as state Senate majority leader last year.

Pascrell, a former Paterson mayor, handily defeated former Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) in a bitter member-on-member Democratic congressional primary last year. Pascrell defeated Republican Rabbi Shmuley Boteach by 50 points in November to capture his ninth term in Congress.

Buono entered the race against Christie in December, becoming the first Democrat to challenge the popular first-term Republican. Her candidacy was backed by party leaders in Middlesex and Somerset counties, though she has lagged in initial polls and fundraising against Christie, who has 72-percent approval ratings following Hurricane Sandy.

Buono entered the governor's race before Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), viewed by Democrats as the strongest Christie challenger, said he was considering a run for the U.S. Senate instead.

Buono has been vocal in her opposition to Christie, including attacking his decision Wednesday to not commit to gun control legislation and calling him "tone deaf" for not including an economic development plan in his State of the State address on Tuesday.

In addition to Sweeney, state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) and Elizabeth, N.J., Mayor Chris Bollwage (D) are both seen as potential gubernatorial candidates. Earlier this week, state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth), the powerful leader of the Union County Democratic Party, called on Codey, a former governor, to enter the race, calling him Democrats' "Obi-Wan Kenobi," in a reference to the character from the "Star Wars" movie series.

John Celock   |   January 10, 2013   12:20 PM ET

A Republican congressman from Mississippi who voted against the first round of Hurricane Sandy aid is now voting for the second round after having toured storm-ravaged parts of the Jersey Shore and Staten Island.

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), who represents Mississippi's Gulf Coast, will now be voting for the $51 billion in federal aid for New Jersey and New York residents, The Staten Island Advance reports. Palazzo, who had requested federal funds for the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, toured the areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy following his vote last week in opposition to expanding the federal flood insurance program by $9.7 billion to pay for those affected by Sandy.

The Staten Island Advance reports:

Palazzo made an unannounced trip to ravaged areas on the Island and in the Garden State on Tuesday. He said that much of what he saw reminded him of the devastation wrought by Katrina.

"Mississippians have been through much of what the Sandy victims are experiencing," said Palazzo, who pleaded for federal disaster aid in the wake of Katrina.

Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) led Palazzo on his tour of the Jersey Shore, while the second-term Mississippi Republican toured Staten Island on his own. The Advance reported that Palazzo stopped by Rep. Michael Grimm's (R-N.Y.) district office on Staten Island after his tour, but that Grimm was not in and Palazzo chatted with an aide. Grimm has been a vocal advocate for the federal relief money, including taking the House floor on Jan. 1 to protest House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) decision to postpone an original vote on the aid package.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation to the Gulf Coast in 2005, Palazzo sought more than $38 million for the Biloxi Public Housing Authority as part of the recovery, Salon reports. Palazzo was the authority's chief financial officer at the time.

Palazzo is one of 67 House Republicans to have voted against the federal flood insurance expansion; many of those said that the funds need to be offset by cuts to other areas of the federal budget. Think Progress reported that 37 of the dissenting members had previously backed federal disaster aid for their home states. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), the House Republican Conference vice chairwoman, told HuffPost in a statement that she voted against the flood insurance money due to concerns about the long-term debt of the flood program and a need to protect flood insurance funding for Kansas residents.

The Advance reports that Palazzo's switch leaves the second relief bill four votes shy of passage in the House. It is too early to tell whether the symbolism of a Gulf Coast Republican signing on in support will have an influence on other Republicans.

Belmar, N.J. Mayor Matt Doherty (D), whose Jersey Shore community had $130 million in damage, told HuffPost last week that the federal funds would lessen the burden on property taxpayers. Doherty said his town is currently in the process of borrowing funds to pay for repairs, which could hurt local taxpayers in the long term.

John Celock   |   January 9, 2013    6:48 PM ET

Birther queen Orly Taitz is celebrating a routine U.S. Supreme Court decision to refer her petition, which asks the court to overturn President Barack Obama's election, to a February conference of the justices.

Taitz posted on her website Wednesday afternoon that the Supreme Court will discuss a case she filed on behalf of three minor presidential candidates -- including a federal prison inmate -- at their conference Feb. 15. The court's website confirms that Taitz's case, which she submitted to Chief Justice John Roberts' office last month, has been placed on the Feb. 15 conference agenda and has been distributed to the nine justices for consideration.

The roughly 10,000 petitions that the court receives annually are referred to the regular conference meetings for discussion, then around 100 are picked by the justices for oral arguments and a final decision. The votes of four justices in the conference are needed to schedule arguments. The scheduling comes a week after another birther activist suggested impeaching Roberts if he attempted to swear-in Obama later this month.

The long odds have not deterred Taitz, a lawyer, dentist and real estate agent in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., from celebrating Wednesday's decision. Taitz filed the case on behalf of Edward Noonan, who won the American Independent Party presidential primary in California, Thomas Gregory MacLeran, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination, and Keith Judd, who challenged Obama in the Democratic primary. Judd, who is currently in federal prison, received 41 percent of the vote against Obama in the West Virginia primary. Taitz has said that if Obama was disqualified from the ballot Judd would have been the Democratic presidential nominee based on his West Virginia votes.

Taitz's case argues that Obama is using false identification, a fake last name, a false Social Security number and forged birth certificates, and Selective Service applications to run for president. She originally filed the lawsuit against California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (D) in her attempt to prevent California's electoral votes from being counted and to prevent Vice President Joe Biden from counting the electoral votes earlier this month.

A federal judge in California dismissed this case last week. Taitz likened her current case to Watergate.

"Please, keep in mind, Richard Nixon was reelected and sworn in, but later was forced to resign as a result of Watergate. over 30 high ranking officials of Nixon administration including Attorney General of the United States and White House Counsel were indicted, convicted and went to prison," Taitz wrote on her website.

"ObamaForgery gate is a hundred times bigger then Watergate. More corrupt high ranking officials, US Attorneys, AGs and judges were complicit, committed high treason by allowing a citizen of Indonesia and possibly still a citizen of Kenya Barack Hussein Obama, aka Barack (Barry) Soebarkah, aka Barack (Barry) Soetoro to usurp the U.S. Presidency by use of forged IDs and a stolen Social security number."

Ariel Edwards-Levy   |   January 9, 2013    4:57 PM ET

Democrats ended 2012 with more supporters than Republicans, reversing a two-year virtual tie between the two parties, according to Gallup.

On average, 47 percent of Americans in 2012 said they were Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, compared to 42 percent who were Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, Gallup reports.

The Democrats' 5-point margin is an uptick from 2010 and 2011, when the two parties ran almost even.

Nearly all of the change comes from independents leaning in a different direction, rather than any shift in beliefs among party stalwarts. Independents in 2012 were more likely to lean toward Democrats than Republicans by 2 points -- a reversal from the previous year, when they favored the GOP by 4 points.

The numbers of Americans identifying as belonging to either the Republican or the Democratic Party remained basically the same, while the total number of independents matches 2011's record high.

Levels of party identification regularly shift, especially among less dogmatic voters.

As Gallup notes, Democrats have historically held a lead in party ID:

Gallup has measured party identification and leaning consistently since 1991. During that time, Democrats usually have held an advantage, including the high margin of 12 points in 2008, the year President Barack Obama was elected. Republicans have held an advantage in only one year -- 1991, when President George H.W. Bush enjoyed record-high approval ratings after the Persian Gulf War. The two parties were essentially tied in 1994-1995, 2001-2003, and 2010-2011.

Gallup's party ID numbers for the last year come from telephone interviews of 20,800 adults, with a 1 percent margin of error.