Rice backs Rice, and Booker

By MAX PIZARRO
PoliticsNJ.com

Conscious of Thomas Jefferson’s exhortation that there should be a revolution every 20 years, Newark Councilman Ron Rice, Jr., nonetheless says he’s supporting his father, Sen. Ronald Rice, for re-election in District 28.

The younger Rice came into office last year in the west ward on a wave of new blood, along with Cory Booker, who defeated Rice’s father to become mayor.

The revolution goes on, says the councilman, but so does family — and so does the larger context of Newark, which includes the older guys still grumbling but still undeniably possessing wisdom, in his view.

And while mayor is one office, Rice, Jr. said this week, State Senate is another.

He’s backing his father despite Booker’s renewed push to buck the elder Rice by trumpeting the candidacy of Irvington Councilman Bilal Beasley.

“I told the mayor a long time ago,” said the councilman, “I definitely understand his decision, but my father’s been a good State Senator. My dad is experienced. He’s been indispensable to me. Of course, I also embrace the new leadership. I am part of the new leadership vanguard. One can be a Booker supporter, and a Rice supporter. I can appreciate the good attributes of both men”

Rice’s father complains that since Booker became mayor, he’s been unable to get any face time with the young leader. He’s appealed to his son to set up a meeting.

“Look, as someone who doesn’t do the scheduling, I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong,” the councilman said. “There’s been bad blood between these two, friction from the campaign that’s brought them to this showdown. I have tried to talk to my father. It’s gone back and forth. The two of them should be able to work on the people’s business.”

That may be the connecting point when the battle’s over, Rice said, the one area where the men can find an opportunity to build.

“We’re all workaholics,” he said.

The everyday issues go on in Rice’s ward, and in the city, and he talks about them, the big and the small all with the charged-up tenor that is now Newark: how to bring back the port and create jobs, how to provide affordable housing that’s environmentally responsible, whether to use rumble strips or speed bumps to slow motorists, who has the rights to a parking lot where there are too many cars and too few spaces, how to break down the gangs and build up the youth, and how to develop a children’s hospital; and talking about all of those issues the man who says he feels perpetually like the man in the middle, says he wants to work on all of them with Booker, and his father.

But the West Ward Councilman is standing with Booker in one key race: he says he’ll endorse Teresa Ruiz for State Senate in the 29th district, even though he “respects and values” William D. Payne.