The Rev. DeForest “Buster” Soaries said he’s calling other African American leaders today to build support for Assembly Majority LeaderBonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) as the successor to retiring Speaker Joe Roberts (D-Camden), and threatened to back pedal from any involvement in the gubernatorial election unless Gov. Jon Corzine throws his support to Watson Coleman.
“The Democrats cannot continue to expect to get loyalty fromAfrican Americans,” said Soaries, a Republican turned Democrat who served as secretary of state under former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman.”We deferred to conventional politics overthe selection for senator and lieutenant governor. IfBonnie Watson Colemanis overlooked – if conventional politics negates serious consideration – we’re going to respond vociferously.”
Democratic Party sourcesplaceWatson Coleman, a former chair of thestate party organization,and Assemblyman Joe Cryan (D-Union), the current state chair of the party, in the top tier of those legislators most likely topursue the top position in the legislature’s lower house.
“Nothing against Cryan,” said Soaries. “I like Joe Cryan,but he doesn’t represent the constituency Bonnie has. For Cryan to get that position is pure politics. The party’s support – Lesniak, Corzine, Norcross, Cryan – for Bonnie Watson Colemancould be precisely that persuasive element that would warrant my enthusiastic response to Corzine’s candidacy. Frankly, it would be the only reason I see left.”
Soaries, the pastor of a mammoth Baptist church on the outskirts of New Brunswick,was a prime mover behind the lieutenant governor candidacy of former television star/Rhodes Scholar Randal Pinkett, an African American who was poised to become Corzine’s running mate before a steady diet ofnewspaper editorials andpublic party badmouthing drove him from the field.
Corzine ultimately selected state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck).
“Corzine could have chosen a dynamic African American for lieutenant governorand that would have awakened the sleeping giantand created an authentic motivation,” said Soaries.”We (Democrats) needAfrican Americansto win, but right now wehave noAfrican Americansin leadership positions. If you look back to when Albio Sires became speaker of the Assembly (prior to Roberts’s tenure), you’ll find he was plucked from obscurity – and now he’s a congressman!
“BonnieWatson Coleman iscurrently the number two person in legislature. Cryan can move up and become majority leader. Perfect. That’s a natural progression for him. But this is the only cardCorzine has left to play. We should have made some noise over thelieutenant governorthing but everybody wants to be civil. You can’t be civil in New Jersey politics, evidently.”