Blocked by Rosenthal, Rice still shows up with map in pocket

NEW BRUNSWICK – State Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D-28), of Newark, tried to scratch out some face-time with redistricting tiebreaker Alan Rosenthal today, but staff for the Rutgers professor rebuffed Rice’s advanceman Lionel Leach.

Notified, Rice still made the trip from Trenton to make his arguments. He was prepared to drop off a digital copy of his map – which Rice said is two districts short of completion after pulling a few all-nighters this week – to the commission, in particular Rosenthal. But Rosenthal’s team told Leach, an administrative analyst, that Rice needed to submit his rendering to the Office of Legislative Services, not Rosenthal’s squad.

“I would suspect that there were some legislators who didn’t want me to do that,” Rice said, of the map submission. “I understand the process ‘cause I’ve been through it before.”

Rice’s map puts a premium on incumbency, a redistricting priority that hadn’t kept his district safe the last two times he was through this: “But apparently the committee itself has other ideas.”

His other fight is to ensure minority representation, which he said he will defend with a court challenge if need be.

He was approached by Democratic operatives when he showed up, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-34), of East Orange, was summoned down to speak with Rice.

With PolitickerNJ in their presence, all Oliver would say to Rice was, “Don’t believe the rumors and innuendo.”

Rice approached Rosenthal as the latter was heading for an early Wednesday exit, and was able to corner the tiebreaker in the hall for a few minutes.

In particular, Rice is concerned with following the amendments to the Voter Rights Act, among other things.

“But I’m not going to put Rosenthal in a position to feel crowded,” he said, but he’s not happy with the complete lack of transparency with the process.

He would understand if there need to be private, executive sessions, but “I think every time they draw a map it should be (made) public,” in order for the voters and other officials not involved in the process to have their say about strategies like tacking and packing.

His map addresses these minority maneuvers, even though he has no staff, expenses, or access to “luxury hotels” to complete it. He just worked at it, and although the Dems are interested in seeing the completed project, Rice said he’d want a view of their map first. That didn’t happen today.

“I’ll respect them in the process,” Rice told PolitickerNJ. “But I feel if (state Sen. President Steve) Sweeney and (Senate Minority Leader) Tom Kean and the governor and (Assembly Minority Leader) Alex DeCroce and some of the other folks can have conversations, then I’m no different. I have some ideas like everybody else.”