Loretta Weinberg: the other Bergen County political powerhouse

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg may have put aside hostilities with Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero back in April, but she’s not going to let up on criticizing him.

“He’s been a very prolific fundraiser. He has worked hard to get Democrats elected, and I give him a lot of credit for that,” said Weinberg. “But I would like the organization to be about something more than fundraising and who gets what contract.”

In April, Weinberg boosted her already considerable political profile in Bergen County, beating a slate of candidates that Ferriero picked to run against her in the 37th district: Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes and his running mates for assembly, former Assemblyman Ken Zisa and Bergen County Improvement Authority Commissioner Cid Wilson. It was the second time she beat off a challenge by Ferriero, having won the primary election against him in 2005.

Since Ferriero’s candidates faced what looked like insurmountable odds, he dropped the challenge in what most observers say was an effort to save face. Weinberg, in turn, has seen her political stock rise from taking on and triumphing against such a powerful chairman.

But Weinberg said she wants to set the record straight on one point: neither she nor anyone else promised anything to Ferriero in exchange for getting him to drop his slate.

“I don’t know why anybody doesn’t just accept what took place here,” said Weinberg. “Joe Ferriero took a look at the polling numbers and from his point of view took the smart, best way out. He saved himself a lot of money and a public humiliation. It was as simple as that.”

Ferriero could not be reached for comment, but Garden State Equality Chairman Steven Goldstein, a close friend of Weinberg, had some idea of what he received by dropping his ticket.

“In New Jersey, if you lose once you get a pass. Lose twice in New Jersey politics and you’re seen as vulnerable,” said Goldstein.

Goldstein went on to note that Weinberg had been able to do something uncommon in New Jersey politics: earn strong support from both labor organizations and progressive political groups. She may now be able to use her bolstered position and strong reputation to check Ferriero on what she considers his political bossism and propensity towards pay to play contracts.

"Am I going to continue lobbying within my party to change some of the ways we do business? Absolutely. Am I going to continue lobbying against the kind of excessive pay to play that I’ve seen going on? Absolutely,” said Weinberg.

Observers say that Bergen County has likely not seen the end of the feud between the two political powerhouses.

“It would not surprise me if there are squabbles. The deal is that Weinberg was there before Ferriero,” said David Rebovich, managing director of the Rider University Institute for New Jersey Politics. “She’s not his girl or guy. She has her own constituency and she’s carried the day herself. Historically, she has not been dependent on his political machine.” Loretta Weinberg: the other Bergen County political powerhouse