Senator Rice to back Clinton for president

Maverick state Sen. Ronald Rice is going with the establishment pick for president in the 2008 election.

"I'm looking forward to supporting Hillary Clinton," the Newark lawmaker told

That puts him in a camp with old rivals Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and North Ward boss Steve Adubato, and pitted againstNewark Mayor Cory Booker andthesenator'sson, West Ward Councilman Ron Rice, Jr., bothBarack Obama supporters.A key Riceally, Sen. President Richard Codey, supports the presidential candidacy of Sen. John Edwards.

Rice said he can't support Obama based on what he sees as the first term United States' senator's lack of foreign policy experience.

"I think he's a newcomer to that level of government," said Rice. "My concern is that given the times we're in, you have to have serious relationships with the leaders of other countries, developed over a period of time. Hillary has that as a former first lady and from her years in the Senate."

A Vietnam veteran who opposed the Iraq War, the senator said he is not troubled by Clinton's 2002 vote in favor of giving President George W. Bush the authority to use force in Iraq.

"You work with the best information you have before you," said Rice. "It doesn't bother me. What we need now is someone who has experience and who can most effectively and quickly bring the troops home."

Rice said he has reached out to Essex County Democratic Party Chairman Phil Thigpen to set up a meeting between himself and representatives of the Clinton camp, and said he looks forward to helping in any way he can.

Senator Rice to back Clinton for president