Alagia: ‘I would be honored to campaign’ with Pinkett

Attempting to dial back someearly worryover rookie politician/TV starRandal Pinkett, Corzine Campaign Political Director Phil Alagia praised the prospective candidate for lieutenant governor as a smart and likable public figure and an excellent communicator.

"There are a lot of excellent choices out there,"said the veteran 41-year old political operative, who serves as chief of staff to Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo. "I think Randal's a great guy and I would be excited and honored to campaign with him."

According to sources, Pinkett's at the top of a Corzine short list that includes state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg(D-Teaneck).

Alagia first met Pinkett at the home of Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells just before Jon Corzine's first campaign for governor.

"My wife and I were watching'The Apprentice'at the time and we were trying to get information from him about how it ended up," recalled Alagia. "He just smiled and told us, 'Keep watching the show, you'll be very happy.'"

Pinkett won the televised contest.

Thereafter, his firm, BCT Partners, responded to a bid request issued by Essex County.

"Our records indicate that we have had two contracts with BCT Partners," Alagia told"The first contract dates back to March 27, 2006 for the creation of a vendor registration database and related technological systems. The contract was in the amount of $50,607. The second contract was in October of 2007 for deployment, hosting, and technical support for the vendor registration system. The contract was in the amount of $31,732.72."

Alagia said Pinkett did an outstanding job.

State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) earlier today dismissed speculation thatCorzine alliesused Pinkett as ahead faketo get Newark Mayor Cory Booker to run with Corzine, and Alagia also said it's not true.

"A lot of people thought Cory would be a great lieutenant governor candidate," Alagia said. "When he said he was not interested, I think they just moved on to other candidates. Cory was very clear."

There is a cringe factor in Essex early among some elected officials when it comes to Pinkett. No government experience. Under 40. Untested.

"My question to anyone making those comments is if not him, who? We're not going to get a candidate who has every single excellent quality, but here is someone who is a Rhodesscholar and a businessman at a time when the public is not exactly enamored of elected officials," Alagia said.

Alagia: ‘I would be honored to campaign’ with Pinkett