No, he's not hitting the panic button yet, but veteran state Sen. Ronald L. Rice (D-Newark) calls Gov. Jon Corzine's campaign to this point the worst he's seenfrom his perch on the frontlines of state politics.
As far as Rice is concerned, Corzine's selection of state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) as his running mate is one more belly flop in a series of such campaign trip ups.
"I think he just ran out of names," shrugged Rice, a state senator since 1986, who all along had hoped Corzine would select an African-American to serve as the state's first lieutenant governor.
"He's down to the wire here with the deadline Monday, you follow me, and so he's just grasping at straws, no disrespect to my fine colleague, Senator Weinberg," Rice added."Yes, she's respected. Most of us are respected.But overall, I am disappointed that the governor gave no serious consideration to minorities and African-Americans."
Corzine, in fact, did consider Rhodes Scholar/reality TV star Randal Pinkett as his running mate, but Rice didn't like thechoice on its face, as Pinkett's resume, by Rice's reckoning,was heavy on private sector glam andslim on the public service side.
"I just don't get the sense that there was a serious commitment to looking at African-Americans," said Rice. "All you heard was Bonnie (Watson Coleman) briefly, Shirley (Turner) briefly, and then this guy Pinkett. (Trenton Mayor) Palmer? Not seriously considered. There were a lot of people, capable people, who weren't considered. It was all Weinberg and (Barbara) Buono and Pinkett."
Rice said he'll work for Corzine, but with no great sense of diving into an epic or important fight.
"I can live with it (the Weinberg pick), but it was not handled the right way," he said. "I'm not sure they're doing enough to help themselves. I see the worst gubernatorial campaign on the worst type of political terrain I've seen in 23 years and no real substance. I don't subordinate myself to anybody,but yeah, I'll support them, I'm a Democrat."
Things could change for him, he said, but for now he just doesn't not yet see the requisite organization in the Corzine campaign to convince him it's for real.