This was a free for all that New Jersey’s feisty Jewish grandmother couldn’t resist.
As the Democratic Party floorboards thudded with the sounds of U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) and South Jersey Democratic Leader George Norcross’ statewide brawl, Gov. Chris Christie sided with Norcross, happily breaking an oratorical bottle over the 88-year-old senator.
“We are not going to listen to partisan hacks like Frank Lautenberg,” said Christie of the octogenerian, who this week reiterated his objections to a Norcross/Christie-backed merger of Rowan University and Rutgers/Camden.
Lautenberg went blackjack on Norcross, alluding to “corrupt” party bosses. He also welcomed a three-on-one fight with Norcross, Christie and state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
“Governor Christie, Senator Sweeney and George Norcross have teamed up to launch a personal attack campaign on Senator Lautenberg to distract from the back room merger deal that they’re trying to keep hidden from the public,” said Lautenberg spokesman Caley Gray. “Senator Lautenberg has raised reasonable questions about the impact of the merger and will continue to stand with the people of New Jersey in demanding answers.”
The corruption allusion infuriated a Norcross universe doubly rattled by the day’s news of a state comptroller’s report detailing questionable spending on insurance brokers.
South Jersey tried to get into huddle-up mode.
Into the fray stepped Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37), who in the middle of the Democratic Party bloodbath found a target in the Republican governor.
“Senator Lautenberg is not a hack,” said Weinberg. “He has a long career all of us can be proud of, a record of defending women’s rights and of giving people clean air by banning smoking on airplanes. The governor was wrong to attack him the way he did.”
As for Sweeney and Norcross, who skewered Lautenberg with their own choice words pror to the governor, “I have said to Steve Sweeney and Senator Lautenberg and to Mr. Norcross that they all need to back off.”
She called the squabble a family fight.
As for Christie, “He needs to spend more time developing a plan for higher education instead of name-calling,” said Weinberg, who said she has an open mind about the whole concept of restructuring, but cannot make a judgment until she sees a real plan with costs.
She also gently chastised Lautenberg, saying he shouldn’t have called Norcross “corrupt.”