Veteran African-American Senator Ronald L. Rice (D-28) laid into Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop a day after PolitickerNJ reported on the freeze-out in Fulop world of Hudson County Freeholder Gerry Balmir, the consequence of the freeholder’s wife going to work for Fulop’s 2017 gubernatorial rival Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3).
“It seems like Fulop is going haywire and hairy over there in Hudson and it shows why Fulop shouldn’t be governor,” said Rice.
Fulop yesterday upbraided Balmir for being what he said was disloyal to the organization after Balmir’s wife, T. Missy Balmir, accepted a job with Sweeney’s office. Rice said Fulop took his punishing words too far.
“When I read the statements, what I came to mind was the mentality that ‘we put you here so you have to rubber stamp our stuff,’ and I have a problem with that,” said Rice, who today attended the Black Issues Convention. “I could see it if they hired Gerry, then they would have a beef. But to say you’re pissed because of a spouse taking a job – come one. Like i said before, there’s this plantation mentality out there. The reality is I can’t tell my wife what to do. I can suggest it but she can tell me to go to hell. The reason this is concerning is there is a history of white folks lined up all over the place; husbands working in one camp, wives in another. And no one says anything when that happens.
“This was wrong the way it read, and I’m paying close attention,” the senator added. “Black folks in particular should pay attention.”
In the aftermath of yesterday’s story, PolitickerNJ received numerous calls from African-American operatives who, speaking on condition of anonymity, echoed Rice’s sentiments. Others, however, pushed back, noting that Balmir should have known the rules of engagement when he signed up to be a Fulop ally and depended on the largesse of Fulop’s and the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) to occupy his seat of power.
Rice denied rumors that he’s already affiliated with former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy, a Fulop rival in the 2017 governor’s race.
“I’m not on anyone’s payroll,” said the senator.
Asked if he supports a particular gubernatorial candidate, he added, “Right now it’s too early.”
Could the Jersey City mayor get in his good graces at some point?
“I don’t have a problem with him the person,” he noted of Fulop. “I just think he needs to mature a little bit more. It’s not a matter of grace, it’s a matter of mentality. I hate to see people dictated to. Men should stand up and fight back. Slap me around? I’m going to slap back. Black leaders need to become stronger and more independent and let people know that we’re not going to be intimidated.”
Simultaneously, a source told PolitickerNJ that allies of Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28) are concerned about the political well-being of the veteran lawmaker from Nutley in the event that Rice does back Murphy and if Murphy does not score the line in Essex County.
“With Ron going out there for Murphy, Ralphie could end up dangling with Ronnie off the line, so what we’re telling Ralphie is he needs to get Ronnie to make good with Steve [Fulop],” the source said, presuming that Fulop’s northern alliance puts him in a stronger position to garner Northern Democratic organizational support, a big reckoning, it should be noted, given how early it is in the 2017 contest.