Corzine’s pick, a local legislator, says she’s ‘up for it’

Corzine’s pick, a local legislator, says she’s ‘up for it’

If elected lieutenant governor in November, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) will be more than just the first Jewish woman to hold that position in New Jersey.

“The role was just created,” she laughed, “so I’m the first everything – woman, Jew, grandmother, whatever you want.”

Weinberg explained that because of the recent rapid turnover of governors, voters determined that it was necessary to have someone in the new position, “rather than mixing up the legislative branch with the executive.”

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, with Gov. Jon Corzine as he introduces her as his running mate, says “I’ll be the feisty grandma to keep others in line.”

The 74-year-old Teaneck resident and longtime legislator learned of her nomination as Gov. Jon Corzine’s running mate early last Friday, the same day it was publicly announced.

“I knew the governor had a list, and a short list, and I was on it,” she said. “Beyond that, I also was keenly aware that this was his decision alone and that I was in some terrific company.” Also being considered, she said, were Sen. Barbara Buono of Edison and reality TV star Randal Pinkett of Franklin Township, among others.

Told that the governor planned a news conference for Saturday in Englewood, “I was a bit conflicted,” she said. “My family was coming in from California.”

As it happened, said Weinberg – who was elected to the Assembly in 1992 and then to the Senate in 2005 – more than 400 people attended the conference, “which really turned out to be a huge rally.” She said she will continue to hold her Senate seat during the campaign, since she is not up for re-election this year.

The longtime legislator said she is confident she knows what people in New Jersey want and what they need from their leaders.

“I know from my own family, from the people I serve, and from friends and neighbors,” she said. “They’re interested in seeing the economy improve, getting jobs if they’ve lost them or keeping a good job if they’ve got one, paying their mortgages, and figuring out how they’re going to educate their kids.”

“I learned my values from my own family and from religion,” said Weinberg, a sponsor of ethics legislation dealing with “pay to play issues, transparency, and how parties are constituted.”

A victim of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, she told the Standard in January, “If we don’t clean up politics, we can’t address anything else in a fair, open way.”

Weinberg said that at her synagogue, Temple Emeth in Teaneck, “one is reminded constantly of moral behavior,” not only in the sanctuary but through [signs] like the food drive box, which is right there.”

She stressed that the recent scandal embroiling New Jersey mayors and rabbis “is not endemic to any party,” but rather “a matter of character.”

“I know loads of good local public officials in both parties – good, honest, hard-working people. To paint the thousands of these people with the same brush because of 100 [dishonest] people is inappropriate.” Still, she added, “we must be aggressive in weeding out those who don’t know right from wrong.”

If she is elected lieutenant governor, she said, her role will be defined by the governor – “to do what he and my constituents ask for.” To a large extent, she said, that will involve working on the same issues she has championed throughout her political career, such as health care and environmental concerns.

“The governor has the business background,” she said, describing Corzine as “ahead of the curve on putting together the first state stimulus plan.”

“I’ll be the feisty grandma to help keep others in line,” she added. “And I am sure that the people Gov. Corzine and I include in our inner circles and in appointments and such will very much know right from wrong.”

Weinberg said the slate’s political opponents “are attacking us as Trenton insiders. But if I wasn’t in the legislature, I wouldn’t have been able to sponsor legislation on autism and requiring insurance to pay for 48 hours of health care for women and their newborns and for mammograms for women under 40. If that’s what a Trenton insider is, I’m proud of it.”

While acknowledging that the upcoming election will be an “uphill battle,” Weinberg is not daunted.

“I’m up for it,” she said.

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