Corzine Introduces “Trusted Friend” as Running Mate

Gov. Jon Corzine officially introduced Loretta Weinberg as his running mate for the November election on Saturday, calling the northern New Jersey state senator someone he trusts "absolutely, completely.''
In an event staged as a pep rally for the Democrat's dragging gubernatorial re-election campaign, Weinberg received an extended standing ovation from colleagues and supporters following a glowing introduction from the governor in which he referred to his No. 2 as "the conscience of the Legislature.''
"As a mother, grandmother, public servant, Loretta has an impeccable, unimpeachable conscience, a clear view of right and wrong,'' said Corzine.
Weinberg emerged as Corzine's choice for lieutenant governor after Thursday's arrest of 43 people, including Democratic mayors and state assemblymen. The arrests had party members reeling, with some Democratic party leaders openly questioning the governor's commitment to remain in the race against former federal prosecutor Chris Christie.
Weinberg, however, tried to lay to rest any such speculation.
"Now is one of those times when good people in government must stand up,'' said Weinberg. "To all who are disillusioned, now is not the time to throw in the towel. The stakes are too high.''
Weinberg, 74, earned a reputation as a strong-willed and independent-minded lawmaker after taking on the Bergen County Democratic establishment to win a fiercely contested battle for an open state Senate seat in 2005. Bergen County party boss Joseph Ferriero, with whom Weinberg tangled, was later indicted on federal corruption charges. His trial is set to start this fall.
"She really is what this party needs,'' Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney said. "She's always stood up and fought the party establishment. With what we just had happen in the state of New Jersey, the governor couldn't have sent a more clear message, he couldn't have picked a stronger candidate to say 'enough's enough.'''
GOP challenger Christie, meanwhile, on Saturday criticized the selection of Weinberg as "just more of the same.''
Weinberg beat out another female Democrat in the Legislature, Sen. Barbara Buono of Edison, and reality TV star Randal Pinkett, a Newark business owner and Rhodes scholar, for the lieutenant governor nod.
Pinkett, who was in the audience for Saturday's announcement, praised the governor's choice, saying Weinberg "represents all that is good in New Jersey politics.'' He said he would do whatever the campaign asks to help get Corzine re-elected.
Corzine trails in polls, which show he has lackluster support among key Democratic groups such as African-Americans and union members. Christie has a significant early lead among independents, who make up a majority of New Jersey's electorate.
Weinberg acknowledged those challenges in her acceptance speech, calling on supporters to help her and Corzine "climb the steep hill to keep our government in progressive Democratic hands.''
The two then embarked on a series of campaign stops in southern New Jersey. Their joint appearance followed the openings of Corzine campaign offices around the state.
Party leaders hailed the selection of Weinberg. Among them was Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., who cited her "impeccable record'' on issues such as fighting for more open government.
"Her strong record on ethics and government integrity cannot be questioned,'' Roberts said.
Christie's running mate is Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno.
The Nov. 3 election is the first New Jersey contest to include lieutenant governor candidates, who are elected along with the governor.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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