POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Sen. Weinberg Wants More Focus on Gubernatorial Race, Women’s Issues

With important upcoming political races in New Jersey, some have criticized the fact that all 14 members of the state’s congressional delegation are men. Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she’s optimistic for the future, but believes it’s sad that all the members of the congressional House of Representatives and U.S. senators are men. She also said Democrats need to be more focused on the upcoming gubernatorial race than the possible fight for Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s seat that is more than a year away and that politicians shouldn’t forget important issues like the Violence Against Women Act, which Congress did not renew.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker created some buzz when he filed paperwork last week that would serve as a first step toward running for Lautenberg’s Senate seat. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver has also expressed interest in that position. But Weinberg said now is not the time to be having that discussion.

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“We have a gubernatorial election coming up in 10, 11 months from now and that’s very important,” she said. “The U.S. Senate race is not until a year from next November. It’s a year and 10 months off. So we have plenty of time to talk about that. It is a distraction and I think inappropriate.”

Sen. Barbara Buono is currently the only Democrat in the race for governor. Weinberg said she would rally around Buono if she is the only candidate in the field. She said there has been talk of others in the party taking on Gov. Chris Christie though, including Sen. Richard Codey, Rep. Bill Pascrell and Senate President Steve Sweeney. “I think once we see all the candidates in the field, the party will make the best choice to carry a progressive message, an answer to all the other issues outside of Hurricane Sandy that we have to face on behalf of the residents of New Jersey,” she said.

Christie’s poll numbers are at historic highs, but Weinberg said he is beatable. She said while he was a “a great face for us” during Hurricane Sandy, voters will have to look at his entire tenure as governor, including the impending budget shortfall.

Another issue Weinberg has fought for throughout her political career is women’s issues. Congress recently did not renew the Violence Against Women Act, which Weinberg said was unusual because it has been renewed for many years.

“It’s money that comes to New Jersey to help us hold down domestic violence, to educate police, to help victims of domestic violence, to help residences for victims of domestic violence,” she said. “The fact that Congress has let that go by the wayside is because Congress is dominated by the right wing of the Republican Party.”

Weinberg said that while Christie called out House Speaker John Boehner on the delayed vote on the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, he could do more. “I wish he would speak up on things like gun safety and the Violence Against Women Act and women’s health,” she said. “There are other issues and to see this country being held hostage by a group of right wing Tea Partiers is very disconcerting.”