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State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark). (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Rice opposes eliminating organizational lines

Senator once forced to seek re-election without party support

By Nikita Biryukov, February 13 2020 4:47 pm

State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Newark) said he opposed doing away with organizational lines for New Jersey’s primary elections Thursday.

“The deal is not to take away our process. I think it works,” he said. “I think the deal is that you hold political bosses accountable, and that’s the way of doing that, by letting their lines fail as they did when they came after me a few times. The people stood up and said ‘we like the party system, we can go with that, but you’re not just going to not give us an opportunity, because we’ll go the other way’”

Rice has faced numerous primary challenges during his decades-long tenure in the Senate.

In 2007, he scored an off-the-line primary victory against Bilal Beasley, defeating the late Essex County Freeholder by just 475 votes, 52%-48%.

He won a primary off-the-line against former Assembly Majority Leader Willie Brown (D-Newark) in 2001 with 54%, a 986 vote margin.   In 1997, he fought off a challenge from taxicab union leader Laurence Brown, winning by 1,218 votes, 43%-47%.

Those experiences aren’t enough to sour Rice’s views on New Jersey’s party system, though it has lent him a degree of skepticism regarding party leaders.

“I won’t support eliminating it at this point,” he said. “I just believe in calling out political bosses, the corrupt bosses.”

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