Loretta Weinberg, the Jewish Grandma Who's Making Chris Christie's Life Miserable

New Jersey Senator Leads Bridgegate Scandal Fight

new jersey democratic party

By Hody Nemes

Published January 22, 2014, issue of January 31, 2014.

(page 2 of 3)

Given the mutually hostile history between Weinberg and Christie, some are wary of Weinberg’s new role as a lead investigator of the bridge scandal.

“We’ll see if, going forward, she will be able to have an unpartisan, unbiased investigation,” said Matt Rooney, editor of the conservative New Jersey blog Save Jersey. “To be honest with you, I’m not hopeful based on her past track record of hyper-partisanship.”

But Weinberg brushed aside his concerns. “We’re doing this in, I think, an appropriate way, and we will be fair and impartial. Otherwise we have no credibility,” she said.

Weinberg has a notable and enduring capacity for outrage about corruption in government and lists government transparency as one of her most important priorities. “She is hard on those who take advantage of their position to enrich themselves when it’s about public service,” Democratic Assemblyman Gordon Johnson said. “That gets her upset.”

Her own squeaky-clean record was likely one of the main reasons former governor Jon Corzine asked Weinberg to run for lieutenant governor in his 2009 bid for re-election against Christie. Two days before the announcement, 44 people were arrested as part of the “bid-rigging” scandal, a massive New Jersey corruption scheme involving money laundering and organ trafficking. Though she and Corzine ultimately lost, Weinberg became the first Jewish woman to run for statewide office in New Jersey.

Weinberg is as unabashed about her liberalism as she is about her passion against corruption. During her career as a state legislator, her issue priorities have included health care, gun control, gay and lesbian rights, and education. Women’s health is at the top of her list, and she has slammed Christie for trying to remove public funding of Planned Parenthood. Weinberg said she is “proudest” of a 1995 law she helped pass that allows women to remain in the hospital for two days after giving birth.

Weinberg describes her political values as a product of her past. Born in 1935 in the Bronx, she grew up in Southern California and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1956. In 1964 she moved to Teaneck with her husband, Irwin Weinberg, and her two young children during a time of political upheaval in the northern New Jersey municipality. At the time, Teaneck residents were debating whether to desegregate their school system; in 1965, Teaneck became the first majority-white community in the nation to voluntarily desegregate, a decision Weinberg strongly supported.

“I came of age when there was a huge amount of political activism,” she said. “It was a period of turmoil, and we all really thought that with true political activism, we could make real changes.”

Weinberg’s roots also run deep in the Jewish community of northern New Jersey. She is a longtime active member of the Bergen County section of the National Council of Jewish Women and has attended Temple Emeth, a Reform congregation in Teaneck, for more than 40 years.

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