“I’ve attributed my investigative experience to the fact that I raised adolescents. The moment one of my kids isn’t telling the truth, I know. If I come home late and I ask the kids, ‘Did you have a party here?,’ and they say, ‘No, what party?,’ I know when they are lying. The moment I heard Bill Baroni, my antenna immediately came out. I knew immediately he was hiding something.”
—State Senator Loretta Weinberg, Vanity Fair.
It was 2013; Christie’s shoot-from-the-hip style and his handling of Hurricane Sandy, with the infamous bipartisan Obama hug, had made his poll numbers soar. He was being courted by wealthy Republican donors and had his eye on the 2016 presidential race. It seemed impossible to bring down such a popular governor, but impossible is not in my mother’s vocabulary.
My mother, aka New Jersey senate majority leader Loretta Weinberg, took down the guy who used to be the biggest bully in politics. Before there was Trump, there was Chris Christie.
Politics runs deep in Loretta’s blood. Her father was a big shot in the New York Tammany Hall political machine, where the boys in the back room doled out favors in exchange for votes and the only rules were abuse of power. After her father had an affair, her mother divorced him. As a single woman, her mom tried to buy a floral business, but it was 1945 and she couldn’t get a loan without a husband to co-sign for her.
As a young housewife in the 1960s, Loretta spent afternoons at campaign headquarters for various candidates, rolling flyers off mimeograph machines and creating strategy over cold coffee and stale doughnuts.
I spent my childhood picketing at the supermarket in support of Cesar Chavez or distributing leaflets for local candidates. I was six years old, but it was campaign season, and all hands were on deck.
She won her first election to the town council in 1990, was elected to the State Assembly in 1992, and in 2005 she became a state senator.
Our family sacrificed for her many high-octane political battles. In 1998, my dad, who was sick with cancer, spent his final months stumping for my mom when she ran for county executive (she ran while in the Assembly). She lost the election and my father shortly after. He spent the end of his life the same way he had lived all his other days, supporting my mother in everything she did.
Christie took his first swipe at her in 2011, when my mother criticized him for doling out high salaried patronage jobs to his buddies, many of whom were also collecting six-figure government pensions.
At 75, after losing her life savings in the Madoff debacle, Loretta began drawing a small pension from her civil-servant positions while still earning her part-time Senate salary. Christie told reporters they should “take the bat out on her for once.” The press went crazy, and Loretta skewered him during multiple interviews, saying, “Words do matter.”
Over the next eight years, she and Christie sparred on everything from funding for Planned Parenthood to smart-gun technology. “If Chris Christie had given out veto pens, I would have a much larger collection of pens from the last seven years,” she told the Daily Beast.
When the busiest bridge in the world had lane closures causing traffic to come to a standstill, she finally brought the “big boy” down. It was the first day of school and the anniversary of 9/11. Getting onto the bridge from the Jersey side was a parking lot. This went on for five long days.