“Apprentice” winner Randal Pinkett may be auditioning for a different role: New Jersey lieutenant governor.
Pinkett’s name is among those being floated for the No. 2 spot on the Democratic gubernatorial ticket. If chosen from a narrowing list of contenders, Pinkett would apprentice under Gov. Jon Corzine, the incumbent seeking re-election.
Corzine campaign spokesman Patrick McKenna said no decision has been made.
Running mates must be named by July 27.
President Barack Obama is due to campaign with Corzine in New Jersey on Thursday, fueling speculation that he or GOP challenger Chris Christie could announce their picks by then. Christie’s campaign deferred comment.
This is the first New Jersey election to include lieutenant governor candidates. The Legislature created the post in 2005 after the abrupt resignation of Gov. Jim McGreevey in the wake of a gay affair, making New Jersey the 44th state with a second-in-command.
With Corzine dragging in early polls, Pinkett’s named has emerged as an out-of-the-box pick with the potential to energize the crucial African American base. Pinkett is African American.
“Corzine’s preference here indicates how important African American voters are going to be in this election,” said Brigid C. Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University. “Obama and an African American on the ticket gives those African American voters who voted last year a reason to come back out to the polls.”
Obama carried all but a fraction of New Jersey’s black vote in the last election.
However, picking Pinkett is not without political risks.
The Rhodes Scholar with five academic degrees has never held elected office. He has no statewide political network and is untested on the campaign trail.
“What you want most of all in this candidate is ‘do no harm,'” said Ingrid Reed, director of the New Jersey Project at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics. “Can Corzine trust a Randal Pinkett, who has not really been tried in New Jersey politics? He’s an impressive person, but is he right for this role?’
Pinkett did not return messages for comment Monday or Tuesday.
His mother, Elizabeth Pinkett, would say only that she and her 38-year-old son “have had discussions.”
“If he’s happy, I’m happy,” she said.
Pinkett is a businessman who won Season 4 of Donald Trump’s boardroom reality show.
Christie is said to be favoring Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno as his running mate with Bergen County Clerk Kathleen Donovan reportedly still in the mix.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.