The chief political players in Irvington and retiring Senator Ronald L. Rice have a complicated history.
Running with the backing of the Essex County Democratic Committee, the late D. Bilal Beasley ran against Rice in 2007 and lost a narrow contest as the veteran anti-establishment senator fought off the line.
Beasley’s political protege, sitting Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss, helped forge closer ties not only to Rice, but to Rice’s close political ally, Councilman David Lyons, who died in 2019.
The retirement at the end of this month of Senator Rice caused the mayor to reflect deeply on his history with the LD-28 icon.
“First of all, my biggest focus is the health of Senator Rice,” Vauss told InsiderNJ. “He has been a remarkable partner, friend and mentor – someone you can always count on in to be in your corner to support you. I have not met anyone else in politics, other than Bilal, with the same spirit, courage and determination to always do what’s right. That’s something that’s missing in this business. Plus, the drive and tenacity.”
Vauss has been in closer contact with the senator over the last number of months, since Rice lost his wife Shirley. “He has so much strength; I don’t even know how to describe it,” said the mayor. “I think in his case, yes, it’s a few factors; a question of character, but also conviction. This is a man who says what he means and means what he says. And then you sprinkle in a little bit of dedication. That’s what you get. There’s no one else like him.”
Rice and David Lyons always liked each other, got along politically and supported each other.
But the organization’s opposition to the pair never soured Vauss on the dynamic anti-establishment duo.
“There are so many segments to politics,” the mayor explained. “My mentor is Bilal. That doesn’t mean I’m against Senator Rice. Senator Rice is still a force. The character of these people, including David Lyons, goes beyond political boundaries. The first thing you are is a human being, and the fact is we don’t always have to agree on everything.”
In the end, it’s not too complicated, after all.