SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. Pat DiNizio, lead singer of the Smithereens, wants to rock the New Jersey political landscape.
"We're going to blow politics as usual to smithereens," DiNizio said on Tuesday (July 25) as he formally announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate at a press conference in his hometown.
DiNizio promised a unique campaign approach that will capitalize on what he's known best for.
"I ask you all to follow me as we crisscross the state of New Jersey in my upcoming Rock Politics Jersey Style Senate campaign concert tour," DiNizio said. "I intend to use music to inspire and educate the young while re-energizing and reminding the rest of us what America was and will be again."
The first stop of the campaign tour was not announced.
DiNizio is vying for the seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Frank R. Lautenberg. Democrat Jon Corzine, Republican Bob Franks and eight other candidates from alternative parties have entered the race.
DiNizio said his career as a musician will help him as a politician. He pointed to another musician, the late Sonny Bono, as a role model.
"People looked askance at his campaign [for the House of Representatives], and when he got in he was pretty great," DiNizio said of Bono, who served as a Republican from Palm Springs, Calif. "You know, I think he was a much beloved congressman. ... I was sort of inspired by him."
DiNizio mixed politics with music at the press conference. Before performing a solo acoustic version of the Smithereens song "I Believe," DiNizio issued a couple of campaign promises.
"I would institute real campaign finance reform, which would restore genuine democracy and political power to the people," DiNizio said. "Secondly, I'll reform American trade and foreign policy, which in its present state has destroyed the American labor movement and therefore the financial and cultural nourishment of the American family."
Although DiNizio is running for the seat as a member of the Reform Party, he said he does not support fellow party member and conservative talk-show host Pat Buchanan's bid for the presidency.
"It is possible for two individuals to be part of the same political party without necessarily sharing the same beliefs," said DiNizio, who identified himself as a centrist.
DiNizio's announcement came at his new campaign headquarters, located in an empty storefront in Scotch Plains' cozy downtown.
Along with representatives of local, regional and national media were a few of DiNizio's campaign workers and the rock star-cum-politician's mother, 69-year-old Antoinette DiNizio.
"We're going to let the people get to know him, and hopefully, with God's help, we'll win," said DiNizio's mother, who's also the campaign's treasurer.
DiNizio, 44, has held public office in the past. Starting as an 18-year-old, he was a Scotch Plains Republican Party committeeman for two terms.
"He had a choice of being a musician or a politician, which I wanted him to go into," DiNizio's mother said. "He chose music."
The Smithereens, who have been together since 1980, have recorded such hits as "Blood and Roses" (RealAudio excerpt), "Only a Memory" and "A Girl Like You" (RealAudio excerpt). Last year the band released the album God Save the Smithereens.
DiNizio said that if elected, he'll take the band with him to Washington, D.C. "They're probably as competent as anyone there to run the show," he said.
Campaign manager Rich Keyes of Brick, N.J., is trying to duplicate the success that professional wrestler Jesse Ventura had in Minnesota, where he was elected governor as a member of the Reform Party.
"We're looking for a grassroots campaign," Keyes said of his first campaign as a manager.
DiNizio said he's spent a few thousand dollars of his own money on the run and that he also received a $1,000 contribution from Don Henley.
That's a sharp contrast to his opponents, especially investment banker Corzine, who spent $36.7 million in the primary campaign alone.
More information on DiNizio's campaign is available at www.dinizio2000.org.