The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Meet the First Democrat Challenging Chris Christie


In New Jersey, some Democrats are still hoping that Newark mayor Cory Booker decides to challenge incumbent Republican Chris Christie. But one other Democrat has thrown her hat in the ring, Barbara Buono.

Buono is a longtime fixture in New Jersey Democratic politics; she was elected to the Metuchen Borough Council in 1992, then served in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1994 to 2002 and in the state Senate from 2002 to January 2012.

Her declaration of candidacy offered some very familiar themes:

Today, our state has an unemployment crisis . . . the highest jobless rate in over three decades. Instead of bipartisan leadership, Governor Christie’s offered trickle-down economics — policies that have landed New Jersey 47th out of 50 states for economic growth. We need a real plan to create good-paying jobs all across our state.

Today, we’re not doing enough to prepare our young people for the global economy. But instead of finding common ground, the Governor scapegoats our teachers. We need to make all of our schools centers of innovation, and make higher education more affordable.

We have a property tax crisis, with middle class families hit by a 20 percent tax hike . . . all while the Governor pushes income tax cuts for millionaires. We need a tax policy that supports strong middle class neighborhoods . . . not one that drives families away.

The unemployment rate in New Jersey has remained stubbornly high, at 9.7 percent (and this is separate from Hurricane Sandy effects), but it has dipped slightly in the past two months. Christie’s spokesmen emphasize that the state has added 73,600 private-sector jobs since February 2010, the first full month he was in office.

For all of the high-profile tough talk between Christie and his state’s teacher’s unions — at one point he called them “political thugs” — he also worked out a deal for merit pay with them, earning praise from the American Federation of Teachers union.

Christie has not raised the state’s income, sales, or business taxes; he has reduced two state tax credits. State treasury officials estimate that more than 76 percent of earned-income-tax-credit recipients in 2010 owed no New Jersey tax — meaning it was a reduction of a state payment to them, not an increase in their taxes.

(I’ll admit a soft spot for Buono’s hometown of Metuchen, New Jersey. But New Jerseyans may want to be careful; the much-disliked tax-hiking former governor Jim Florio lived there, too. And the infamous former governor Jim McGreevey went to St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen as well. Must be something in the water there.)

Booker said he’s still considering a run for governor next year.

Tags: Barbara Buono , Chris Christie , Corey Booker


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