Tags: Barbara Buono

No 50-State Strategy for the Democratic Governors Association!


This morning, three pollsters issued their final polls in New Jersey’s governor’s race. Monmouth has Republican incumbent Chris Christie up by 20, Quinnipiac has Christie up by 28, and Rutgers-Eagleton has Christie up by 36.

Back in February, the Democratic Governors Association was talking a good game:

The newly installed chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, said he’s confident her message and story will resonate with New Jersey voters — and he’s willing to devote the resources to prove it. Even at this early stage, it’s Buono’s smiling face that graces the group’s home page.

By August, Democrats were singing a different tune:

While acknowledging the “challenging” nature of the race between Buono and Christie, Shumlin cautioned that it is “by no means over.” But the DGA head would not say whether his organization would provide support in the way of television ads. “I’ve been working closely with Barbara, because we want to win. We’re not gonna start spending big money until we see evidence that we’re gonna win. And so we’re continuing to assess that.”

By yesterday, the DGA was admitting they gave up early:

In contrast, the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) has done nothing to help Christie’s opponent. “We expend resources where we think we can make a difference, and we haven’t invested in New Jersey,” said Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chairman of the DGA.

Tags: Chris Christie , Barbara Buono , New Jersey , DGA

Christie to Buono: I Love Your Passion.


Rookie mistake by New Jersey state senator Barbara Buono yesterday, in her debate with the heavily favored (no, that’s not a pun) incumbent, Governor Chris Christie. When a debate moderator asks you if there’s anything about your opponent you like, emulate Eli Lake and say that you love their passion, or offer some other generic compliment about the opponent’s personal qualities that concedes no ground on policy. Don’t get snarky or sarcastic.

Unfortunately, Buono figured out what she had done too late — you can see it as her smile fades:

Tags: Chris Christie , Barbara Buono

Chris Christie’s Primary Campaign Funds: Spend ‘Em if You’ve Got ‘Em!


You may look at incumbent Republican governor Chris Christie’s gigantic, 30-percentage-point lead in polling for this year’s race in New Jersey and ask yourself, “If he’s so far ahead, why is he spending so much on television advertising?”

Christie spent $1.5 million on the first ad of his reelection bid, and recently dropped another $850,000 to run radio and television versions of a negative attack ad against his likely Democratic rival, state senator Barbara Buono.

Obviously, New Jersey is one of the most expensive states for campaigning, as it is covered by the most expensive television market in the country (New York) and the fourth-most-expensive (Philadelphia). But a big factor is that a significant portion of Christie’s current campaign cash was raised for his primary race (Christie faces nominal opposition from Seth Grossman), so all of that money must be spent by the state’s June 4 primary.

Second, while Buono’s fundraising has been pretty anemic, a liberal group headed by Buono’s former spokesman spent tons of cash on attack ads hitting Christie:

A liberal advocacy group — One New Jersey — has sunk another $700,000 into purchasing airtime for advertisements opposing Gov. Chris Christie, reports. That brings the group’s total purchases to $1.8 million for television and another $100,00 on radio, the report said.

Russ Schriefer, a veteran of Christie’s 2009 campaign, is advising him again. He and his longtime business partner, Stuart Stevens, the campaign manager for Mitt Romney in 2012, visited National Review’s Washington offices today. Schriefer said that while the outlook for Christie is good right now, he has little doubt that at some point polling in the governor’s race will tighten, at least slightly, as Democrats who are not currently paying much attention to the race drift back into the Buono camp.

Schriefer’s comment about the primary funds echoed one of Stevens’ comments about an unforeseen challenge for the Romney camp in the late spring of 2012. Romney had effectively won the Republican nomination but could not spend money raised for the general election until he was officially named the GOP nominee at the convention in Tampa. Romney and his team were left trying to get people to donate, but only to the primary fund.

“It’s very tough to raise money for a primary campaign that everybody thinks you’ve already won,” Stevens said.

At first glance, this would be an argument for moving conventions to much earlier in the year. Or perhaps the distinction between primary- and general-election campaign donations should be eliminated entirely.


Tags: Chris Christie , Barbara Buono , Mitt Romney , Stu Stevens

Chris Christie Begins Slow Walk to Second Term


New Jersey Democrats still have a month to find a warm body not named “Barbara Buono” to run against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie this year. (Okay, Troy Webster, an aide to the mayor of East Orange, is running in the Democratic primary, too.)

Christie unveiled his debut television ad today. At this early point, this race is looking like a rout; besides the lopsided early polling results, Buono has raised $696,000 and qualified for additional $890,449 in state matching funds.

That $1.7 million or so looks good… until you see Christie has raised more than $5 million so far. (Updated numbers will be released in mid-May.) Because of the ad rates in the New York and Philadelphia television markets, New Jersey is a particularly expensive state for campaigns.

Spending isn’t everything, of course; Jon Corzine spent $31 million in 2009, while Christie spent only $17 million.

Perhaps Chris Christie’s greatest trick has been to persuade New Jersey Democrats that there’s no point in making a serious effort against him this cycle.

Tags: Chris Christie , Barbara Buono

New Jersey Democrats Want New Options Against Christie


At this point, the lone Democrat running against Chris Christie in New Jersey’s 2013 governor’s race is state senator Barbara Buono of Metuchen — a relatively little-known state lawmaker, who begins about 40 points behind the GOP incumbent.

Now there’s word that New Jersey Democrats are so worried about their prospects against Christie that longtime rivals are willing to contemplate a truce over it:

In his emerging role as the state Democrats’ chief recruiter, Senate President Stephen Sweeney dined with state Sen. Richard Codey last week to gauge the veteran lawmaker’s interest in running for governor, The Star-Ledger learned today.

The unlikely meeting between the bitter rivals from opposite ends of the state took place in New Brunswick, according to two sources familiar with the meeting who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

Sweeney ousted Codey as Senate president in 2010, opening wounds that have yet to heal. Codey, who stepped in as governor for 14 months several years ago, is considering whether to seek a full term in the governor’s mansion this year, and so is Sweeney.

Sweeney has also reached out to U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-8th) to gauge his interest in challenging state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) in a party primary and, if successful, the popular Gov. Chris Christie in November.

The efforts on the part of Sweeney underscore his concern about the ability of Buono — with whom he has also tangled — to put together a formidable campaign and protect Democratic legislative seats, particularly in competitive South Jersey legislative districts.

Yesterday, the country watched Christie attack House Republicans with relish. Currently on a polling high within the state (“off the charts”) and with a potentially weak rival in November, Christie may see a tantalizing opportunity for his personal political power and prestige, even if it damages his reputation among Republicans nationally: to win reelection by a wide margin through triangulation — as a Republican, but a Republican acceptable to many independents and Democrats because he’s not like those Republicans in Washington. It’s Clintonian triangulation brought to the Garden State.

Keep in mind that right now, Chris Christie is the highest-rated Republican nationally:

Of 814 registered voters surveyed, 55 percent who have heard of Christie viewed him favorably, while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was seen favorably by 46 percent of the respondents, and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana by 45 percent.

Fifty-nine percent of Republicans, 52 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents surveyed from Dec. 10 to 16 by telephone and cellphone viewed him favorably.

While trashing House Republicans might irk some members of his party, Christie’s general disdain for the way Congress has operated in recent years isn’t likely to hurt him very much if indeed he has interests in running for president in 2016.

Tags: Barbara Buono , Chris Christie , Richard Codey , Stephen Sweeney

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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