A Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate: Better Sooner Than Later

Governor Christie appears increasingly vulnerable in his re-election bid for a second term. A just-released Quinnipiac poll indicates, Chris Christie has been touted as a rising star in the Republican Party. But even giving the keynote speech at last week’s party convention in Florida hasn’t lifted his approval rating back home. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll, already written about in Blue Jersey here indicated, 47 percent of respondents said they’re ready to re-elect him and 46 percent said it’s time for someone new.

On the other hand NJ Democrats are far from united as to their choice for a gubernatorial candidate. Several candidates are clearly interested. Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, former Majority Leader and now Senator Barbara Buono (D-18), former Governor and now Senator Richard Codey (D-27), Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and N.J. State Democratic Committee Chair and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19) are among those mentioned. NJSpotlight writes, While most of the state’s leading Democratic figures were in Charlotte, Sen. Dick Codey brought them thumping back to earth — some say reality — with his comment on the condition of the party in New Jersey: “We’ve got to stop letting party bosses dictate our agenda and enabling Mr. Christie, when he’s wrong, to succeed.”

It may well be that we will not have a clear candidate until after the primary. However, the more protracted and divisive the competition, the more difficult it may be to heal the wounds and achieve victory in November 2013. For me it’s important to reduce party boss influence and to nominate a progressive. While we need not rush to a decision, having a candidate sooner is better than later. Governor Christie may be vulnerable but he is also formidable. Furthermore, he is already in campaign mode. As President Obama has said, “Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the absolutely necessary.” Defeating Christie is what is “absolutely necessary.”  

Comments (5)

  1. sandinbrick

    I feel that although it’s slim, Codey is right, thinking that maybe we could draft Senator Buono. She’s not in the Party of dirty politics in NJ. We need to get rid of Christie. Always out of State campaigning for Republicans. thanks for reading my comment.

  2. Nick Lento

    Codey is on the right track.

    So long as the NJ Democratic party remains dominated by bossism and the legalized bribery that underlies bossism…it/we will continue to be a a shadow of what we could be.

    NJ should be up there as one of the most progressive states in the USA…if not THE most progressive.

    The people here are smart, educated and decent….and most of them are utterly DISGUSTED with the dirty politics that has become accepted as routine in NJ.

    We can, and must do better.

    Whoever wins the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2013…I pray it is the most reformist/progressive one in the bunch.  THAT person will be the one most likely to win and win big against Christie…who is himself little more than a machine candidate/boss.

    Blue is good…but not good enough.   We need to be what Loretta Weinberg once referred to as Real Democrats!

    We got Boss Joe out of power….but the bossism remains.  That is not acceptable.   NJ can’t afford the corruption tax any more…we never could.

  3. Bertin Lefkovic

    While I have never been a big fan of Menendez and am still not, but I could imagine a scenario whereby he gets more votes in NJ this November than President Obama, establishing himself as someone who can seriously drive voters on a statewide basis.  Because of his status as a quasi-incumbent in 2006 and because that year was a wave election year he has been and continues to be an unknown quality in this regard.  As much as Louis Greenwald seems to be positioning himself for a gubernatorial run, I do not believe that Norcross is going to run anyone from Norcrossippi next year nor will he support anyone from outside of it unless they are somebody who he thinks he can do business with to the same or a greater degree than he has been able to do business with Christie.

    Cory Booker is the most likely candidate to be willing and able to work with Norcross, but I don’t think that he has the guts to run in a statewide general election where the outcome is not guaranteed or at the very least leaning very strongly in his direction.  Losing to Sharpe James was a learning experience for him, but losing to Christie in 2013 could seriously derail both his short-term and long-term ambitions.  He would most likely have to run for re-election as Mayor of Newark in 2014, where he would be quite vulnerable, especially after losing to Christie.  I think that it is far more likely that he runs for the Senate in 2014.

    After Booker, Menendez would be the strongest candidate who would have no qualms about making backroom deals with George Norcross.  As much as John Wisniewski seems ready, willing, and able to make a deal with anybody, I do not think that Norcross thinks that he can beat Christie and would not put his relationship with Christie at risk over a candidate who did not have a very good chance to win.  If Norcross backs Wisniewski in the Democratic gubernatorial primary election, it would only be to prevent someone like Barbara Buono or Dick Codey from winning the nomination, not necessarily to beat Christie.  I think that Norcross would view Christian Bollwage similarly as supporting him would prevent Ray Lesniak from backing Codey.

    However, Menendez is the one candidate who Norcross could support and whose odds on beating Christie are good enough for him to go all-in.  This is not necessarily a good argument for progressives to like the idea of a Menendez gubernatorial candidacy, but it is compelling enough to give it some degree of thought.  The most compelling aspect of this is the possibility of breaking the Christie-Norcross axis of evil.  While there can be no doubt that a Norcross-backed Menendez administration would be problematic on numerous levels, it would still be better than the status quo.  Another is the possibility of seeing Barbara Buono or Loretta Weinberg become our state’s first female Senate President.  I think that after being frozen out of the DNC this year, Buono might be willing to put her gubernatorial ambitions on hold in return for the Senate Presidency or being Menendez’s LG.

    Why would she choose the position that Kim Guadagno has made one of the least significant #2s in the country?  Primarily because I think that Menendez would allow her to play a major role in his administration and I believe that there is an outside chance that if Menendez did run and defeat Christie, ending Christie’s political career, he would instantly become the kind of national star in the Democratic Party that Christie has become amongst Republicans and a possible Presidential hopeful in 2016 regardless of the outcome of this November’s election, but especially if Romney wins.  The possibility that Menendez could run for President in 2016 and win, enabling Buono to become Governor with a short enough time in office as his successor to serve two terms of her own is enticing enough for her take the LG spot and allow Weinberg to become Senate President.

    In addition to pulling Menendez’s strings, Norcross would most likely install Greenwald as Assembly Speaker and give Menendez’s Senate seat to Steve Sweeney, who has been discussed as a possible senatorial candidate in 2014 along with Booker.  Both men could be made happy with Sweeney getting Menendez’s seat and Booker getting the nod to run for Lautenberg’s seat unopposed.  Sweeney would have the benefit of seniority, although he would have to run for re-election in both 2014 and 2018, while Booker would be able to run for a full term in 2014 as well.  Having both Booker and Sweeney at the top of the ballot that year would help both win their races relatively easily and could help downballot candidates.

    While Menendez has not been talked about much as a gubernatorial candidate, I think that only he and Booker have the ability to clear the field and for the reasons that I have discussed, Booker is much less likely to run.  Once again, I think that the key to this scenario is Menendez being the top statewide vote-getter this November.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *