Can a Democrat quash the Chris Christie juggernaut toward a second term? It will be an uphill battle, but the answer is “yes” if the Democrats do things right.
To win, the Democrats need to run a flawless campaign, from strategic and tactical perspectives.
The Democrats must excite the “blue” communities of New Jersey the way Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012.
And in addition to nominating the right candidate at the top of the ticket, the Democrats must nominate a candidate for Lieutenant Governor who can add to the enthusiasm. Normally, the choice of a number two is not a big factor, but this election is different:
- In a close election, the right LG candidate might produce the margin of victory.
- Governor Christie’s LG is dogged by controversy, and could be a liability for him.
- Since Christie is running for President in 2016, he’ll be out of state a lot, and the Democrats need to stress that if Christie wins, his LG will be making more of the executive decisions than usual – and may ascend to the top spot if, God forbid, Christie becomes President. Is Kim Guadagno ready to assume the role? I think not.
There are a number of good Democrats who are in contention for the top spot. So far, Senator Barbara Buono is the only declared candidate, and has, by far, the best chance to topple Christie. She is, after all, a progressive in a blue state. Having a woman at the top of the ticket will help with Independents and with Republican women who are fed up with the direction their party has taken, especially when it comes to women’s and children’s issues.
The other Democrats who have been mentioned would be an order of magnitude better than Chris Christie, but are not as likely to be able to pull an upset as Barbara Buono.
Harry Truman is reported to have said, “Given the choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, people will vote for the real Republican all the time.” That’s why Senate President Stephen Sweeney would not be able to defeat Chris Christie. Don’t get me wrong. I like Sweeney. He’s been good to Blue Jersey and has been a leader in the marriage equality struggle, even though he’s from a relatively conservative part of the state. But despite his protestations that he’s a lot different, his actions on public sector unions put a sour taste in the mouths of those whose support is needed for a Democratic victory.
Richard Codey, the other major unannounced candidate, would the “been there, done that” candidate. He’d make a great governor (again), but I don’t think he could generate the excitement that would get on-the-fence Democrats to the polls.
Of course, Buono is an outsider, having been relegated to the back bench by the Democratic power structure after having served as Majority Leader. But with the right running mate, she can unify the Sweeney/Norcross and DiVincenzo wings of the party and generate the buzz that’s needed to overcome Christie’s bluster and money advantage. Her running mate must add diversity to the ticket in order to help muster the excitement and commitment needed for a victory.
So what candidate could provide that diversity for a 59-year-old white female progressive outsider from Central Jersey with roots in North Jersey? Someone who is ambitious, smart, hard-working – a person of color who has roots inside the New Jersey power elite and brings out the more conservative South Jersey Democratic voters.
We are lucky to have such a person. I’ve never seen anyone work quite as hard as Troy Singleton, and he would be my recommendation for Lieutenant Governor. The 39-year old Singleton is in his first term as an Assemblyman, but is no stranger to the machinations of Trenton. A George Norcross Democrat, he was the chief of staff to former Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts. Singleton is a dedicated family man, a public union supporter, an early supporter of marriage equality, and I think he’s also a magician. His involvement in the community convinces me that he has the ability to be many places at once. He’s ambitious, and it’s only a matter of time before he runs at the top of the ticket.
Singleton is my Assemblyman, and while we don’t always agree, he never fails to take the time to hear me out. While we agree more than we disagree, when we do disagree, he’s respectful and understanding – a refreshing change from our current governor.
Buono and Singleton complement each other in their political standings and they bring diversity to the ticket. More importantly, they bring the excitement that will bring the Democrats to the polls and will send Chris Christie packing.