Democratic field clears for Buono to face Christie

Posted: January 29, 2013

It looks as if the Democratic field is clear for state Sen. Barbara Buono to take on Republican Gov. Christie in New Jersey's gubernatorial race this year.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), considered a possible contender, wants to focus on maintaining Democratic hold of the Legislature, he said in a statement issued Monday.

"Is there any question about the havoc and pain a Republican Legislature would inflict on the middle class, labor, women and our seniors?" Sweeney said. "For over a decade, New Jersey voters have ensured we have a strong Democratic majority in both houses and I view it as absolutely essential and my job is to keep that streak going."

The only remaining Democrat who was playing coy about a possible run, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, on Monday endorsed Buono, of Middlesex County. Another congressman whom Democrats tried to pull into the race, U.S. Rep Frank Pallone, endorsed Buono at a special campaign event Monday at the Marriott in Trenton.

On Monday afternoon, the state party called on its members to unite behind Buono.

"Many voices have weighed in, and Sen. Barbara Buono has emerged as the Democratic candidate who is capable of drawing the sharpest contrast to Gov. Christie," state party chairman John Wisniewski said in a statement. Wisniewski, an assemblyman from Middlesex County, was also a potential candidate.

Buono declared her candidacy in December, but Democrats have tried unsuccessfully to lure another candidate.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, considered the strongest candidate to face Christie due to his popularity and national presence, bowed out late in December. State Sen. Richard Codey (D., Essex), said Friday that he wouldn't run.

Some Democrats have privately fretted that Buono is not a strong enough to prevent Democratic losses down ballot. All 120 Legislative seats are up for election this fall. Currently the Senate has 24 Democrats and 16 Republicans, and the Assembly has 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans.

Contact Joelle Farrell at 856-779-3237 or or on Twitter at @joellefarrell.

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