By David Cruz
Even getting called out on being overtly political, Gov. Chris Christie manages to win. Contrast that with the news coming out of the Barbara Buono campaign. What news, you ask? Well, that’s part of the problem. While the governor is literally setting the political agenda by writ, the Buono campaign finds itself reacting. Today, it’s the Essex County Executive endorsing Christie. Tomorrow, it’s a battle for state party chairman.
Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell (D-31)tried to explain situation, saying, “Generally, we exorcize all the bad blood and all the bad feelings during the primary. We didn’t have that, so in the absence of that, this is what’s serving in its place,”
It wasn’t supposed to be a fight. Gubernatorial candidates generally get their pick of party chairperson, but even that long-standing tradition has been denied Buono. O’Donnell is facing fierce opposition from party leaders who want Sen. Ray Lesniak, a former chairman with proven skills in critical areas. Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) is one of those.
“I think that Se. Lesniak brings certain national relationships to the position. I think we’re going through a rather unsettling time because the governor is a brilliant tactician a brilliant political person,” said Weinberg.
Weinberg says this is not personal. She says Democrats tend to have their bloodletting in public, but the reality is that, since last Tuesday, it’s been pretty much all Christie.
“Well it certainly has become a little bit of a distraction, but I believe this will energize Democrats at the end of the day,” said O’Donnell.
Unmentioned by all involved is the fact that the party chairman controls where the party campaign resources go. Chosen by Buono, O’Donnell would figure to go all in for her, but Lesniak might see things differently if Buono continues to trail badly come Labor Day. The way things are going says one top Democrat, it can’t get much worse.
“The party doesn’t come out stronger out of this,” said Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage. “The party does not come out stronger by Democrats coming out and supporting Gov. Christie for re-election. What we’re seeing here is the old guard of the Democratic party fighting with the new guard of the Democratic party which will then sink Democratic candidates in this November election up and down the ticket.
Barbara Buono remains upbeat. She says all this talk about party chairmen is just inside baseball, but on the day when her Republican opponent is picking up endorsements from big Democratic names, the woman who’s at the top of the Democratic ticket had no public schedule.