Essex County Executive Elusive About Pick for Governor

Joe DiVincenzo, a Democrat, hasn't endorsed Barbara Buono for governor and has a strong relationship with Gov. Christie. But he hasn't endorsed him for reelection either.

By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
NJ Today

It’s one of the key relationships in New Jersey politics this election year.

While the Essex County Democratic Organization is backing Democrat Barbara Buono for governor, its most recognizable and perhaps influential figure — Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo — is very close to the Republican governor and has stayed off the Buono endorsement.

“And I enjoy my relationship with the governor, I enjoy my friendship, but most important I enjoy his leadership that he’s providing for the people of New Jersey,” DiVincenzo said.

“It’s just as much fun being with Joe Di as it is being with Prince Harry,” Christie said.

What brought them together today was a groundbreaking for a new senior citizens housing complex in Belleville.

The town has never had one, has wanted one for 40 years and will soon get 131 apartments behind the senior citizen recreation center.

“It allows our seniors now to stay in the place they were maybe born, in the Township of Belleville, all their neighbors, and it allows them tostay with their neighbors and their friends,” said Mayor Raymond Kimble.

Both Christie and DiVincenzo talk often about bipartisan cooperation.

“What we need is to set an example in our state for how people can work together, how people work across party lines,” Christie said.

But will the Democrat DiVincenzo endorse the Republican Christie over a fellow Democrat?

When asked if he has DiVincenzo’s support for reelection, Christie said he had no idea. “Listen, I’d love to have everybody’s support. I’d love to have yours, too. I’d like to have everybody’s support. But time will tell as we move forward.”

DiVincenzo said he doesn’t have plans to endorse Christie or Buono right now. “We’re doing government work right now, made no decision what I plan doing, we’re just doing government work,” he said. When reminded that the county party has endorsed Buono, DiVincenzo said, “I’m elected to serve 800,000 people and we’re doing government work right now.”

So the tease continues. Will Joe Di endorse Christie? Buono? Nobody? Someone close to him says he may do something after the primary, which is next week.

Buono, meanwhile, dismisses the whole thing.

“People are enthused. Phil Thigpen, the chair of the Essex County Democratic Organization, was so supportive, full throttled support,” she said. “Honestly, I’m not concerned about what some of the insiders may be thinking and all of that chatter that’s going on in the back room because I got where I am by focusing on the people I represent.”

Chatter is a hard thing to silence.

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