Tuesday June 4th is primary election day in New Jersey, and this is the year of the governor’s race. Thus it is worth taking a moment to look at the candidates–two Democrat, two Republican–whose names will appear on that ballot when the paltry few who consider primary races in a non-presidential election year important enough to vote do so.
It has long been said that an incumbent governor in New Jersey is guaranteed a second term unless he truly angers or upsets the voters. This is in part blamed on the fact that governors are in the news constantly and, since most of us get our news through New York or Philadelphia outlets, candidates remain unknown, so voters see one name they recognize and if they don’t have an immediate negative reaction to that name, they vote for it. Despite upsetting a few key groups such as the New Jersey Education Association with his budget moves, Governor Chris Christie at the moment is one of the most popular governors New Jersey has had in decades; yet he does not run unopposed, even within his own party, and there are ways he could lose the next election, depending on how this primary goes.
So let us take a moment to look at the candidates in brief, and see who they are.usual.
The darkest dark horse here is a Democratic candidate named Troy Webster. He is not a complete unknown–he played NBA basketball for the New Jersey Nets, and is presently a mayoral aid in East Orange. He has been endorsed by those who see his Democratic opposition’s candidacy as either a bad joke or a losing proposition, but observers question whether anyone takes his candicacy seriously–even himself. He is seen more as the best available alternative to state Democratic Senator Barbara Buono, should she drop out of the race.
Even his website tells little more than this, although it notes his NJToday.Net endorsement, which is endorsing dark horse candidates in both parties on the claim that the major candidates promise only business as usual.
Also endorsed by NJToday.Net, Seth Grossman is a conservative “Tea Party” Republican, a lawyer with extensive experience in county and city government in the southern half of the state. He asserts that Governor Christie is too liberal, and that Republicans need to field a candidate who will make deeper spending cuts, stand more strongly against gun control, lower taxes including tolls, toughen immigration enforcement, and break union power with right to work laws. He outlines these on his website.
Grossman is right on one point: he could defeat Christie in the primary because of low voter turnout. What he does not consider is the potential for sabotage voting, that Democrats who perceive Christie’s position as unassailable might surge to the Republican primary ballot to put Grossman on the ticket. With less than a week before the primary, his fundraising level posted on his web site shows a receipt of less than ten percent of his fifty thousand dollar target. In a strongly liberal state like New Jersey, the chance for a strongly conservative Republican candidate to win on promises of tougher stands against unions (who already dislike Christie) and cuts in spending is unlikely to be a winning strategy in the general election, and he could be the best chance for a Democratic victory at this point.
To say that New Jersey state Senator and former State Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (sounds like “Cuomo”–there is a video on her website demonstrating this) is the leading Democratic contender in the present race is somewhat like saying that the Jamaicans have the best bobsled team of all Carribean countries. Her position is so poor that Democratic former Governor Brendan Byrne has twice suggested she should drop out of the race so that the Democrats would not lose as badly in November. She brushes off the suggestion, saying that she has overcome expectations that she would lose on multiple previous occasions, and expects to do so again in this race.
Buono’s campaign paints Christie as an extreme conservative who slashes programs for education and women, and attempts to position her pro-choice, pro-LGBT, pro-gun control views as representative of the moderate New Jersey voter. She has gotten endorsements from the radical Latino Action Network and the abortion rights political action committee Emily’s List, but as the Byrne comments suggest she has not unified the state Democratic party behind her bid, and national figures are not taking her seriously–as some have noted, President Obama made an extra trip for photo opportunities with Governor Christie in the Hurricane Sandy area when he could have gone to the Oklahoma tornado damage, and did not as much as meet with the democratic candidate while here.
There is something of a divisive tone in Buono’s campaign, as she has made the comment that there are enough women voters to put her in office, as if women should vote for her either solely because of gender or because all women must agree on her more liberal views. She is trailing so far behind Christie in the polls that her victory in the general election might require him to be eliminated before that.
Governor Chris Christie
Governor Chris Christie, Republican, is running for re-election. Although it is true that our incumbents tend to be re-elected, Christie must be aware that he deprived Democratic Governor John Corzine of this four years ago, and despite his lead things could turn against him. His website details his accomplishments in office impressively.
He is presented as a moderate Republican good at bi-partisan efforts. Liberal supporters of Buono claim he is a staunch conservative, noting his heavy-handed budget cutting during the recession (and ignoring that most of the cuts have been restored) and his early opposition to Obamacare (stated to be based on financial concerns, and reversed as the financial picture became clearer). He has nominated minority candidates to the New Jersey State Supreme Court, only to have them blocked by the legislature. He is pro-life and pro-marriage, but supported civil unions. He is under attack by the right wing of his own party, who consider him a RINO. In the wake of his skilled handling of the Hurricane Sandy disaster, even some Democrats have endorsed him. It is difficult to imagine a better credential for “moderate” than this.
He could still lose despite his strong position, but if he survives the primary he has a running start on November.