Marie Corfield, a Democratic candidate for the New Jersey Assembly who rocketed to fame on the back of a YouTube video of her clashing with Gov. Chris Christie (R), received the most votes in a grassroots program to pick top Democratic state legislative candidates nationally.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee announced Thursday that Corfield was one of 60 candidates the group was backing nationally and one of 10 chosen through a grassroots vote of party activists across the country. Corfield is challenging Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Readington) in a special election for a seat vacated by the November 2011 death of Assemblyman Pete Biondi (R-Hillsborough).
Corfield, an art teacher, became a viral sensation with a video of her questioning Christie at a 2010 town hall meeting on education spending cuts. During the exchange, Corfield asked Christie about those cuts, which she said were hurting public education. Christie disputed that and said his prior "lambasting" was directed at the teachers union, not the teachers. Corfield responded, "We are not drug mules. And that came from you. And now I'm going back to work.
Earlier that year, Christie had accused the New Jersey Education Association of treating students like "drug mules to carry information back to the classroom" about their parents' voting plans in the annual school board elections.
The Washington-based Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee suggested that Corfield's clash with Christie helped her win the grassroots backing. Spokesman Dan Roth said that most of her support came from within New Jersey.
"She stood up to Christie," he said.
According to Roth, all 60 candidates -- the 10 grassroots picks and the 50 selected by committee staff -- will receive various types of backing from the committee, depending on state campaign finance laws. Among other grassroots picks were Aaron Gill, a Democratic challenger for a New Hampshire House seat, and Colorado state Sen. Linda Newell.
Corfield described herself as "thrilled and honored" to have received the most grassroots votes. She told HuffPost that she had reached out to activists through Facebook and Twitter to tell them about the grassroots program.
The Simon-Corfield race is considered the most competitive of three New Jersey legislative races this year. Simon, a former Readington committeewoman, was appointed to the seat by Republican leaders following Biondi's death a year ago. The appointment extends through this year's election. Corfield previously lost a 2011 race for one of the two seats in the district, which includes parts of Hunterden, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset Counties.
Simon's campaign and the New Jersey Republican Party did not return messages for comment about Corfield's designation.
But Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) told HuffPost that he is confident Simon will win in November. "Donna Simon is working hard, and she's a terrific legislator," he said.
Bramnick has his own take on how the Christie confrontation likely boosted Corfield in the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee's process. "Democrats are worried about Chris Christie, and that’s why they gave her attention," he said. “They know Chris Christie is a superstar."
Corfield too believes her encounter with Christie helped her in the grassroots ballot.
"One of the things that has been so frustrating for all of us in the Democratic Party in this state is our governor leads by intimidation and not diplomacy," she said. "That is not the hallmark of a strong leader. We have been fighting against that. We are fighting against bullying instead of real leadership."