WASHINGTON -- New Jersey's Democratic state Senate president is keeping his options open and insisting that Democrats can beat Gov. Chris Christie, who is enjoying record high approval ratings in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), in town for the National Conference of State Legislatures, told The Huffington Post that he is still considering jumping into the race against Christie (R) and would not let the potential candidacy of Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) affect his consideration. At the same time, Sweeney said he's also considering a 2014 bid for the U.S. Senate, or seeking reelection to the state Senate in 2013 and retaining the Senate presidency.
"I've said for two years that I'm keeping my options open," Sweeney told HuffPost. "I've got a lot of options."
Sweeney said he is not factoring Christie's 72 percent approval rating, following his handling of the hurricane which devastated the Jersey Shore, into his decision. He said that while Christie did a "phenomenal" job in communicating with Garden State residents during the hurricane and it's aftermath, he wants to look at Christie's entire record. Christie had a 47-percent approval rating at different times prior to the hurricane, Sweeney stressed, and Christie polled at only 53 percent against Booker in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up.
"At 53 percent you shouldn't be comfortable," Sweeney said.
Sweeney played down a Star-Ledger report that he is using Booker's decision on a gubernatorial run to guide his political decision making. He said he did not discuss that issue with the Star-Ledger and had not communicated that decision to others. Booker is still considering entering the governor's race and is also mentioned as a potential U.S. Senate candidate in 2014, when Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) is up for reelection.
"Whether Booker does or doesn't, won't diminish me," Sweeney told HuffPost.
Booker and Sweeney are two potential Democratic challengers against Christie, along with Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen), Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville), state Sen. Dick Codey (D-Roseland) and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage. Wisniewski is the state Democratic Party chairman and Codey served 14 months as governor following the 2004 resignation of former Gov. Jim McGreevey (D).
Christie has announced that he will seek a second term and earlier this week confirmed that Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) will be joining him on the ticket.
Sweeney said he and Christie have a good relationship and agree on a variety of issues including pension and benefit reform, property tax cap and shared services, issues he championed in the Senate prior to Christie's 2009 election.
Although several Democratic officials are not ruling out a Christie endorsement right now, Sweeney said he believes that the party will unite following the primary.
"Democrats will come back together," Sweeney said. "There should not be any problem with Democrats."