The powerful Democratic leader in southern New Jersey is backing state Sen. Barbara Buono as a gubernatorial candidate, potentially ending the party's frantic search for an opponent to Gov. Chris Christie (R) in November.
South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross told PolitickerNJ.com Wednesday night that he was throwing his support behind Buono (D-Metuchen), the only announced candidate, in her bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Norcross' support comes as Democratic leaders have been searching for an alternative to Buono, who has trailed Christie in initial polls. State Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland), a former governor, has emerged as the principle alternative to Buono in recent days, but Norcross indicated he did not want Codey, a longtime nemesis.
Norcross described Buono as "a high-quality candidate" and said "in the absence of anyone else" Democrats should unite behind her.
PolitickerNJ.com reported that Norcross did not mince words when describing his opposition to Codey.
“I’ve never had any confidence in Dick Codey’s courage and I don’t expect that to change,” Norcross said. “I think he likes to have people say, ‘Run Dick run’ and I think at the end of this period we will look back and say, ‘This looks like the Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers fiasco that played out over four cycles and the party will be in a position where we don’t have a standard-bearer and aren’t in a position to compete in the election this year.'”
Norcross' backing will likely hand Buono support from county Democratic organizations throughout South Jersey and from elected officials in the region, who largely take their cue from Norcross, a Christie ally. Buono has already picked up the support of Democratic leaders in Middlesex, Somerset and Monmouth counties.
Codey, backed by powerful North Jersey state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth), has emerged as the principle alternative to Buono in recent days, following merry-go-round of potential opponents to Buono. Rep. Bill Pascrell has ruled out a gubernatorial run, while state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage both told HuffPost that they were considering campaigns. Last week, a movement started for Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill (D-Montclair) to make a bid for the governor's mansion. Norcross' support for Buono likely ends Sweeney's gubernatorial hopes, given the close relationship between the men.
Codey is planning a trip to Washington next to rally national support for his candidacy, including his goal of seeking roughly $30 million in outside funding for his campaign. Codey's ambitious goal would be just shy of the $40 million in outside funds spent last year in an unsuccessful effort to defeat Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Codey told PolitickerNJ.com that he was not surprised that Norcross opposed him.
Democrats have been calling for the search to end, warning of the impact on the party.
"I think the party will unite behind a candidate," Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley told HuffPost Wednesday. "We need to unite soon or it will be the destruction of our party in New Jersey."
Earlier on HuffPost:
"It's Not My Time" (3 Doors Down)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/04/chris-christie-2012-decision-_n_993910.html" target="_hplink">(Oct. 4, 2011) --</a></strong> Christie announced that he will not run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, vowing that "now is not my time." He quipped to New Jersey residents "whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me."
"Need You Now" (Lady Antebellum)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/11/chris-christie-mitt-romney_n_1005601.html" target="_hplink"><strong>LEBANON, N.H. (Oct. 11, 2011) --</strong></a> After dismissing calls to run for president himself, Christie endorsed Romney, telling the GOP that he is the candidate we need now.
"How Do I Live" (LeAnn Rimes)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/07/chris-christie-town-hall_n_1133756.html" target="_hplink">WEST NEW YORK, N.J. (Dec. 7, 2011) --</a></strong> At a local town hall, Christie did not take kindly to a <a href="http://videos.nj.com/star-ledger/2011/12/video_chris_christie_asked_if.html" target="_hplink">constituent's question</a> about how his administration conducts these types of meetings. He showed the individual little mercy, going "if I plant questions, why the hell did I call on you?"
"Can You Feel The Love Tonight" (Elton John)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/08/chris-christie-mic-checked-occupy-wall-street_n_1136762.html" target="_hplink">(Dec. 8, 2011) --</a></strong> Occupy Wall Street protesters interrupted Christie during an appearance in Iowa, making him a target of the movement's "mic check" trend.
"Shut Up" (The Black Eyed Peas)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/chris-christie-warren-buffett_n_1294579.html" target="_hplink">(Feb. 21, 2012) --</a></strong> In an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, Christie had some choice words for Warren Buffett, surrounding the billionaire investor's desire to be taxed at a higher rate. "Just write a check and shut up," he remarked.
"American Idiot" (Green Day)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/christie-argues-with-veteran_n_1334963.html" target="_hplink">(March 9, 2012) --</a></strong> Christie argued with a former Navy SEAL over the New Jersey's plans to reconfigure public universities. The result? Some fire from the governor's tongue, as he called the veteran an "idiot."
"Call Me Maybe" (Carly Rae Jepsen)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/13/chris-christie-talks-vp-p_n_1423271.html" target="_hplink">(April 13, 2012) --</a></strong> Throughout Mitt Romney's run for the White House, Christie made it known that he was open to a vice presidential nod (should Romney ask him).
"Rocky Ground" (Bruce Springsteen)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/19/chris-christie-sleeping-bruce-springsteen-_n_1438337.html" target="_hplink">(April 19, 2012) --</a></strong> Christie vehemently denied reports that he was sleeping at a Bruce Springsteen concert in New York City. <em><strong>
"I Don't Really Care" (Waka Flocka Flame)
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/30/chris-christie-jimmy-kimmel_n_1465608.html" target="_hplink">(April 30, 2012) --</a> Christie responded to jokes comedian Jimmy Kimmel made about his weight at the 2012 White House Correspondents Dinner, throwing Sofia Vergara into the mix. "I figured I was in the zone of danger," he said.
"Ready Or Not" (The Fugees)
<strong><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/14/chris-christie-gop-keynote-convention_n_1774525.html" target="_hplink">(Aug. 14, 2012) --</a></strong> After entertaining the idea of running for president and making Mitt Romney's short list of VP candidates, Christie was named the keynote speaker at the 2012 Republican National Convention. "I'll try to tell some very direct and hard truths to people in the country about the trouble that we're in and the fact that fixing those problems is not going to be easy for any of them," he told <em>USA Today</em>.