Friday's announcement by New Jersey state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Roseland) that he would not run for governor boosted the chances of state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen).
Codey, a former governor, announced that he would not seek a return to the chief executive's office in order to focus on a new funeral home he purchased, the Star-Ledger reported. Codey traveled to Washington in recent days to obtain at least $30 million in outside funding for a challenge against Gov. Chris Christie (R), who has held a commanding lead in the polls.
“After talking with my family, friends and other advisers and weighing the impact of a campaign on my family life, I have decided not to seek the nomination,” Codey told the Star-Ledger.
His decision leaves Buono's status as the only Democrat in the governor's race unchanged.
New Jersey Democratic leaders have been frantically searching for an alternative to Buono, who has trailed Christie in the polls and in fundraising. Codey was considered an attractive alternative given his high approval ratings during his 14-month stint as governor following Gov. Jim McGreevey's (D) resignation in 2004. State Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth) publicly pushed Codey for governor calling him New Jersey's "Obi Wan Kenobi."
After Codey's decision, several Democrats jumped to Buono's side. Democratic leaders from Sussex and Ocean counties backed the former Senate majority leader, while PolitickerNJ.com reported that Rep. Frank Pallone (D) is planning to endorse her. Buono already has gathered backing from party leaders in Monmouth, Middlesex and Somerset counties.
Buono's candidacy received support from powerful south Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo (D), providing major boosts to her candidacy.
But the Star-Ledger reported that some Democrats including Lesniak continue to search for an alternative. State Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford), who has feuded with Buono, continued to float his name for governor but his candidacy was dealt a blow when Norcross, his top ally, publicly praised Buono.
Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage (D), a Lesniak ally, has said he'd run if party bosses would support him.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) told HuffPost earlier this week that she still sees space for another candidate since the state's most powerful Democratic county parties have not endorsed. New Jersey's political glitterati is due to gather in Washington on Jan. 31 for the annual state Chamber of Commerce train trip and dinner.