New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial nominee Barbara Buono has qualified for state matching funds in her uphill race against Gov. Chris Christie (R).
Buono announced Tuesday that she filed for matching funds based on $445,000 in campaign contributions since the June primary. This is the first time Buono has filed for general election matching funds, bypassing four previous deadlines since June to file with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. Under the terms of the matching funds program, a gubernatorial candidate cannot ask for matching funds until they have raised $380,000; the state then provides a 2-to-1 match on all funds raised, except for the first $122,000. A candidate can ask for a match of up to $4.22 million. Those accepting matching funds have to adhere to spending limits and participate in debates.
Buono campaign manager Jonathan Ducote said in a statement that the funds were raised as part of a "grassroots effort" and show that Buono "will have the resources needed to compete and win." She received state funds during the primary, but was the first major-party gubernatorial nominee in New Jersey history to not receive a full match during a primary.
Christie, who has dominated in polls, has not indicated if he will participate in the matching funds program. He also has not filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, but his campaign was quick to pounce on Buono, claiming that the pace of Buono's fundraising will likely leave her trailing Christie in the money race.
"Bottom line, it appears all but impossible that Barbara Buono will be able to raise the $4.22 million needed to max out in the general," Christie campaign spokesman Kevin Roberts said in a statement.
New School political science professor Jeff Smith, a former Democratic Missouri state senator who now lives in New Jersey, said he sees the fundraising total as another problem plaguing Buono. Buono has faced steep odds against the popular Christie, including the incumbent's 30-plus point lead in the polls and a Democratic Party establishment that has never warmed to her candidacy. More than 40 Democratic elected officials, including some of the state's most powerful have endorsed Christie.
"Clearly it is not the fundraising of a winning campaign," Smith told The Huffington Post. "Any campaign money begets money. Money follows frontrunners. That's because while we would like to think that donors are giving because of what they believe in, most of the money contributed to candidates has more to do with access than with political beliefs."
But, Smith said, there are ways for Buono to make up for her decline in the money race, pointing to more media exposure or a grassroots campaign strategy.