A Democrat raising funds to run for a New Jersey state Assembly seat has not ruled out endorsing the reelection of Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Hoboken Councilman Ravi Bhalla (D) told PolitickerNJ.com that he would consider endorsing the first-term incumbent governor's 2013 reelection campaign, citing a need for local officials -- including himself and Mayor Dawn Zimmer (D) -- to have a good relationship with Christie. The governor enjoys a 72 percent approval rating.
"I'm not committed to any candidate," Bhalla told PolitickerNJ.com. "I think the governor is a formidable contender right now. The Democrats need a formidable contender. The governor has done great things for Hoboken. He's been an extraordinary partner with Mayor Zimmer. We want to make sure we have a strong relationship with the governor."
Bhalla, who lost an Assembly race in 2011, is raising funds to run for the state legislature again in 2013, and has scheduled fundraising events in New York and California. His favorable comments about Christie come amid rising tensions in the perennially fractured Hudson County Democratic Party, with some county Democrats engaging in public flirtations with Christie and other Republican leaders.
No statewide Republican candidate has prevailed in Hudson County since Gov. Tom Kean's (R) 1985 reelection that won 70 percent of the vote statewide. Republican Bret Schundler won three nonpartisan races for Jersey City mayor, but lost Hudson County in his 2001 gubernatorial bid.
State Sen. Brian Stack (D-Union City), who represents the same legislative district where Bhalla is seeking an Assembly seat, has been Christie's most prominent Democratic supporter in the state legislature. Stack, also Union City's mayor, described Christie in 2011 as "the greatest governor this state has ever had."
Jersey City mayoral candidate Steve Fulop (D) has come under fire from incumbent Mayor Jerry Healy (D) for a campaign fundraiser co-hosted by a prominent Republican operative. Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing Township), a former state Democratic Party chairwoman, called Fulop's Republican backing "frightening." Fulop's spokesman has said the Republican operative, Brian Nelson, was not a co-host, but rather "a decade-long friend." Nelson described himself as a co-host in an email invitation to the fundraiser. Healy also received GOP backing in his past campaigns.
State Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) is the only announced Democrat gubernatorial candidate, but state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage (D) are exploring candidacies. Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) said last week that he would not run for governor this year, and instead would seek a U.S. Senate seat in 2014.