05/20/2013 12:58 pm ET Updated May 20, 2013

Former New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne Says Barbara Buono Should Rethink Candidacy

A former Democratic governor of New Jersey said that Republican Gov. Chris Christie's Democratic challenger should rethink her struggling candidacy.

Former Gov. Brendan Byrne told the Star-Ledger in a column that ran Sunday that he believes state Sen. Barbara Buono, the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee, should consider dropping her challenge to Christie. The move comes as Buono battles low fundraising, Democratic infighting and polls that show her trailing the Republican incumbent by over 30 points. Byrne cited his own 1977 reelection battle, where he was initially considered a long shot and faced 11 primary opponents.

"Buono is way behind. I was way behind in 1977 and I was thinking, if it gets worse, I’m going to withdraw. It didn’t get worse. As a matter fact, it got better," Byrne said in a weekly Star-Ledger column that consists of a conversation between him and former Gov. Tom Kean (R). "But at one point I thought of dropping out in favor of a better-positioned candidate. I don’t know whether that consideration would appeal to Buono, but I would advise she make that evaluation."

Byrne doubled down on the advice in another Star-Ledger column on Sunday. He said that while a Buono replacement would likely lose to Christie, they would be able to lose by a smaller margin than Buono and prevent Christie from being able to usher in a Republican-controlled legislature on his coattails.

Buono, a former state Senate majority leader, told the Star-Ledger that she is not accepting Byrne's advice. She said that she's been getting a good reaction as she campaigns.

“I’ve always been underestimated,” Buono told the Star-Ledger. “They said I’d never win my first Assembly seat when I ran against the bosses in Middlesex County, and I did. They said I’d never get the (Senate) budget chairmanship, and I got it. And it was the same when I became majority leader. I’ve been doubted throughout my career."

Byrne's comments come as Christie has confirmed another $950,000 television advertising buy in his campaign. Buono has not released any television ads, but has made a series of Internet ads, including one announced Monday explaining how to pronounce her name. Buono is also facing criticism from top Democrats over her pick of Assemblyman Jason O'Donnell (D-Bayonne) as the next state Democratic Party chairman. Tradition dictates that Democratic gubernatorial nominees in New Jersey pick the head of the state party.

Buono entered the race in December and has faced an uphill struggle since, including several weeks of Democratic leaders engaging in a frantic search for an alternative. The latest poll from NBC-Marist has Christie leading Buono 62 percent to 28 percent. A compilation of polls from HuffPost Pollster shows Christie leading Buono by 32 points.



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