WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Democratic Governors Association is expecting the fractured New Jersey Democratic Party to unite behind the party's presumptive nominee against Gov. Chris Christie (R).
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, the DGA chairman, told The Huffington Post Thursday that Garden State Democrats should unite behind state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen), the presumptive Democratic nominee, as she faces an uphill battle to beat out Christie. Buono, who trails Christie by over 30 points in recent polls, has seen Democratic-elected officials defect to the Republican's campaign, and is facing an internal battle over her pick to chair the state Democratic Party for the rest of the year.
"Barbara is running a great campaign," Shumlin said of Buono.
Shumlin said that that the DGA plans to get involved in New Jersey. The group will also help Democrat Terry McAuliffe in his campaign for the open Virginia governorship against Republican Ken Cuccinelli, Shumlin said. The Republican Governors Association has already gotten involved in the New Jersey race, running a television ad criticizing Buono. Christie is a former RGA vice-chairman and is slated to become RGA chairman in 2014 if he is reelected in New Jersey.
Shumlin reiterated Buono's message about the need to focus the New Jersey race on jobs and the economy. Buono, who was backed by the Sierra Club on Wednesday, has tried to make the race a referendum on Christie's economic record, highlighting the state's unemployment rate. Christie on the other hand has sought to tie Buono to former Gov. Jon Corzine (D) and his tax policies.
Shumlin did not get into specifics on what the DGA will do on Buono's behalf, but said that they will be involved.
"We are focused on Virginia and New Jersey," he said.
Buono faces increased disarray in the state Democratic Party, with 14 Democratic elected officials backing Christie, while one Republican elected official has backed her campaign. Three of the state's most powerful Democrats -- Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, state Sen. Brian Stack and Jersey City Mayor-elect Steve Fulop -- have left the door open to backing Christie. DiVincenzo and Stack have been close to Christie, while Fulop has ties to Republican associates of the governor. Buono's choice of Assemblyman Jason O'Donnell (D-Bayonne) to head the state party is facing opposition from top Democrats, due to O'Donnell's role in a failed legislative coup last year and his choice to back Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy (D) instead of Fulop in this month's nonpartisan election.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) on Friday told HuffPost that he is expecting Democrats to unite behind Buono.
Christie on Thursday released his fifth television ad of the campaign, a commercial where he says he turned New Jersey around since taking office. In the ad, Christie said he's improved the state's economy and invested record amounts in education. Buono's campaign released a statement attacking the ad, saying unemployment has not dropped and highlighting Christie's cut of state aid to local school districts in 2010. Buono released her first television ad last week, following a series of online ads that included a spot on how to pronounce her name.