By David Cruz
The final days of the gubernatorial campaign are a study in contrasts. Holding a large lead in the polls, Gov. Chris Christie has been making stops at downtowns and diners around the state, his political celebrity growing every day. Meanwhile, Democrat Barbara Buono, outspent on all fronts, is doubling down on the issues, on which, polls say, voters agree with her. In Montclair this morning, she was talking up higher education.
“At a time when we have 400,000 out of work, we have poverty at a 52-year high, we know that it is critical to invest in education at all levels,” said Buono. “Instead of doing that, this governor has decided to cut education by a billion dollars his first year in office, cut higher education $173 million.”
Later in Perth Amboy, she stumped for the minimum wage referendum at another Raise the Wage rally. “We know that over half of the minimum wage earners are women and so for the sake of our families, for the sake of our children, we must get out the vote on Nov. 5 and vote yes on question Number Two,” she said.
In Cherry Hill, the governor concentrated less on issues and more on photos and autographs, stopping by to talk with Beth Pfaff and her boisterous son Zeke.
“I just think he’s done wonders through Sandy and all the things that have gone on,” said Pfaff. “He’s always been there and stood by us and I just think he’s done a great job. He said hello, it was a pleasure to meet me and he started talking to Zeke about french fries and Elmo.”
For those gathered at Ponzio’s Diner, a Christie victory is a foregone conclusion. The question now is, does the governor have coattails?
“I want to get to Tuesday and win. Everything after that we’ll see what happens Tuesday night,” said the governor.
Asked if he had made some course corrections on policy issues, specifically on tuition equality and same-sex marriage, the governor said he hadn’t. “No, no course corrections,” he said. “Listen, tuition equality was where I always was. It was a budget priority; I’ve said that from the beginning, and on same-sex marriage the Supreme Court ruled 7-0. What am I supposed to do, bang my head against the wall?”
Asked how she felt, trailing in the polls and in the fundraising race, Buono said she was undaunted. “I am the little guy. I am the underdog,” she said. “I’ve been on my own since I was 19. This is a piece of cake compared to standing on the edge of that fiscal abyss and not knowing where you’re going to eat or sleep that night. That’s what I’ve been through and it’s made me the person I am. It’s made me strong. It’s made me tenacious. I’m dogged, and I don’t give up.”