By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
For Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18), this was her coming out party as a statewide candidate after 18 years in the legislature.
A crowd of 500 to 600 turned out Saturday in New Brunswick to hear her criticize the current governor for what she called his failed economic policies.
“From Cape May to High Point, everyday New Jerseyans are wondering the same thing — for all of this governor’s YouTube moments and choreographed town halls, for all his national press appearances and magazine covers, what has he actually done to help my family lift itself up from the economic morass?” Buono asked.
It’s about more than Hurricane Sandy, Buono said. It’s about standing up for everyday New Jerseyans, including the forgotten and ignored.
“That’s why I’m here announcing today my candidacy for governor of the state of New Jersey,” she said.
Perhaps three dozen high-ranking Democrats were there to support the only one among them willing to take on Christie. Everyone in the hall knew how difficult that will be. Buono trailed Christie by 41 points in a poll last week.
“Don’t buy into these polls. You know the only poll that matters is not today. It’s the poll in November when Barbara’s gonna be elected our governor,” said Congressman Frank Pallone.
Amid a heavy presence of the left-leaning SEIU labor union, Buono contrasted herself with Christie on abortion, same-sex marriage, hiking the minimum wage and similar issues.
“And as your governor, I will do what the current governor has been unwilling to do — to take on the gun lobbyists who are standing in the way of protecting our children,” Buono said.
As campaign kickoffs go, Monmouth University Polling Institute’s Patrick Murray said this went well.
“I mean, it’s great but the problem is we’re all standing here on a Saturday. It’s her base out here. They all know who she is, but her name recognition in the state is really low,” Murray said.
In the two days since, Buono hasn’t let up. She announced raising $380,000, enough to qualify for public matching funds. She’s criticized the governor for a huge no-bid contract with an out-of-state politically connected hurricane clean-up firm. And she was on WNYC Radio this morning. Gov. Christie, meanwhile, hits the national late night television circuit as a guest on David Letterman’s show tonight.