By David Cruz
Diners are the backbone of the political circuit in New Jersey. They can be the big box stores of retail politics and when you’re expected to be outspent by millions, diners can provide a captive audience of potential voters.
“I started early because I know that it’s going to be a very competitive race and nobody knows me that well outside of Central Jersey and so the real obstacle initially is to increase my name ID, so that’s what we’re doing,” said Democrat Sen. Barbara Buono, who is trying to unseat incumbent Gov. Chris Christie.
Diners at Six Brothers on Route 46 got to meet Buono, many for the first time, and either bend her ear about issues close to them or just to wish her good luck.
“I’m very happy that there’s a woman running for governor,” said Brenda Portelli, of Wayne. “They need to be more visible. I think women bring a different kind of perspective to the table.”
Clifton resident Eugene Farrell says he’s a Buono booster no matter what the polls are saying in April. “In the beginning I know the statistics and the odds were against her but it’s slow and it’s a long way to November,” he says. “They say six months, but things can happen so quickly.”
While she’s still not drawing Christie-type audiences, even at the diner, Buono’s camp says she’ll have more diner sessions to illustrate her “everyone needs a seat at the table” theme.
Buono says she knows she’s got a lot of catching up to do in terms of name recognition and fundraising, but at this early stage in the campaign, she says she’s content to grab as many votes as she can, even if it’s one voter at a time.