Democratic support for gubernatorial nominee Barbara Buono hasn’t been overly enthusiastic. Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, who has served five terms leading the city and is considered one of New Jersey’s most prominent Democratic mayors, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that he believes Buono should be working to get a message out rather than simply pointing out Gov. Chris Christie’s faults.
While Bollwage agrees with Buono that Christie hasn’t done enough to help urban areas, he wants more from her. “What I am hopeful for is the Democratic nominee eventually sits down with some of the big city mayors and says, ‘Here are some programs that we’re going to be able to do to help the big cities throughout the state of New Jersey,’” he said.
According to Bollwage, Buono has no plan and she needs a platform to garner support. “I think if you’re going to run for the highest office in the state of New Jersey, you have to at least put down a plan to say I’m in favor of tax increment financing, I’m in favor of facade grants, I’m in favor of urban enterprise zones, I’m in favor of providing more funding for police and fire and doing a cops grant similar to the way Clinton did things in the 1990s. But there’s gotta be something that entices the mayors of the big cities to say, ‘I’m gonna be with you,’” he said.
While Buono has a few challengers in the primary, she is heavily favored to be the Democratic candidate against Christie. Bollwage said she should be putting out a clear message now to see what works with constituents, adding that the majority of Elizabeth residents don’t know who Buono is.
Bollwage considered a run for governor, but decided against it. “I had a lot of fun discussing it with people around the state of New Jersey and during that time I was able to highlight the successes of my city over the last 20 years that I’ve been the mayor,” he said. “And we could talk about the programs that we were able to take advantage of during the Whitman administration, the McGreevey administration where they actually put forth programs that helped urban communities.”
When asked if he decided not to run for governor because Christie is presumed to be unbeatable, Bollwage said he disagrees with that sentiment, citing recent polls. “These numbers came down in the last week. They went from 73 percent to 68 percent and they’re going to go lower. This election is going to be decided between 5 and 7 percent,” Bollwage said. “He’ll be in the 50s by the time November rolls around. That’s how close this election’s going to be. And I think the only way you can win this election is you need a united Democratic Party.”
Bollwage said it’s difficult to have a united Democratic Party when the Essex County executive is taking Christie on a tour of the Turtle Back Zoo.
“I think if you’re gonna be the Democratic nominee, you need solid Democratic support. But the only way you’re gonna do that is if the Democratic nominee is reaching out to people with her plan,” Bollwage said.
While Bollwage said he couldn’t say if Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo would have spent less time with Christie if there were a different Democratic nominee, he said, “I do know that the senator that we hope to lead our party in the Democratic fight in November for the governor of the state needs to have a plan that not only takes into effect urban New Jersey, but suburban and rural.”
Bollwage also added that Christie is beatable. “The governor has a noun, a verb and then he talks about Hurricane Sandy. There’s a lot more to the state than what happened in that tragic event,” he said.