Brendan Byrne Talks Obama, Romney and Christie

Taxes, environment, Meadowlands, Atlantic City and mass transit dominate the headlines in the Garden State. They’re also issues that are very familiar to former governor Brendan Byrne. He sat down with Managing Editor Mike Schneider for a two-part interview. In the first part, he talks about presidential politics, the candidates as well as New Jersey’s current governor whose name continues to come up as a possible VP candidate.

The former governor is making plans to attend the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina as part of the New Jersey delegation. And he’s optimistic about party’s prospects this year.

“I think it’s basically a Democratic country and I think the New Jersey vote has been Democratic mostly over the years and needs a reason not to vote Democratic.”


When asked about President Obama’s performance, Byrne said he thinks Obama has done a reasonably good job. In the 2008 presidential race, Byrne was a supporter of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“I really have an affection for Hillary Clinton. I think she was a superb candidate and would have been a superb President.”

Byrne who never met Barack Obama, expressed disappointment that the President never reached out to him, saying “”I would have a appreciated a call from him; I may still get one.”

As for the Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Byrne couldn’t recall if he ever met him. “I may have and if I may have that’s bad because I don’t remember him,” said Byrne.

Gov. Chris Christie’s name was noticeably absent from the list of Republican headliners scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention, keeping alive speculation about his prospects to become Romney’s running mate. According to Byrne, the odds are against Christie’s “if Romney thinks he’s got this thing in the bag.” The reverse holds true as well, said Byrne. The more endangered the Romney campaign becomes, the more likely they are willing to make a bold choice like Christie.

New Jersey could end up like California

The former governor also spoke at length about New Jersey’s increasing debt burden.

This November, lawmakers are seeking voter approval on a $750 million bond issue to expand and upgrade its public and private colleges and universities. If approved, it be the largest issue in New Jersey history.

While he doesn’t doubt the need, Byrne said he is troubled by another bond issue that is left unpaid for.

“So we keep going on and on [getting] ourselves into higher debt and we’re going to end up like California!”

There is no good time to raise taxes but that’s no excuse, said Byrne.

“We ought to have the courage to say ok we’re going to have a $750 million bond issue and we’re going to pay for by a gas tax or this tax or that tax. That’s what we’re going to have to do to survive.”