By David Cruz
Early this morning, after casting her vote in today’s primary, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono was reiterating what a lot of politicians were saying publicly about the process to succeed Frank Lautenberg.
“I think it’s inappropriate to even discuss it at this point. I think a lot of us, at least me, I can only speak for myself, we’re still dealing with the loss and trying to grapple with it,” Buono said.
But by mid-afternoon, within minutes of the conclusion of governor Christie’s press conference announcing the August primary and October general election to fill the Lautenberg seat, Buono was re-focused.
“It’s such hypocrisy. I mean, the governor refused to sign a bill that would allow people to vote early because of the cost — the $25 million. But now he’s having a special election a few weeks before a general election, which will not only decrease turnout but it’s gonna cost $24 million,” Buono said.
When asked if she thinks Christie might fear a different dynamic if the Senate seat is up, Buono said, “You’d have to ask him but I would think that he might have considered that.”
“This is the one option, I think, that absolutely guarantees that he will not run in November with Cory Booker on the ballot on the Democratic line and I think he may have been a little concerned about that,” Rutgers University Law Professor Frank Askin said. “Because Cory Booker will bring out a huge Democratic vote, which otherwise is not gonna materialize this November.”
If he was licking his chops in anticipation of an early shot at the Lautenberg seat or annoyed that he couldn’t run on his carefully-crafted schedule is unknown because Booker’s campaign released a statement saying: “For several months now, Mayor Booker has been taking the steps necessary to run, but he will make an official announcement at the appropriate time.”
It’s that kind of no comment comment that has irked some of Booker’s fellow Democrats, almost all of whom issued statements blasting the governor’s decision today and might just be enough to prompt other Democrats — including Rush Holt and Frank Pallone — to mount their own primary challenges, even if, or especially since, the starting line has been pushed up.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver’s statement said Christie put partisan politics first and state Democratic Party Chairman John Wisniewski said Christie’s decision speaks more to his national political ambitions than his responsibility to residents. If Democrats were suffering from party dis-unity, it’s possible that Christie handed them a gift today.