Buono On Fellow Dems: I Realized Too Late There Was No Team

By David Cruz

Call it quixotic, or a fool’s errand. Even a suicide mission. In retrospect, all of those could be descriptions for Sen. Barbara Buono’s campaign. Last night, the party’s political martyr let loose on some of her fellow Democrats.

“The Democratic political bosses — some elected and some not — made a deal with this governor, despite him representing everything they’re supposed to be against,” she told her supporters in Metuchen. “They didn’t do it to help the state; they did it out of a desire to help themselves politically and financially. And so I took one for the team. The only problem? I realized too late, there was no team.”

At a victory lunch the day after, some of those Democrats said they understood — though didn’t necessarily agree — with what Buono was feeling.

“I do think that she had a point,” said Sen. Linda Greenstein. “I think there could’ve been another way to do this with everybody getting on board and fighting. I’m not sure that the outcomes that we had in the races would’ve been any different.”

Assemblyman Pat Diegnan said he didn’t think the party was divided, despite Buono’s stinging rhetoric. “That’s human; that’s natural,” he said. “When you lose a tough race, it’s always frustrating and it’s totally understandable. I supported Barbara all the way. I think she would’ve been a great governor, but Chris Christie is a political phenomenon and I don’t think anyone could’ve beaten him in this cycle.”

Buono didn’t call out Senate President Steve Sweeney by name, but theirs has been an uneasy relationship for a few years now. He said today that Buono deserved the respect of her party.

“You can understand the frustration,” said Sweeney. “At the end of the day, after running and putting your heart and soul into something and not winning, it’s all right to blow off some steam. She stepped up to the plate and fought a good fight.”

Sweeney had his own battle to fight. Minority leader Tom Kean Jr. had predicted a Republican majority in the upper chamber, but despite the governor’s landslide, Democrats held onto their Senate majority.

“Junior had that prediction. We were going to lose five. And he guaranteed it,” Sweeney said. “But we had the candidates. We had the best candidates and we won, despite the forces that were against them. You know, we had a tidal wave.”

Buono’s loss may have ended her own political career, but it also gave voice and perhaps a new sense of purpose to a faction of Democrats who insist party bosses sold their political souls for a few pieces of Christie gold.