Earlier this week, Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18) gave an in-depth interview to NJ Today about her gubernatorial candidacy. On the day of her interview, Senate President Steve Sweeney made it clear that he would not challenge Buono for the Democratic party’s nomination. Since then, Buono has racked up more endorsements and the party has rallied around her candidacy. On today’s chamber train to Washington, D.C., NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider caught up with the only declared Democratic candidate in the governor’s race.
Until the filing deadline passes in April, Buono said she won’t presume the party’s nomination is hers. Still, she is very encouraged by how events have unfolded in the past several days.
“The last week has added new prominence to the campaign and set us on a new trajectory,” she said. “We’re happy about the party support and the support we’ve been getting around the state talking to people and we’re ahead of our targets on fundraising, we’re closing in on the threshold that we need to hit for matching funds.”
Now that Buono appears to be the Democratic frontrunner, the Republican Governors Association recently weighed in, noting that Buono was not the Democrats’ first choice. Buono shrugged off the slight as being par for the course and that sharper attacks are to come. “That’s the least of it that I think we’re going to see,” she said.
The GOP filed a complaint with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission to investigate whether Buono is commingling funds, improperly using her Senate fundraising account to finance her gubernatorial bid. Buono called the charge “absurd.”
Buono repeated her assertion that she felt compelled to enter the governor’s race to create the same opportunities that she had growing up.
“People are struggling under the burden of crushing property taxes, our unemployment rate is higher than it was just a year ago,” said Buono. “I have people coming up to me in tears asking for help to get a job. It’s not a pretty picture out there in New Jersey.”
Growing up in a lower, middle class family, Buono said she understands well the struggles of middle class and working poor families. She said, “you know, a lot of people told me that I couldn’t do a lot of things my entire life, and I’m proud that I’ve come as far as I have.”