By David Cruz
Another day, another drop out. Today’s “thanks but no thanks” comes from state senator and former governor Dick Codey, who said he was sitting out the race after flirting with a run, then deciding family and business matters trumped political ambition. Codey took a swipe at some who suggested he had lost the guts to get into a big fight.
“I started my career politically running against the organization at 21 years old,” Codey said, “and since that time, on three separate occasions, I’ve run against the organization as well. When people said you could never win, and I always win. And I will continue to win and be independent.”
Codey’s announcement narrowed the field of potential candidates even further. Sen. Barbara Buono, who’s been “all in” for weeks now, issued a statement, calling Codey “a friend” and adding:
“[Governor Codey’s] legacy has always been that of someone willing to take on those tough fights with grace and humility and I am proud to have served with him in the Senate.” Buono pointed out that — since the Codey announcement — two Democratic senators and several county chairmen had called on the party to come together behind her. We caught up with Senate President Steve Sweeney on one of the stops of his so-called “listening tour.” He says he’s still considering his options but didn’t think his party was especially behind schedule, or that the party’s one announced candidate might be damaged by the “Anyone But Buono” vibe they’ve been putting out.
“It’s not damaging,” said Sweeney. “If Barbara ends up our candidate, we will all work extremely hard to help her. Just because you’re the first one in doesn’t mean you’re it. You have to allow those others who have an interest to explore that interest.”
Sweeney and Codey will never be confused for best buddies, but each had kind words for the other and Codey said this year’s process of finding a candidate for governor is not out of the ordinary.
“At the end of the day, if she wins the primary, Democrats of good faith, and most of us are, will rally around her and lead her to victory,” he said, adding, “Those who play the Christie game will not, regardless of who the candidate is, so let’s move on.”
Fellow Democrat Bob Gordon, who has so far expressed no interest in running for governor, said he thought the party would be well served by this process. He said the Democrats would have a strong candidate and that the incumbent would be vulnerable come election time, despite his Hurricane Sandy bump.
“But if several months from now people are still living in trailers or in motels along the shore, there are going to be a lot of angry people,” he warned. “You know, the economy is still in bad shape. We have unemployment above 9 percent compared with the national average of something under 8 percent, second highest foreclosure rate in the country, people are gonna wonder, where is this New Jersey comeback?”
A spokesman for Chris Christie’s campaign said they had no interest in commenting on the Democrats and their process. Congressman Bill Pascrell is the other major Democrat who has not yet made his intentions known. He was busy with meetings today and couldn’t meet with us and had no comment on Codey’s announcement.
The remaining Democrats have given themselves an unofficial deadline of Feb. 1 to decide whether they’re in or out. Sources say, that in private conversations, Pascrell is sounding more and more like he’s in, unless, of course, he ultimately decides that he’s out.