Barbara Buono’s selection of Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell to head the state’s Democratic party has sparked strong criticism by party members, including Senate President Steve Sweeney. The Democratic infighting caused one former Democratic governor to quote Will Rogers’ famous declaration that as a Democrat, he belongs to no organized party. Former Gov. Jim Florio told NJ Today Mike Schneider that Democrats have a long tradition of internal bickering, which he described as “healthy interaction.” He also spoke at length on the subject of gun violence.
Despite the attacks coming from within her own party, Florio said that anybody who underestimates Buono, does so at his peril.
“The governor’s too smart to underestimate her. So he’s gonna campaign hard,” said Florio. “She’s very intelligent, as you know. She’s articulate, she’s substantive, she talks to people as adults. It’s gonna be a race that’ll be much much tighter.”
The state’s Republicans have their own challenges to deal with and that is to distinguish themselves from the national party platform, according to Florio.
“Moderate Republicans in the party in New Jersey are trying to figure out a way to avoid some stigma of being anti-immigrant, against the minimum wage and things of that sort,” he said.
On the topic of gun violence, Florio made it clear how he feels about the failure of advancing gun legislation in Congress.
“That’s really shameful. We have a situation where they didn’t even want to take up the issue of dealing with background checks and how is it that you argue that someone who’s on a terrorism list and can’t get on a plane can buy a gun?” he asked. “It makes no sense whatsoever, but it’s testimony to the power of the gun lobby.”
New Jersey’s gun laws, one of the strongest in the nation, may get even tougher.
“There are a couple of loopholes. One of the things that’s really strange to me on a national level, as well as the state level, [is] we spend taxpayer monies to outfit our police with vests to protect them and we do nothing about armor-piercing, cop-killing bullets. There are a lot of things, gaps we could fill,” Florio explained.
However, Florio added that it would be much preferable if gun reform happened on a national level because most of New Jersey’s gun violence involves guns coming from out of state.
While polls show that most Americans are in favor of more gun control, that doesn’t necessarily translate into more gun laws. According to Florio, it’s not a matter of which side has public support on its side.
“You got to mobilize people to become involved in the political process,” he said. “History is full of examples of small cadres of people who are well disciplined, well-financed being able to prevail over the public interest. It’s only, as we did in New Jersey, when you get the public engaged that you can have good outcomes.”