No rest for weary New Jersey voters: Gov. Chris Christie's re-election race begins
December 31, 2012By Rob Tornoe for NewsWorks
This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.
Just what you wanted in 2013 – another election!. You can't scan your inbox or turn on the TV without some reporter wanting to rehash the top stories of 2012. After the endless rhetoric and non-stop campaign ads of the 2012 election, I think most New Jerseyans are ready to look ahead to 2013 and skip reliving the past year.
However, with a gubernatorial race on the horizon in 2013, prepare for that non-stop stream of political discourse to continue through next November. As big as 2012 was for Chris Christie, 2013 promises to be even bigger.
The race might not have the sparkle of a match-up between Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who chickened out after one look at the polls, but with state Senator Barbara Buono, we should get a good race with two very different candidates in terms of policy and ideology.
Remember that Buono used to be Majority Leader, the second most powerful position in New Jersey's Senate. Buono fell out of favor with Senate President Stephen Sweeney and fellow Democrats after opposing a bill ultimately signed by Christie that reduced pensions and benefits for state workers. "Majority Leader is a position that demands concessions be made – concessions I am unwilling to make when I do not believe that they are right for this state and this party," Buono said at the time.
As a result, expect Buono to make strong cases for labor unions, civil-liberties groups and advocate for marriage equality, all of which have strong constituencies in the state, and don't like the direction Christie has taken. Plus, Christie's popularity will decline as we move farther away from issues like Hurricane Sandy, and begin to focus in on items like the state's property tax burden and weak budgetary position.
Buono already outlined part of this strategy to the Huffington Post, saying, "We should not accept four more years under a governor who vetoes gay marriage, funding for Planned Parenthood and tries to stack the Supreme Court with justices who share his extreme views."
Unless Christie reverts back to the teacher bashing, income tax cut pushing ideologue he was most of his first term, it will be a tough battle for Buono, or any Democrat for that matter, to win. Christie's popularity after Hurricane Sandy has reach upwards of 70 percent in some polls, and he continues to shine his bipartisan laurels by fighting with Republicans leery about the expense of rebuilding the Jersey shore. Plus, there's that bromance with President Obama that all New Jerseyans seem to love. In addition, Christie's national profile gives him an unmatched ability to raise money, and with continued speculation about his desire to run for president in 2016, he'll continue to be a darling of the national media throughout this race. So much for the so-called "mainstream media bias" against Republicans.
Buono may not have the national profile of Booker, but she should benefit by being the only female in the race. Not only does Christie enjoy less support among women (as do most members of the GOP these days), it might make it tough for Christie to utilize his brash and adversarial tone. Remember what happened to New York Representative Rick Lazio in his Senate race against Hillary Clinton. Simply walking over to her on stage was considered pushy and disrespectful - imagine Christie going into a name-calling tirade against Buono. It's not out of the realm of possibility – remember it wasn't too long ago he urged the media to 'take the bat' to Senator Loretta Weinberg on the issue of pensions.
We'll have to wait and see if any other Democrats, like state Senate President Steve Sweeney and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage, enter the race or follow Booker's dust as they run for the hills. For now, Christie looks to be in an untouchable position for re-election, but that could change with one ice cream holding tirade on the boardwalk.
Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.