In a race that has remained largely non-competitive, Republican incumbent Chris Christie will face off against Democratic New Jersey State Senator Barbara Buono on Tuesday to become the state’s next governor.
Christie currently leads Buono by 19 points, according to a poll taken between Oct. 24 and Oct. 30 by Fairleigh Dickinson.
Though Buono’s campaign has worked to decrease the 40-point lead that Christie had in early February, Christie is widely expected to win the Nov. 5 general election, according to numerous media reports and polls.
“I’m predicting him to win by a landslide,” Christie donor and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Deputy Director for Operations Adam Cohen said.
Buono, who represents the state’s 18th Legislative District, said that while she is aware she faces tough competition, she remains committed to her campaign nonetheless.
“When people ask me, ‘Why are you running? It’s going to be a hard race,’ my response is always the same. I always say, ‘How can I not run?’ ” Buono told The Daily Princetonian in a Sept. 12 interview.
A spokesman for Christie’s campaign said Christie was unavailable for comment. A spokesman for Buono’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.
Candidates focus on economy
Buono has expressed frustration with the Governor’s policies, particularly with regard to their impact on the middle class, as part of her broader focus on economic issues.
When asked by the 'Prince’ what she saw as the biggest issue in the election, Buono pointed to “jobs and the economy,” explaining that New Jersey has a high unemployment rate and a low job-creation rate relative to other states.
“People are suffering,” Buono explained. “This governor’s policies have hurt the middle class, and he’s turned his back on them, and they need somebody to go to bat for them, and I understand the struggles because I’ve lived them.”
Buono said one of the biggest differences between herself and Christie is her greater concern for the middle class, which she explained she would shore up with an economic plan to promote well-paying jobs and families’ ability to send their children to college. She noted her support for marriage equality and public education as other differences between herself and the Republican incumbent.
Many Christie supporters said they believe that he has successfully encouraged economic growth.
“He’s overseen a period that’s sustained job growth, even as the country’s growth has been anemic,” David Will ’14, the president of College Republicans, said of Christie. He praised the Governor for his work on balancing the budget and making pension systems “more sustainable.”
“He also has been rightly praised [on] both sides of the aisle for how he handled Hurricane Sandy,” Will added.
Will is also a columnist for The Daily Princetonian.
Christie’s campaign has emphasized the Governor’s role during the state’s recovery from Sandy and his general willingness to work with both Republicans and Democrats as accomplishments that voters should keep in mind on Election Day.
A campaign press release noted Christie’s bipartisan record has attracted a coalition of Democratic and Republican supporters, spanning female, independent, African American and Hispanic voting demographics.
Democrats Versus Christiecrats
Christie’s wide lead in the race has been attributed in part to the support he has received from Democrats, who outnumber Republicans as registered voters in the state by about 700,000, according to The New York Times.
Cohen is one Democrat who gave $500 to Christie’s campaign in April.
“I’m a lifelong Democrat, but I see in Governor Christie someone who actually does the things that he says he’s going to do and pursue,” Cohen said, explaining why he decided to donate. “And while I don’t necessarily agree with everything, I think he’s been a very good governor for the state, and I’d like to see him continue.”
He said that he particularly admired the Governor’s response to Sandy and thought he would do a better job as governor than the Democratic candidate on the ballot.
“I have no problem with Barbara Buono. I think she’s a fine candidate too,” he said. “But I think Christie would be better as governor.”
Fifty-eight Democratic politicians have endorsed Christie, according to a Christie campaign press release. These Democrats have been dubbed "Christiecrats"by the Governor’s campaign.
But some Democrats, unhappy with Christie’s first term, have resisted.
“We think Governor Christie has been bad for schools. We think he’s been bad for jobs. And we think that Buono is the right candidate on those and a plethora of other issues,” Will Mantell ’14, the president of College Democrats, said.
Others say they are concerned about Christie’s ambitions for advancement within the Republican Party and for the presidency.
“I think [Buono] would be a much better governor [than Christie],” Laurie Kramer, a software developer for the Lewis-Sigler Institute who donated $600 to Buono in December, said. “She wouldn’t be campaigning for the presidency, as I think Christie’s going to do for the next several years.”
Other Democrats have pointed to Buono’s progressive positions to explain their support for her candidacy.
“She’s got a stellar track record in terms of her experience in the legislature,” according to Dan Preston, the former president of Princeton Community Democratic Organization and the vice chair of the the Princeton Democratic Committee. “Her positions are just aligned with what any progressive Democrat would want to see.”
The campaign continues
Both Christie and Buono have extensively traveled the state during the general election campaign.
On Oct. 29, Christie began a seven-day, 90-stop bus tour through 21 counties of New Jersey, according to a campaign press release.
Neither candidate has visited Princeton for campaign purposes, but both Christie and Buono have personal and professional ties to the area.
Meanwhile, Buono has appeared at variety of events, including a rally at the New Jersey Education Association headquarters in Trenton and a rally in Jersey City with Mayor Cory Booker, who was elected to be New Jersey’s next senator in a special election on Oct. 16.
Buono has described her campaign to the 'Prince' as a grassroots movement.
“This is truly a grassroots campaign. We are building the Democratic Party and progressives across New Jersey from the ground up,” she said.
Christie’s campaign has also been working on the ground. Its local campaign efforts have been supported by the College Republicans, Will said.
He explained that the College Republicans have made phone calls and gone door-to-door on behalf of the Christie campaign at its offices in Hamilton and Flemington.
While the College Democrats have not specifically campaigned for Buono, they have campaigned for some of the other Democratic candidates running in the general election, including candidate for the New Jersey General Assembly Marie Corfield, according to Mantell.