New Jersey Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono has caught another bad break in her long-shot effort to unseat Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Buono’s stalled campaign, in which she trails Christie by 30 points and has been unable to attract Democratic donors, got a thumbs-down last week from 89-year-old former Garden State Gov. Brendan Byrne, who advised Buono to consider dropping out of the race.
“Buono is way behind,” Byrne said in a teleconference with the Newark Star Ledger. “I was way behind in 1977 and I was thinking, if it gets worse, I’m going to withdraw. It didn’t get worse. As a matter fact, it got better. But at one point I thought of dropping out in favor of a better-positioned candidate. I don’t know whether that consideration would appeal to Buono, but I would advise she make that evaluation.”
Byrne and Republican former Gov. Tom Kean were discussing Buono’s glaring fundraising deficit. Her campaign war chest is so low she may not qualify for matching funds, and prominent Democrats are keeping a distance from her campaign.
Christie, meanwhile, continues to rise as a national political figure with appeal across party lines. Though New Jersey has traditionally harbored pockets of Republican strength, it is now among the bluest of blue states, making Christie’s popularity all the more striking.
Even the always-courtly Kean declined to give Buono any kind words from across the aisle. “You were a good candidate,” Kean told Byrne. “She’s not. The able candidates in the Democratic Party all decided not to run this year, so they were left without a strong candidate. She stepped forward and now the party is living with the consequences of that.”
Byrne served as New Jersey governor from 1974 to 1982. Byrne is still alive, but his name has been given to a state forest in the Pine Barrens and a multipurpose arena in East Rutherford — though the arena has since been renamed for a company that makes preppy clothes.