Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Buono Is More a Met Than a Democrat

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Buono Is More a Met Than a Democrat

Article excerpt

POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS are like baseball. When you're running a candidate for governor, you're in the majors. The pitches are fast and hard. And as a rule, they are not aimed at your own candidate. Barbara Buono's campaign is looking more and more like the New York Mets.

It's amazing. Mets pun intended. A likable, photogenic Democrat, with years of legislative experience running in a state with more registered Democrats than Republicans, has probably just about as much statewide name recognition in New Jersey as John Liu, the New York City comptroller who just edged out Anthony Weiner for fourth place in Tuesday's New York City primary for mayor.

Buono is running against a man with so much charisma, Ben & Jerry's will probably name an ice cream flavor after him: Jersey Fleece. Chris Christie -- like him, love him or leave him -- knows how to get his message out. Christie knew how to do it four years ago when he was running against the self-financed multimillionaire incumbent Jon Corzine. Christie is even better at it now.

Earlier this summer, Buono suggested that if Christie did not publicly debate her, he was Noel Coward. She actually may have said he would be a coward, but that would be as ridiculous a moniker for New Jersey's boisterous governor as calling him Noel Coward. Anyway, both Christie and Noel liked frolicking on the beach.

Christie reacted to that comment -- Buono's, not mine -- by saying the two worst days of Buono's campaign would be the days she debated him. If only she were that lucky.

In July, there was some doubt whether Christie, who was raising money fast and furious, would seek public matching funds. The state Election Law Enforcement Commission requires all gubernatorial candidates who qualify for and accept public matching funds to participate in two ELEC-sanctioned debates. Their running mates also must participate in one debate scheduled between the gubernatorial ones.

Christie qualified for public matching funds; Buono was expected to. All that was left was the scheduling of the three debates in a six-week window determined by ELEC. The Record is participating in one of those debates, and I have been shin-deep in the scheduling of the first one at William Paterson University. The process has not gone smoothly. Both candidates wanted specific weeks for the first debate. The Christie camp pushed hard for the first week in October, the Buono camp for the second week.

Adding to the difficulty was the unexplained claim by the Buono camp that their candidate could not be available for any debate before Oct. 7. Three weeks were lopped off the ELEC calendar.

After weeks of getting nowhere, I drew a red line. In a Sept. 3 email to all participants, pleading for compromise, I wrote: "This is not a vote on the use of military force in Syria." The Christie campaign budged and tentatively agreed to Oct. …

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