How Barbara Buono Hopes To Take Down The Nation’s Most Popular Governor

May 7, 2013 10:01 a.m.

She’s more than 30 points behind in the polls and her funding is frighteningly low, but state Sen. Barbara Buono said this week that by November, she hopes the race between herself and Republican Gov. Chris Christie will be a nail-biter.

Buono (D) may not be a household name, even within New Jersey, but she has set out to convince the public that the governor’s race there has just begun.“I’ve been told I couldn’t do things for my whole life,” Buono said in a interview with TPM on Monday in Washington, D.C. “I’ve been underestimated, I think, as a woman in this business in particular.”

Despite Christie’s sky-high poll numbers, Buono called his base of support “shallow,” the result of plaudits after Hurricane Sandy and universal name recognition. She pointed to a poll from a month before the hurricane, which showed Christie down slightly to an unnamed Democratic opponent. Buono hopes to bring his numbers back down through an intense retail campaign, telling voters that Christie has failed to turn New Jersey around after the Great Recession. (New Jersey’s unemployment rate, which fell to nine percent in March, had been above the nine-percent mark for nearly four years.)

When it comes to the middle class and working poor, Buono said her opponent is worse than last year’s GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“I didn’t think the Republicans could find anybody that was as out of touch with middle class values as, you know, Mitt Romney was,” Buono said. “But I think they found somebody in Chris Christie.”

“I mean, this is a guy that vetoed the minimum wage bill that was tied to a cost-of-living increase, increased taxes on the working poor by cutting the earned income tax credit, someone who vetoed marriage equality … vetoed a bill on pay equity in New Jersey — ‘senseless bureaucracy’ — that’s what he called pay equity,” Buono said.

Buono said she isn’t worried about money, even though she has struggled to raise cash. Her “robust” grassroots operation, she said, will help overcome the big money Christie will be able to spend. Buono pointed out Christie was outspent three-to-one when he unseated former Gov. Jon Corzine (D). Still, there are serious doubts about her ability to raise even enough money to get her name out there. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in April, Buono is on track to be the first candidate to fail to collect the maximum amount of matching funds, a program that’s been in place for 32 years.

While Buono is still waiting for big-name surrogates to tout her candidacy, she is benefiting from the support of Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D), who previously eyed a possible run against Christie but who opted to run for the U.S. Senate in 2014 instead. She has also gotten the help of EMILY’s List, a group dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women.

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