Barbara Buono. (Wikimedia Commons)
State Senator Barbara Buono may be the only New Jersey Dem with the cojones to run for governor against the formidably popular Chris Christie, but she gets no respect from the media. And given the electoral chaos Christie’s whipped up with a $24 million special election to replace the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, she’ll probably be getting even less.
Buono, 59, a progressive who was the first woman majority leader in the state senate, is underfunded and thirty points down in the polls. And so for months, the national media have tended to bring up her name only to joke about how little they bring it up. When Politico’s Maggie Haberman said on The Daily Rundown, “Barbara Buono is barely registering in the polls right now against [Christie],” the substitute host Chris Cillizza cackled, “Barbara Buono thanks you for mentioning her on national television.”
The Beltway media have been so enthralled with Christie since he embraced Obama and barked at Fox News after Hurricane Sandy that they seem to wonder why Buono even bothers to challenge him when powerful players, like Newark mayor Cory Booker and state Senate president Stephen Sweeney, backed down. An emblematic interview came in April when Chris Matthews interrupted Buono fourteen times, mostly to ask about Christie, as the chyron at the bottom of the screen read “DAWN QUIXOTE.”
Still, you might think she would have gained some traction after Christie, angering both Republicans and Democrats, called for a special Senate election in October, just twenty days before he and Buono face off in the general on November 5. He could have simply merged the two elections and saved $24 million in taxpayer money—but that would put popular Cory Booker, the likely Democratic nominee, at the top of the November ballot and increase Democratic and African-American turnout, helping Buono and a whole legislature’s worth of down-ballot Democrats. Christie’s calendar so reeks of voter suppression—coming just weeks after he vetoed a bill to allow early voting, complaining of the $25 million price-tag—that you might think it would create a groundswell for a Christie-slayer.