Booker dismisses idea he stayed out of gov race because of Christie’s popularity

Newark Mayor Cory Booker balked at the notion Friday that he failed to enter in a gubernatorial race against Gov. Chris Christie because the governor’s popularity is at an all time high.

Booker told NJTV’s Michael Aron during a taping for On the Record that he’s “relieved” his decision of whether to run for governor next year is behind him and firmly stated Christie’s popularity had no bearing on his choice not to make a run.

“The governor’s policies are out of step with New Jerseyans,” Booker said on the set of On the Record, speaking specifically of marriage equality, clean air policies and taxes, for example.

“We started seeing when you ask people those questions … [that] more people fall into where the Democratic Party is,” he said, explaining his own internal polling showed a Booker and Christie matchup would be much tighter than other polls have suggested.

Booker also told Aron he spoke with Senate President Steve Sweeney Thursday and encouraged the top Democratic lawmaker in the Legislature to challenge Christie.

He said the “governor takes credit” for things Sweeney promoted before Christie even took office, citing pension reform, and said the Senate lawmaker would make for a formidable opponent to the popular governor.

The mayor echoed similar statements for the only Democratic candidate currently in the race for governor in 2013, Sen. Barabara Buono.

“I sat down with Barbara Buono …. [and] was so impressed with her,” he said, adding, he told his staff following the sit-down that, “Look, if we don’t get into this thing” that Buono would be a good candidate to get behind.

On his decision to run for U.S. Senate, Booker said he spoke with U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg well before Booker’s announcement Thursday to seek Lautenberg’s seat in 2014.

“I called Frank Lautenberg well before yesterday,” Booker told Aron.

The  full 25-minute interview will air on NJTV on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m.

"I’m excited as hell about CD 5. We have encouraged Congressman [Steve] Israel to get involved in CD 5."
—Democratic State Party Chairman John Currie