In the aftermath of Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s decision not to run for governor, state Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) yesterday personally reached out to U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) to tell the veteran congressman that Pascrell would be a strong candidate for governor.
Pascrell earlier this year romped to victory in a closely observed Democratic Party Primary and is seen by many Democrats as a solid alternative to Booker.
Sweeney reached out to Pascrell, the Senate president said, because as the leader of the Democratic Party, he wants the strongest possible candidate to challenge Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
“I think that’s my job to make sure the party has a strong candidate in November,” Sweeney said.
And though Sweeney has called Pascrell and other potential candidates, he has not taken himself out of the mix.
“Look, I think Bill would be a very strong candidate. I think there are others out there who would be strong candidates. I also think I would make a strong candidate, but I haven’t made any decision. I have a lot of options.”
Several Democrats have said in recent weeks that Sweeney will not run, but Sweeney said he has not told anyone of his plans.
“Unless you hear that from me,” Sweeney said, “don’t believe it.”
With Booker’s exit from consideration, Democrats are left with only one declared candidate, state Sen. Barbara Buono. After Booker’s announcement, Buono, who has received endorsements from the Middlesex and Somerset County Democrats, called for unity in the party.
But Sweeney said he will talk to other potential candidates as well to ensure that Democrats have the best chance to beat Christie.
Pascrell, 75, would not have to give up the House seat he won in November and is seen as a street fighter who would pose a viable alternative to Christie’s pugilistic style.
Earlier this week Pascrell told Roll Call that the prospect of a run for governor is “intriguing.”
“There’s always been something intriguing about the position, always intriguing,” he said.