Powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo claims he doesn’t mind the love hug talk about him and incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
“People don’t understand government,” said the subject of a 2010 PolitickerNJ.com photo showing governor and executive innocently clasping hands in prayer in a photo roundly interpreted as Joe D’s Joe Lieberman/George W. Bush moment.
Some members of DiVincenzo’s own party continue to cringe at his close relationship with Christie, and wonder if it will prohibit the county executive from being engaged in a general election against the sitting governor.
“Christiecrats,” U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) famously said in a swipe at the upper echelon party closeness to Christie, and whether the party nominee is state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18) or state Sen. Dick Codey (D-27), critics see snooze alarm potential all over Joe D’s general election schedule.
“I’m a Democrat,” DiVincenzo insisted to PolitickerNJ.com. “I have a great relationship with the governor but I am a Democrat. Essex County will be there for Buono. Look at the numbers in the Corzine race. (DiVincenzo Chief of Staff) Phil Alagia was one of his campaign managers. Corzine got the largest plurality in the state in Essex. “
Does DiVincenzo think Buono can win?
“The people throughout the state will have to make that decision,” he said. “It’s a long time between now and November. She’s far behind. You never know what’s going to happen. There is no question Cory Booker had the best shot. Other people better known than Barbara Buono, Sweeney and Pascrell – they know it’s an uphill battle.
“But in part because she is a woman Barbara Buono will be a lot stronger than everyone else – with the exception, I think of Cory,” DiVincenzo said. “We’ll see. This state is still a blue state with 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. Everybody has to take care of their own county. Chris Christie is no question a friend of mine.”
Does he prefer Buono to Christie?
“All I want to do is have a good relationship with whoever the governor is,” DiVIncenzo said. “Look, in 2009 Chris Christie received 27% of the vote in Essex County. Can Democrats in other counties say the same thing? The guy’s my friend; he’s probably been the best governor the state’s ever had, but I’m still a Democrat.”
He added, “I’m a Democrat. I’m going to support the Democrat.”