As his party mulls a potential field of challengers to GOP Gov. Chris Christie, veteran South Jersey state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2) says he would be comfortable with state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-18) at the top of the ticket this year.
Buono is the only declared candidate so far among Democratic Party elected officials.
“Over the next month the field will establish itself and we’ll see who the potential candidates are,” Whelan told PolitickerNJ.com. “If it’s Senator Buono, I’m fine with that. If it’s someone else, we’ll see.”
The senator said his own re-election decision does not hinge on the governor’s race. He’s leaning toward running for the state Senate again, he said, and won’t be a candidate for governor.
“As far as I’m concerned, the gubernatorial candidate is relevant to the extent that someone at the top of the ticket shares Democratic Party values,” Whelan said. “Barbara Buono and others mentioned, including Steve Sweeney, Dick Codey and some congressional names, would all be people I would be comfortable with; there is no one there who is too extreme to the left.”
Whelan acknowledged that Christie received a huge post-Hurricane Sandy bounce. But he doesn’t see him as unbeatable.
When it comes to Buono, Whelan sees pluses for the state senator.
“One thing is stylistically she is very much a counterpoint to Gov. Christie,” Whelan said. “She is very different, much more measured, thoughtful and less inclined to shoot from the hip. For some people part of his charm is calling people idiots. That’s not Buono.”
In terms of substantive contrast, Whelan said Christie’s advocacy of trickle-down economics puts him at odds with New Jersey’s Democratic voters.
“Do we believe the myth that the economy grows from the top down or does it grow from the middle out, to quote Barack Obama,” Whelan said. “Environmentally, too, I hope the governor is still not clinging to the question of whether or not global warming is real. Clearly the ocean is a lot warmer than it used to be. We should not have abandoned RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) because we are not sure about global warming. Yeah, we are sure about global warming.”
Whelan also said Christie’s decision not to reappoint state Supreme Court Justice John Wallace will haunt him.
“The governor broke precedent by not reappointing a sitting justice who had done nothing on the bench to earn a disqualification,” said the senator.