A source close to Senate President Steve Sweeney said the senator will not mount a challenge to Gov. Chris Christie, preferring instead to concentrate on his own re-election bid as well as keeping the Legislature in Democratic hands.
“We’ve seen the damage that a Republican governor can do,” the source said. “We can’t allow a Republican Legislature to be part of the dismantling of our labor community, while turning its back on women, the seniors in our state and our children’s education.
Sweeney will make a formal announcement later this morning.
Asked if Sweeney plans to endorse Sen. Barbara Buono, the only Democrat so far in the field, the source said only that Sweeney will meet with Buono in “the near future.”
Sweeney is yet one more big name Democrat who has chosen to forego a challenge to Christie, following Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who announced last month that he would not run, and Sen. and former Gov. Dick Codey, who said Friday he was out of the race.
Sweeney had been a vocal recruiter of a strong Democratic candidate while at the same time keeping alive his own possible run. In an interview last month, Sweeney said it is his job as a leader of the party to find the strongest possible candidate. To that end he was willing to put aside bad blood with Codey, should the former governor have jumped into the race.
With Sweeney’s decision, Buono remains the only major Democrat in the race and today could mark the coalescing of the party around her. U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell has not ruled out a bid, but sources have said a challenge from the 75-year-old congressman, who just came through a bruising election season, is less likely.