Barbara Buono’s Loss at the Polls Is Still a Victory for Women

Winners write history, but the people they defeat shape the future.

While Governor Chis Christie is the focus of national attention for his win last week, the achievement of Barbara Buono cannot be understated. The NJ Democratic Party’s first woman candidate for Governor shattered the glass ceiling for women in politics.

Barbara Buono followed the trail blazed by Loretta Weinberg who was the first woman Democratic candidate for statewide office when she ran with Jon Corzine for Governor four years ago. As a result of their courage and hard work, they have inspired a new generation of women leaders and they have given others the inspiration to dream that all things are possible.

Over the next four years strong women candidates are likely to run for local offices all around the state. Barbara Buono’s army of fresh faces, many of whom are women, will emerge as staffers to key office holders and party leaders. They will shape the thinking of the Democratic Party as it rebuilds from its loss.

When a glass ceiling shatters, even in loss, change is inevitable. People who previously may have thought that something was impossible begin to see things differently. Governor Christine Todd Whitman was a respected two-term Republican Governor whose underappreciated book is still the blueprint for national Republican domination. She was the first woman Governor, but it was her candidacy for United States Senate against incumbent Senator Bill Bradley that broke the glass ceiling.

Even though she lost that election, fragments of that shattered glass spread everywhere and embedded in everyone who dared to dream that the NJ voters would elect non-white males for statewide office. When glass breaks, those who dream will act. 

In 2006, Senator Robert Menendez became New Jersey’s first Latino Senator. This year, Senator Cory Booker became the state’s first African-American Senator. Glass ceilings were broken in both cases and now New Jersey is the first and only state in the United States to be represented by a Latino and an African American.

Only time will tell how many lives Barbara Buono’s candidacy for Governor will impact.

Donald Scarinci is a managing partner at Lyndhurst, N.J. based law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck.  He is also the editor of the Constitutional Law Reporter and Government and Law blogs.

"Sit down and shut up!"
—Gov. Chris Christie, to a Hurricane Sandy heckler