NEWARK – Staged as an act of audacity meant to send Democrats into home turf high alert and energize residentsweary of one-party rule, Chris Christie this afternoon openedacampaignheadquarters in Newark where Democrats outnumber Republicans, 65,000 to 3,400.
“I was born here 47 years ago this past weekend,” said the former U.S. Attorney, who stood with his running mate, Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno, in a storefront at 60 Park Place,a double tweak toDemocrats in and of itself, as the majority partyoccupied this spotlast year as their Essex County base of operations for Barack Obama.
“This isn’t about opening a headquarters in terms of symbolism,” added Christie, speaking to a packed room of cheering supporters from Newark and the environs. “We’re opening this headquarters because we have a demand to open it. We will staff it, we will have volunteers to work it.”
State Party Chairman/Assemblyman Jay Webber and State Sen. Minority Whip Kevin O’Toole (R-Cedar Grove), chair of the Essex County Republican Party,joinedChristie and Guadagno and Assembly and county candidates at the front of the room.
“This is a great day for the state and for the party,” said Webber. “The message here today is ‘it doesn’t matter what your zip code is, the Republican Party is going for your vote.’ We’re taking it to Newark.”
Asked to name candidates from his own party who are running in this traditionally Democratic Party bulwark, Christie mentioned Terriann Moore Abrams, the Republican candidate for register from South Orange, who changed parties earlier this year to back Christie and run on a ticket with him after a sit-down session with O’Toole.
The Democrats this week are going to fill the vacancy created over the summer by the death of their candidate for register, Dwight Brown. Sources in both parties say Essex County Democratic Party Chairman Phil Thigpen has the inside track for his party’s support to run against Moore Abrams.
“All they can do is recycle candidates at this point,”the Republican candidate for registersaid of her veteran prospective opponent. “I guess he knows he can’t win the chairmanship again so they’re giving this to him as an early consolation prize.”
Thigpen last year received the backing of the Democratic Party for another tour of duty as chairmanafter he was able to prove he was virtually the only man around who didn’t offendany of Essex County’s entrenched factions.
As for rumors that she’s running in hopes of securing a judgeship if Christie wins, Moore Abrams laughed. “They said I wanted a judgeship when I got on on the council, too,” she said. “They’ve got to come up with something new.”
The GOP’s presence on a block that also includes the offices of Thigpen and the Essex Democrats, and Senate President Richard Codey’s (D-Roseland) restaurant, provoked some street action.
As a gaggle of Corzine/Weinberg backers mobilized on the other side of Park Place, there was some bitter back and forth between 28th District Republican candidate Herbert Glenn and Democrats appalled at the sight of Republicans in the area, who heckled Christie from across the street then tried to torment Glenn up close with an Uncle Tom reference.
Fighting back, Glenn got up in the faces of the opposition and defended his support for Christie and his own candidacy.
“He came over here antagonizing us,” said a Democrat. “Disappointing.”