TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney made two things clear Monday in regards to finding a Democratic challenger to Gov. Chris Christie in 2013: Democrats need to make a decision very soon, and Sweeney is still in the running.
Sweeney told reporters he is still weighing a bid for governor in the upcoming race but stopped short of giving a timeline of when an announcement from him or other Democrats would be rolled out.
“Look, no one by any means thinks this is going to be an easy race. It’s going to be a tough race. It’s always a tough race when you face an incumbent,” he said. “So, we want to make sure that we put the best candidate forward … [and] I’m one of those people we’re looking at.”
Sweeney admitted the clock is ticking on Democrats to converge around a single candidate.
“We’ll figure that out shortly,” he said, adding, “But it has to be figured out very shortly.”
Sweeney would not say who in the Democratic Party has expressed interest to run against Christie, and added that the party’s only declared candidate, state Sen. Barbara Buono, would make for a great candidate for Democrats.
“There’s nothing wrong with Barbara, honestly,” he responded after being asked by a reporter if there’s a reason Democrats have yet to rally behind the state senator.
“Honestly, nothing at all,” he said.
The top Senate Democrat spoke candidly during a news conference about the uphill battle his party will have in raising money for the 2013 election, citing the governor’s ability to raise campaign dollars.
“I think the governor will have a financial edge,” he said, later saying the governor has taken “advantage of his position to raise funds” for his re-election campaign.
“So, I expect him to have a lot of money,” Sweeny said. “But I also expect the Democratic candidate will be in a very good position also.”
Sweeney also described himself “as a numbers person,” explaining there are 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans in New Jersey and that the numbers will give a Democratic candidate the necessary edge to make the race competitive.
“That’s not bad for a Democrat to start with,” he said.
During the press conference, Sweeney made a hurricane reference that he quickly sought to pull back.
Sweeney told reporters the governor will hide behind super storm Sandy in an attempt to gloss over what Sweeney characterized as the governor’s failures in office.
In an attempt to reference the state’s high unemployment rate, the Senate president made an inadvertent reference to the hurricane, which he quickly retracted.
“We gave the governor a jobs package … [and] he vetoed it. And his job package was a hurricane. I guess he prayed a lot and got lucky a storm came,” said Sweeney, who immediately took back the comment.
“I shouldn’t say that,” he said. “I apologize for saying that.”