Buono out

Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono has taken herself out of the running for majority leader of the next session, according to two sources.

In a letter to Senate President Steve Sweeney, Buono said she will not seek another term.

The move comes as the Senate Democratic caucus was preparing to oust the Middlesex Democrat in favor of fellow progressive Loretta Weinberg.  Sources say Buono did not have the votes to remain in the post and stepped aside rather than face the caucus.

“Majority Leader is a position that demands concessions be made- concession I am unwilling to make when I do not believe that they are right for the state and this party,” the letter said.

Buono had been offered a “co-leadership” role with Weinberg, a post she said would be “bad politics and bad policy.”

“It would be a terrible precedent to set, diminishing the position,” the letter said. “One cannot help but note that this only came up when the first woman held the job.”

“This is not about intrigue and innuendo,” the letter concludes. “This is about clarity.  Tuesday’s legislative elections underscore the reality that the people of New Jersey demand a check on the Governor. I am proud to serve as an independent voice defending our core Democratic principles. I thank you for your trust and friendship in bestowing on me the honor of breaking an historical glass ceiling. And l look forward to breaking many more.”

At least one source connected to the caucus called the move a smart one, saying Buono avoided an embarrassing showdown.

Senate sources this week had confirmed that Buono had lost the support of the caucus, making her replacement inevitable.  Choosing Weinberg to supplant her is a savvy political move as it takes the gender and ideology issues off the table.

One storyline floated by caucus Democrats late yesterday as they prepare to oust the majority leader concerned Buono’s tepid support for state Democrats in the run-up to Tuesday’s election.

According to Election Law Enforcement Commission reports Buono donated about $33,000 during the current cycle to various Democratic candidates throughout the state.  The money included $8,200 to Sen. Jim Whelan and $5000 to Sen. Bob Gordon, both of whom ran competitive races and came out on top.

Another $6,000 went to 11th district Assembly candidate Vin Gopal.

But the reports show only small donations to the Senate Majority PAC, a bone of contention among Buono-opponents in the caucus.

Other senators, including freshman Nellie Pou, maxed out to the Democratic Senate Majority Pac with a $25,000 donation.

“When we take a look at what historically a majority leader is supposed to do, it’s been non- existent with Barbara,” said one Senate source. “When it comes to helping and financing other Senators races when you have freshman Senators doing 10 times what Barbara has done its disturbing.”

Another Senator put Buono’s troubles in the caucus more broadly, saying the perception among her opponents is that she was more focused on her potential 2013 bid for governor than on her roles as majority leader.

“I think her biggest mistake was worrying about herself,” the Senator said. “At the end of the day, Weinberg doesn’t pose a threat to anyone who might be looking at a leadership role in two years.  Barbara could pose a threat.” Buono out