Gov. Chris Christie has made no secret of his desire to pull in endorsements from the building trades, a block in the traditional Democratic base.
To that end, he already has gained endorsements from the Laborers International Union and the Plumbers and Pipefitters. Sources say the Operating Engineers are not far behind and more of the 15 unions representing the trades are expected to fall in line in the coming months.
While the narrative – traditional Democratic support defecting to endorse a Republican governor – is not a good one for Democratic candidate Barbara Buono as she moves forward with her campaign, there are practical implications to the endorsements as well.
Since 2005, the trades have donated more than $142,000 to Buono’s campaign coffers, accounting for 9.5 percent – or just under one out of every $10 she’s raised in that time.
The Laborers International has contributed the most to Buono over that time at $28,100 – and they have already joined Team Christie. The various Plumber and Pipefitters Locals – also in Christie’s stable – are not far behind at $24,900. The Bricklayers Union – which has not yet endorsed in the gubernatorial race – is next at $21,000
Christie is unlikely to need the money – he’s outraised his opponent by a margin of about five to one already, despite her participation in the state’s matching funds program, which has put $750,000 in her coffers to date.
But by grabbing those endorsements, the governor and his campaign team are fulfilling one portion of their election year strategy – choke off Buono’s funding early.
Buono has so far raised about $515,000 on her own and needs another $1.5 million over the next two months to reach the maximum amount eligible to be matched.
Buono has other fundraising options, to be sure. The public sector unions that support her also have donated heavily to her past campaigns, but have not reached the level of the trades unions.
Asked if Buono can make up the loss of the trades, a spokesman pointed to the public sector support she receives.
“Senator Buono is proud of the support she’s received from working families across New Jersey, including the teachers, firefighters and police officers who serve our communities every day,” said spokesman David Turner. “She’s generating excitement among grassroots supporters throughout the state and will have the resources to compete and win in November.”
Still, Buono has been fundraising since she joined the governor’s race in December. In those four months she’s raised roughly one third of the amount needed to gain the full state match. With two months left, she’ll be hard pressed to pull in the remaining $1.5 million.
Asked if she’s confident she’ll qualify for the full amount, a spokesman said simply “Yes.”