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Wanted: Daring Democrat for Christie challenge

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 11, 2013 at 12:36 pm •  Published: January 11, 2013

If Buono was spooked by Christie's 70-plus point job approval rating in public opinion polls taken after Sandy, she didn't show it. If she was intimidated by the governor raising $2 million in the first five weeks of his campaign, she camouflaged those concerns as well. (She brought in nearly $250,000 in the days after Booker backed out.) And, if she's offended by the anti-Barbara brigade within the party, she's brushed those feelings aside.

Buono told The Associated Press that Democratic Party in-fighting "is nothing new."

"In Democratic politics there's always high drama before a big election like this," she said.

Sen. Ray Lesniak, the powerful Union County Democrat, has thrown the weight of his endorsement behind Codey, who pushed back his own Jan. 1 deadline for a decision.

Others who are looking for a candidate they consider more formidable than Buono fear that a strong Christie showing at the polls could cause Democratic losses in legislative, county and local races. They're especially concerned that the Democratic-led Senate could fall to Republican control, an unlikely though not impossible outcome with the chamber currently split 24-16 and 700,000 more registered Democrats in the state than Republicans.

Gubernatorial candidates technically have until April 1 to file their intent to run in the June primary. But, for fundraising, endorsement and campaigning purposes, the party wants to know who's in and who's out as soon as possible.

Wisniewski said he and Democratic Party chairs in the 21 counties have "grown antsy" waiting for a consensus candidate to emerge. In a recent conference call they discussed giving politicians who are sitting on the fence a deadline to decide, but abandoned the idea as too strong-armed. However, Wisniewski, who is recovering from eye surgery, said he's about to make another round of calls with decisions anticipated next week.

Christie said it doesn't matter to him who the Democrats put up. He hasn't had to state the obvious: The Democratic candidate, whoever it is, will begin the race with a big fundraising and name-recognition deficit against a governor who is viewed by many as hurricane-rebuilder-in-chief.