Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono easily won their parties’ nominations in the gubernatorial primary elections, setting up a general election showdown largely over what Christie has done to fix the state’s economy.
Tuesday’s results were expected in a primary overshadowed by Christie’s announcement that the state would hold an October special election for the U.S. Senate seat of Frank Lautenberg, who died Monday. And that election could overshadow the race for the governor’s office.
Still, the candidates for governor conveyed hope and took shots at one another in speeches Tuesday.
Buono said that high property taxes, a high unemployment rate and poverty that has risen show that Christie’s policies are not helping all residents.
“Our problem, my friends, is a governor who sees 400,000 people out of work and he tells us everything is just fine,” she told supporters in Edison as she accepted her party’s nomination.
Christie said he has cut government spending, slowed the rate of property tax growth and created a state that polls show residents feel better about.
“They want to drag our state back to higher taxes, they want to drag our state back to bigger and more expensive government.” he said in a primary night speech in Bridgewater. “They want to drag our state back to a time when the unions ruled our people and not the other way around.”
The race has been a fundraising mismatch.
The governor, his popularity soaring to record highs for his handling of Superstorm Sandy and the ensuing recovery, raised $6.5 million before the primary.
Buono, despite having held positions as state Senate budget committee chair and majority leader, has struggled to gain name recognition and campaign cash. She raised $2.3 million with the help of public campaign financing, but fell shy of the maximum amount she could have received had she gotten more private donors.
Christie faced nominal opposition by Seth Grossman, formerly an Atlantic City councilman, who claimed Christie was too moderate. Buono was opposed by Troy Webster, an aide to the mayor of East Orange.