The labor leader Sen. Barbara Buono picked as her running mate in the New Jersey governor’s race says she is “embarrassed” about not voting in two statewide elections, but says it’s because she was working from before dawn to past dusk making sure others exercised their right to vote.
Milly Silva did not vote in general elections in 2009, when Republican Gov. Chris Christie ran for governor for the first time, or 2011. She was an unaffiliated voter until last year, so she was ineligible to vote in Democratic Party primaries before then.
As executive vice president of health-care worker union SEIU 1199, Silva said it was her job to make sure the elderly or disabled voters had rides to polling stations on election day and to coordinate election volunteers. She said that work kept her from her own voting district in Montclair from before polls opened until after they closed.
“I’m embarrassed about that,” she said Tuesday, following a campaign stop in Willingboro, the first joint appearance for the all-female ticket since Buono introduced Silva on Monday.
Buono and Silva are New Jersey’s first all-female ticket and just the third in the country.
Buono, who has lagged Christie in polls and fundraising, said she has a strong bond with her running mate because they both came from modest circumstances and succeeded because they were given the opportunity to get an education with the help of scholarships, student loans and part-time jobs. Buono expressed “supreme confidence” in Silva’s abilities.
Silva, who represents 8,000 home health aides and nursing home workers, brings a ready volunteer and fundraising network to the campaign.
The Christie administration has criticized her as unqualified to be governor, but the candidate for the No. 2 slot says her experience as a private union leader has given her the skills needed to run a state government.
Buono dismissed the criticism as gender-based and unfair.
“I’d like to know why it’s OK for [people] like Schwarzenegger and Reagan to take on the job of governor of a state and somehow they’re qualified when a woman who has the vast experience that Milly does in bringing people together, in forging compromises and moving ahead in terms of working people in New Jersey, why that’s singled out as not being enough.”