Christie, Buono trade barbs in second and final N.J. gubernatorial debate

By Brent Johnson/The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on October 15, 2013

Gov Chris Christie and Sen Barbara Buono debate at Montclair State University for the second and final time before the gubernatorial election next month. Montclair, NJ 10/15/13 (John Munson/The Star-Ledger)


TRENTON — In their second and final gubernatorial debate, Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic challenger Barbara Buono tonight once again showed their sharp differences on everything from the economy and property taxes to support from the state's party bosses.

In one heated exchange, Buono said Christie, a Republican, has been able to forge friendships with party bosses because he "represents the worst combination of bully and bossism."

"You're not interested in cleaning up that boardwalk empire of backroom political bosses," said Buono, who is fair behind in polls and fundraising numbers.

Christie responded by suggesting Buono is jealous he received the endorsement of Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, one of the state's top Democrats.

"Joe DiVincenzo is sitting in the front row, and I'm proud to have his endorsement and you wish you did," Christie said. "You want to start throwing stones tonight, you better get out of your glass house."

Christie also said Buono — a state senator from Middlesex County — has "a significant amount of nerve" because she once supported former county sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo, who was recently sentenced to nine years in prison for a jobs-for-cash scheme.

In another exchange, Christie compared the current federal government shutdown to when the New Jersey government closed its doors in 2006 when Democrat Jon Corzine was governor and Buono was the state Senate budget chair.

Buono said she was tired of Christie pointing fingers at the past. "I'm no Jon Corzine, and you know it," she said.

The hour-and-a-half debate at Montclair State University came three weeks before Christie and Buono face off Nov. 5 in the gubernatorial election.

Christie was asked how he could go from promising to clean up New Jersey when he was the state's U.S. Attorney to forging alliances as governor with Democratic party bosses who have faced corruption allegations. He responded by saying he has worked with Democrats to make New Jersey better.

"People talk about bipartisanship, but they don't know how to do it," he said. "I've shown how to do it."

Buono was asked why she has failed to receive the backing of some major Democrats.

"I wasn't elected to serve their narrow business interests," she said.

Buono said Christie has cut property tax relief and refused to raise taxes on millionaires, while she would redirect tax credit to small businesses. "Those are the ones crying out for help," Buono added.

Christie said to cut property taxes, the state needs civil service reform, more municipalities to consolidate, and sick pay payout reform.

The governor added that Buono has voted against sick pay reform because she's "in the pocket" of unions.

"I'm in nobody's pocket," Buono retorted. "You ought to know that, governor."

Christie was also asked if he believes climate change is real — a claim many Republicans question. The governor said "there is lots of divergent opinion on this issue," but he does believe in climate change and that humans contribute to it.

The two clashed once again on same-sex marriage, two days after the state Supreme Court said it would hear Christie's appeal on a lower court's ruling that New Jersey must begin allowing gay couples to marry on Oct. 21.

Christie said he continues to oppose gay marriage and believes it should be up to voters. Buono — who has an openly gay daughter — said it's a human rights issue and should be allowed.

Asked what he'd say if one of his children said they were gay, Christie said: "I'd grab them and hug them and tell them I love them." He added that he'd tell them: "Dad believes marriage is between one man and one woman. My children understand there will be differences of opinion in my house."

On her education plan, Buono said she wouldn't need to raise taxes on middle- and low-income earners to pay for it. "My plan would be a major re-ordering of priorities," she said, adding that it would fund education based on the School Funding Reform Act she authored.

Christie responded by saying if Buono is elected, she will raise taxes and raise fees. "And she will do it on everybody," he said.

Asked whether he is prepping to run for president in 2016, Christie didn't give a yes or no response.

"I don't think the people of New Jersey would expect me to be able to predict what will happen over the next four years," he said.

Buono said she's used to being under estimated in New Jersey politics. "But I'm tough, and I'm dogged, and I never, ever give up," she said.

Christie said: "I know she is a serious and formidable opponent."

"Well, we agree on something," Buono responded. "That's great."

On a lighter note, asked which convenience store they prefer, Christie said he's a "Wawa guy," while Buono chose 7-11.

But they both said they like to pump their own gas and that jughandles are better than left turns.

"I love jughandles. I've always loved jughandles. And until the day I die, I'm gonna love jughandles," Christie said.

Do you like this post?

Showing 1 reaction

commented 2013-12-26 23:18:58 -0800
Thank you