(PERTH AMBOY, N.J.) -- State Sen. Barbara Buono, the woman running against Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey, has a much quieter campaign trail than the GOP star. It’s not just about crowd size, although that is stark as well. High profile Democrats have parachuted in to campaign for her, including Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and Chair of the Democratic National Committee Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
But it’s much lonelier when you look at the big names about to campaign for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe. Both Hillary and Bill Clinton have already hit the road for their old friend, and President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will stump with him Sunday and Monday.
And of course, big names bring the chance at bigger dollars.
“All I would say is, it would have been nice to have more support,” Buono said, referring to national Democratic groups. “I have a lot of support from other validators outside the state like Deval Patrick … but yes, it would have been better if I had more financial support.”
Obama famously appeared with Christie days before the 2012 election in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, angering some Republicans. They appeared together again in May on a South Jersey boardwalk. Buono also met the president that day, but it was a private event with a larger group of people.
Buono knows that because Christie and third-party groups working on Christie’s behalf had money earlier, they were able to go on the air early in the state and “tried to define her.” New Jersey is one of the most expensive places to run ads in the country because it’s two markets, New York City and Philadelphia, are both pricey.
Christie has a two to one polling advantage, but the Republican National Committee says they have 40 staffers on the ground in the Garden State, including two focused solely on Hispanic voter outreach.
In comparison, there is only one national Democratic staffer on the ground in the state, according to a Democratic source, sent from the Democratic National Committee. The DNC confirms that Regena Thomas has been working as a “senior advisor” to both the party and the campaign for the “better part of a year.” The DNC also says their communications and political departments have worked with the campaign throughout the election.
“New Jersey residents have been hurt by Chris Christie and his policies,” DNC spokesperson Michael Czin said. “He promised a ‘comeback,’ but 400,000 residents remain out of work, the foreclosure rate remains the second highest in the nation and property taxes continue to rise.”
Buono, on the other hand, adds Czin, “has spent her entire career fighting for working families by supporting investments in public education, access to quality health care for those who need it most and has a proven record to strengthen the state’s faltering economy.”
On the campaign trail Thursday, a dozen people -- a few aides, a few reporters and a handful of supporters -- showed up to support Buono, who calls herself “tenacious” and “dogged” and has served her state since 1994, becoming the first woman to serve as chair of the state senate’s Budget Committee and the first woman to serve as that body’s majority leader. She is now the first female Democratic gubernatorial nominee in the state’s history.
Buono was born in Newark, N.J., and grew up in Nutley, N.J., putting herself through college and law school with help from education loans, grants, and Social Security death benefits after her father, an Italian immigrant who worked as a butcher, died when she was 19, leaving her on her own.
Her “entire life has been an uphill battle,” she said at a press conference on Thursday. “I am the little guy, I am the underdog…This is a piece of cake compared to living on the edge of that financial abyss.”
Election Day is Tuesday and Christie is currently on a bus tour through the home stretch that will make 46 stops throughout the state. Buono will be in her hometown of Metuchen on Tuesday night, while Christie is planning a big bash in Asbury Park.
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