Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who leads his re-election challenger by 30 percentage points in polls, won the support of Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, one of the state’s most influential Democratic leaders.
Today’s endorsement from DiVincenzo, who oversees the county that includes Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, comes a day after Christie won the backing of state Senator and Union City Mayor Brian Stack, the first sitting legislator and sixth mayor to cross the aisle in support of the governor.
“I don’t know how many more votes this will mean for me in November,” Christie told about 100 people today in West Orange. “I’ve watched politics in this state most of my life, and I never thought that I’d see a day like this.”
Christie, 50, already has been endorsed by several lesser-known Democrats who have said backing the incumbent was their smartest move because he’s likely to win a second term. The governor led Democratic state Senator Barbara Buono 59 percent to 29 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. Sixty-five percent of respondents said he deserves another term, including 35 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of independent voters.
Christie lost Essex County in 2009 when he unseated Democrat Jon Corzine to become the first Republican elected governor since 1997.
DiVincenzo was joined by Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura and more than a dozen mayors, council members and black clergy during his endorsement event. Democratic mayors from Belleville, Orange, Glen Ridge and Livingston backed Christie.
“He embraced President Obama a week before the election and he told his party it’s about New Jersey,” DiVincenzo said, referring to the governor’s approach after Hurricane Sandy last year. “What he’s shown is a willingness to work across the aisle.”
Christie has forged alliances with prominent Democrats, including DiVincenzo on his pension overhaul, Newark Mayor Cory Booker on public education changes and southern New Jersey party leader George Norcross on his plans to reshape the state university system.
Brigid Harrison, a professor of government at New Jersey’s Montclair State University, said the endorsement shows Christie’s ability to win support from Democratic leaders he blamed for weak state finances and high taxes in his 2009 campaign.
“The alliance between Democratic party bosses and Christie is really a formidable obstacle for any opponent, and it’s particularly damaging to Barbara Buono because it’s coming from a geographic area of the state that should be her stronghold,” Harrison said in an interview.
The governor has appeared at DiVincenzo events in recent months, including his State of the County speech in February and the opening of a sea lion exhibit at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange in April.
The Democratic State Committee rallied around Buono, a 59-year-old lawyer from Metuchen, after more popular members of her party -- Booker, former acting Governor Richard Codey and Senate President Stephen Sweeney -- all opted not to run.
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