ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Christie played a central role at the state’s Democratic conference on Friday.
Democratic officials at the New Jersey State Democratic Committee meeting at Harrah’s through Saturday are pointing the finger at the governor, hoping Christie’s drop in some opinion polls could help propel Democrats to victory in November’s top-of-the-ticket Assembly races and beyond.
“We are certainly united behind the fact that the governor has hurt the state of New Jersey,” Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said.
Christie, who is considering a run for the White House and could announce a decision by June, has seen his favorable ratings drop in recent polling in the state, and Democrats are betting this will prevent Republican voters from coming to the ballot in November.
More importantly, they say, it could help Democrats build a veto-proof majority in the 80-seat Assembly where they control 48 seats. They would need to net six new seats. The Assembly is at the top of the ticket this fall, but the 2016 presidential race and the 2017 governor’s contest are also top issues at the conference.
“It’s about every election,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski. “We have an opportunity to elect a veto-proof majority. You don’t succeed in 2017 if you don’t succeed in 2016 and 2015.”
Democrats have tried some 48 times to override Christie’s vetoes but have been blocked each time by Republicans.
Beyond attacking Christie, Democrats embraced traditional party policies like raising the minimum wage, paying women equally to men and contributing more to the state’s public pension fund than Christie has called for. In the state Supreme Court, Christie is fighting a 2011 law affecting pension payments that he and Democrats enacted and has said taxes would need to go up substantially to make the payment.
Organizers say about 600-700 attendees were expected. About 300 people attended Friday’s luncheon.
Speakers included former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, as well as legislative leaders Weinberg, Wisniewski and state Sen. Raymond Lesniak. Philip Murphy, the former ambassador to Germany who is considering a run for governor, also spoke, and former Gov. Jim McGreevey appeared on a panel discussing faith and spirituality.
Democrats control the Legislature and both U.S. Senate seats, as well as half of the state’s congressional delegation. The state has 1.8 million registered Democrats and 1.1 million registered Republicans.
State election law documents show the committee raised about $218,000 in the first quarter of 2015 and has nearly $189,000 cash on hand, compared with $259,000 raised for the GOP and $360,000 cash on hand.
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