Today is the official first day of the general election, and the gloves are off (not that they were ever really on).
As colleague Sean Carlin and I wrote in today's paper, Gov. Christie didn't mention the name of his opponent, Barbara Buono, once last night in his primary victory speech. But he mentioned someone else: Jon Corzine, the unpopular former Democratic governor whom Christie defeated in 2009 amid a state budget crisis.
In fact, he mentioned him twice.
In a radio interview on WNYC this morning, Buono said that Christie brings up Corzine because he "is the only Democrat that he will ever beat." And on Fox 5 in New York today, Buono was asked if she is affiliated with the former Democratic governor.
"No I'm not," Buono said, laughing. "In fact we locked horns quite a few times when I was [senate] budget chair. We didn't agree on a number of things."
The Christie campaign pushed back on this claim. They posted this video clip (below) of the exchange and pulled quotes from press releases indicating Buono's previous support for Corzine and his budgets. Like this quote, from 2008: “I feel fortunate to serve in my position at a time when we have a governor who is thoughtful and deliberate on fiscal matters."
For her part, the Buono camp has pointed to other statements Buono made criticizing the governor. Like this quote from an Associated Press story five weeks before the above press release: "If this is the administration's way of negotiating, that it's my way or the highway, that's very unfortunate. I was under the mistaken impression that we were negotiating at arm's length and apparently that was not accurate."
The Buono team has also noted that she refused to back a Corzine budget unless it trimmed worker benefits.
So is Buono her own woman, or Corzine Part 2? Early on in this race, this is the big fight that the candidates are having.