Codey opts out of running against Christie
TRENTON - State Sen. Richard J. Codey would rather focus on his family-owned funeral business than run in November against Gov. Christie, the Essex County Democrat said Friday.
Despite weeks of speculation and a trip to Washington to woo big donors, Codey decided to scrap a campaign after his youngest son, Chris, said he would like to go into the family business and asked Codey to forgo the gubernatorial race.
"That was hard to overcome," Codey said Friday.
His family has owned a funeral business in Essex County since 1911. Last fall, Codey bought a second location in Morris County.
With less than nine months before the election, Democrats have yet to rally around a gubernatorial candidate. Christie, meanwhile, becomes ever more the juggernaut: The Republican has raised more than $2 million, and polls continue to show him far ahead of potential Democratic candidates.
One prominent Democrat, State Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex), announced her candidacy in December. But Democrats have not embraced her, waiting for others to mull over a possible run.
Some state Democrats have begun endorsing Buono, calling for an end to lingering speculation.
"With Gov. Codey's decision today, New Jersey Democrats should come together on behalf of Barbara Buono's candidacy for governor," State Sen. Joseph Vitale (D., Middlesex) said in a statement Friday. "She knows the struggles of working New Jerseyans because she's lived them."
But others continue to wait, including Codey.
"I don't think there's any reason for me to endorse anyone today," he said. "If she is the nominee, I'd be happy to support her. Let's see what happens."
The watching and waiting began with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who was considered the best Democratic candidate to take on the popular governor. Booker bowed out in the final weeks of the year, saying he was considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2014.
With Codey out, few known possibilities remain.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) has said he is considering a run, but he won't decide until the end of the month, and "he's sticking to his timeline," said Kevin Hagin, who spoke on Sweeney's behalf Friday.
Some Democrats have urged U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D., N.J.) of Paterson to run. As of last week, Pascrell said he hadn't ruled it out. His office did not return a call for further comment on Friday.
Codey said he garnered $20 million in fund-raising commitments, and he hopes those will go toward the eventual nominee.
Codey, 66, served as governor for 14 months after Jim McGreevey resigned in 2004. He has been in the Legislature since 1973, and intends to run for reelection to the Senate.
Contact Joelle Farrell at 856-779-3237 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @joellefarrell.
Inquirer Washington correspondent Jonathan Tamari contributed to this article.