Stephen M. Sweeney, the state Senate president, decided not to run for governor this year.
Sweeney said on his Facebook page that his focus will center on keeping a Democratic majority in the state Legislature:
After careful consideration and much deliberation, I will not be a candidate for governor in 2013. I've decided my work now needs to be focused on ensuring the Legislature remains in Democratic control. Is there any question about the havoc and pain a Republican Legislature would inflict on the middle class, labor, women and our seniors? For over a decade, New Jersey voters have ensured we have a strong Democratic majority in both houses and I view it as absolutely essential and my job to keep that streak going. We will.
Sweeney, whose Third Legislative District covers all of Salem County and parts of Gloucester and Cumberland counties, was elected state senator in 2001. He began his term as Senate president in 2010. He also served on the Gloucester County Freeholder Board from 1997 to 2010.
He raised the ire of public officials in Ocean City with a call for eliminating beach tag fees for towns that accept federal and state money for beach replenishment projects. Beach tags are a $4 million source of revenue in Ocean City, where the money is used to maintain the beaches.
New Jersey Democrats have struggled so far to put up a big name to challenge Republican Chris Christie for the governorship. Christie, who announced his re-election bid in November, has enjoyed a renewed surge of popularity following Superstorm Sandy. Even Democrats are behind him for approval ratings, and his re-election polling numbers are very strong, reports Newsworks.
A Jan. 23 Quinnipiac University poll on hypothetical governor races showed Christie trouncing any opponent by at least a 2-to-1 margin. He polled 61-25 percent over Sweeney.
In addition to the nationwide attention Christie received—from a Saturday Night Live appearance to a fundraiser hosted by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg—the incumbent also got a significant jump on building his re-election war chest. At the start of 2013, Christie already had $2 million in the bank.
Right now, that leaves former state Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. An Edison carpenter, William Araujo, also threw his hat into the ring for the nomination.
New Jersey's primary election is on June 4. Candidates must file petitions to run by April 1.