ATLANTIC CITY — More than 200 supporters welcomed Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono here Saturday at a campaign event sponsored by Mayor Lorenzo Langford, who officially endorsed her run against incumbent Gov. Chris Christie.
Buono said the city’s future is critical to the economy of New Jersey and the region.
Buono heavily promoted women’s rights and highlighted what she said are the differences between her and Christie. Buono said Christie’s actions suggest that “women don’t matter.”
“He cut funding for women’s health and Planned Parenthood four years in a row. I take that personally. When I was in college I relied on Planned Parenthood,” said Buono, speaking at Langford’s campaign headquarters on Atlantic Avenue.
Buono said Christie is “proudly anti-choice” and does not think women deserve equal pay for equal work.
“Only one candidate has a history of standing up for the women of New Jersey. It’s about values. I will be the governor who will stand up for women.”
Buono also was critical of Christie’s stance on preschool funding and cast blame on him for the high unemployment rate at the Shore. She said he is anti-union.
“He says unions are the problem. We’ll take care of that on Nov. 5. I’ll work with every fiber in my being to make sure we take back the Statehouse,” Buono said.
Buono said Christie’s policies are giving tax cuts to corporations and millionaires while “people are being smothered by the highest property taxes in the nation.”
This struck a chord with audience member Mike Scott, a former business administrator for the city who is now retired. The people of the city are “just trying to survive” and achieve something for their families, he said. But he had dealings with the governor’s staff when he worked for the city and they were often “discourteous and disrespectful.”
“I think it was energy-filled. She had her finger on the pulse of the community. As a male, I think we need some leadership from women who are rising up and taking their rightful places,” Scott said.
Langford and his wife, Nynell, organized the rally. Langford, who is running for re-election, said he wanted his volunteers to “hear and see what she’s about.”
“It’s important for us as leaders to energize the electorate, not only for the Atlantic City race but for the governor’s race, as well,” Langford said.
Buono’s speech was briefly interrupted when the microphone stopped working. It didn’t seem to faze her.
“I have six kids. I can project,” she joked.
Speaking with a poster of President Obama in the background with the word “change” emblazoned on it, and another poster to re-elect Langford, she called Christie an opportunist and said she is the candidate to restore “hope and opportunity to New Jersey.”
State Sen. Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, also spoke for Buono at the event. Oliver said Christie and former Republican Gov. Christie Whitman were not good for African-Americans, Atlantic City or the middle class.
She said Whitman’s contribution to the city was building a tunnel into town that displaced residents. She said some come to the city, stuff money in their pockets, and then “hit the (Atlantic City) Expressway.” She said there were unfulfilled promises of jobs, affordable housing and better schools.
“There is a not a resident of this town who should cast a vote for Chris Christie. Not one,” Oliver said. “Barbara Buono knows about neighborhoods and stabilized communities. Barbara Buono will be a governor for the people who live here.”
Oliver also pumped up Langford’s campaign, saying he won’t let “unscrupulous people” control Atlantic City.
“A team of Langford and Buono ... can advance the dream,” Oliver said.
Oliver also spoke about challenges facing urban areas, including Atlantic City but also Pleasantville, Newark, Camden and others. She said Buono has demonstrated a commitment to urban communities.
“We need policies to help people where the greatest population of the state lives,” Oliver said.
Contact Richard Degener: