By Matt Friedman | September 10th, 2009 - 12:58pm
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State Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Middletown) says there’s a “strong undercurrent” of Democratic support for Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie, though few Democrats will come out and say it.

“I can tell you that Chris has talked to a lot of Democrats, a lot of prominent Democrats. People who want to build relationships with him, want to start on the right foot and reach out to someone they think will be the next governor of New Jersey,” said Kyrillos, the chairman of Christie’s campaign,  in a conference call with reporters today.  “Mayors, leaders tell me I can’t really step out front, but I’m with you. You won’t see a big vote turnout here, you won’t see a lot of organization in this town there.”

The point of the conference call was highlight three Democrats who are supporting Christie, though one – Hillside Mayor Joseph Menza – did not wind up on the call and is actually an independent.  The other two were Joan Haberle, who was secretary of state during the first half of former Governor Jim Florio’s administration, and Garfield Councilwoman Tana Raymond, who has appeared for months in Christie campaign commercials and press releases.

Haberle, who Republicans similarly trotted out to support John McCain for president last year, maintained that she usually does vote Democrat.  

“I have always been a Democrat. In fact I was a county leader – I was chairman of the Democratic Party in Hunterdon County,” she said.

Haberle blamed Corzine for the state’s 9.3% unemployment rate and said that, as a commercial realtor, she’s witnessed businesses leave the state because of his policies.  She also brought up Corzine’s relationship with former union leader Carla Katz – something that Christie has purposefully avoided on the trail.

“The other problem that bothers me very much so is the arrogance in the office of the Carla Katz situation, which I’m not going to get very involved in, but if a court order to turn over tapes and you don’t do it, what’s your problem. That means you show complete disregard for the state system,” she said.  (A Mercer County Superior Court judge ordered Corzine to turn over his email correspondence with Katz last year, but the decision was reversed on appeal).  

Raymond, for her part, said that she supported Corzine four years ago but “everything he promised he did not deliver.”  She criticized his negative advertising, saying it made her “Ashamed to be a Democrat.”

Raymond also hit Corzine for spearheading instituting a new school funding formula, saying that her town – an Abbott District – receives $52 million in state aid.

“I don’t know what he plans to do, but I know that the people of Garfield can’t pick up that tab,” she said.  

Christie has described the Abbott decisions as a failed experiment.  

“I get the feeling that there’s a lot of uncertainty when it comes to education on a state level. I’m not saying Chris Christie has all the answers, but knowing the type of man he has and the determination he has, I know he can find solutions,” she said.

Menza issued a statement after the call saying that he has supported Democrats “for decades,” including President Obama in last year’s election and Corzine in 2005.

“This year, however, New Jersey needs change, and I’m supporting Chris Christie because he’ll bring exactly the kind of change that will put an end to politics as usual in Trenton,” he said.

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