TRENTON - State Sen. Barbara Buono's campaign fund-raising in her bid to be governor lags so badly that without a major push in the next four weeks, she risks not maximizing state matching money in her run against Gov. Christie.
On Monday, Buono, a Democrat, reported having raised "just under" $1.9 million, including $1.1 million in matching funds.
To be able to spend the maximum of $5.6 million on the June 4 primary, she must bring get close to $1.2 million more from donors. That's more in just over one month than she has been able to raise in four.
The slow fund-raising has a real impact on the way the election is playing out. While Christie's campaign, which says it has raised $6.2 million so far, has spent more than $1 million on TV ads, Buono is posting videos online.
While Buono is speaking regularly, criticizing Christie's economic and social policies, she is not well known. A Rutgers-Eagleton Poll last month found seven in 10 voters had no opinion about her. Her campaign is regularly e-mailing supporters with pleas for donations, including one sent Monday.
In a statement Monday, Buono campaign spokesman David Turner downplayed how little Buono had been able to raise. "Our campaign is going to have the resources necessary to communicate her vision for a New Jersey where everyone has the same chance at success," he said.
For the general election, candidates who receive a public match can spend $12.2 million, but they must raise $4 million on their own to get the full match.
For politics watchers, Buono's scramble for money adds an element of intrigue otherwise absent from the primary election.
While other candidates are on the ballot, neither she nor Christie is facing high-profile competition.
Christie on Monday released selected key figures from a campaign finance filing due later that day, including that he's raised $6.2 million for the primary. His campaign said that 85 percent of the money came from New Jersey donors, but that contributions came from all 50 states.
Buono's campaign did not release details Monday afternoon from her filing.
Both reports are to be made public in their entirety next week by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission.
New Jersey has had public financing of gubernatorial primaries since 1981. Since then, several candidates have been unable to raise enough to get the maximum state match. But never has a candidate who took public money failed to get the maximum match and still won a primary or general election.
The last time a major-party candidate in the general election could not get the full matching amount was in 1985, when Democrat Peter Shapiro fell just short of getting the maximum money in his run against popular Republican incumbent Thomas H. Kean, who was reelected with 70 percent of the vote.
Christie is forgoing public financing for his reelection bid and faces no legal limits on his spending.