New Jersey labor leader Ray Pocino was expected to endorse Gov. Chris Christie today in his first re-election campaign appearance, an event that culminates a three -year courtship by the Republican of private sector unions.
According to the Newark Star-Ledger
, Pocino, who represents some 20,000 New Jersey construction workers as vice president of the Laborers International Union of North America, were expected to appear together in Aberdeen. Pocino supported incumbent Democratic Gov. John Corzine three years ago. But he has backed Republicans in the past, as he did with former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman.
The labor leader's endorsement, however, is another indication that Christie could be a formidable candidate as he makes his case for a second term. Recent polls, including one just this week, indicate that his popularity has soared because of his immediate, on-the-ground response to Hurricane Sandy, which included his public embrace of President Barack Obama during the heated presidential campaign to make sure that no politics would play a role in dealing with the storm's aftermath.
Democrats are now waiting for a decision from Newark Mayor Cory Booker on whether he intends to challenge Christie. One other potential Democratic challenger is state Senate President Steve Sweeney, who is also a top official in the state ironworkers union.
Christie has often been odds with the state's public sector unions. But apparently his standing with public unions hasn't suffered, despite his decision two years ago to halt the construction of a Hudson River train tunnel that would have linked New Jersey with Manhattan.
Christie has often been quoted as saying he's not anti-union, a point he made in pushing for completion of the two stalled casino projects worth about $6 billion.
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