Christie defeated conservative Seth Grossman in the Republican primary, and Buono won over Troy Webster, an aide to the mayor of East Orange, in the Democratic primary on Tuesday night.
About 1,200 people told the Christie campaign they would attend his primary night victory party at the Marriott in Bridgewater.
“Republicans love this governor. They want to come out and support him. They can’t wait to see him re-elected and maybe win one or both houses of the Legislature,” said Bill Palatucci, an adviser to Christie. “I find the enthusiasm is really high.”
Buono, meanwhile, looked to cast doubt on the governor’s claims that New Jersey’s economy has turned around, focusing attention on the state’s continuing high unemployment and high property taxes.
Other races of note included the Democratic primaries for state Senate in Union and Essex counties, the Republican primary in Monmouth County, and the Atlantic City mayor’s race.
In Monmouth, Sen. Joe Kyrillos defeated tea party activist Leigh-Ann Bellew, by a margin of 78 percent to Bellew’s 22 percent, with 62 percent of the precincts reporting.
In Union, Sen. Ray Lesniak was challenged by Roselle Board of Education president Donna Obe. Lesniak had 65 percent of the vote to Obe’s 35 percent, with 79 percent of the precincts reporting as of 9:35 p.m.
In Essex, Sen. Nia Gill faced a challenge from Seton Hall Law School professor Mark Alexander. As of 9 p.m., Gill had been declared the winner with 65 percent of the vote compared to 28 percent for Alexander, and 8 percent for former East Orange School Board President Vernon Pullins Jr.
And, in Atlantic City, Christie nemesis Lorenzo Langford, the Democratic incumbent, was being challenged by city Freeholder Charles Garrett and David Davidson Jr., the retired former head of the city police union. The county Democratic party was backing Garrett.
Langford claimed victory Tuesday night before final results were tallied.
With all precincts reporting at 9:47 p.m., Langford was leading the pack with 50 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent for Garrett, and 17 percent for Davidson. Langford had been at the bottom earlier in the count.
The race between Christie and Buono has been lopsided thus far.
The governor, whose popularity soared to record highs after Superstorm Sandy pummeled the coast, has out-raised and out-spent his lesser-known opponent. Christie raised $6.5 million before the primary, enough to produce TV ads in English and Spanish and to air them in the pricy New York and Philadelphia media markets. He appeared at the shore with Prince Harry and President Barack Obama.
Buono, who despite having held positions as state Senate budget committee chair and majority leader, remains unknown to a majority of voters. She raised $2.3 million with the help of public campaign financing, but fell shy of the maximum amount she could have received had she had more private donors.
With so little cash on hand, she has been more reliant on YouTube and grass roots meet-and-greets to get word out about her campaign. Outside groups have helped promote Buono and ding Christie, however.
While Republicans are in lock-step with Christie, Buono has struggled to gain traction within her own party. Some Democrats have been sitting on their hands or working against her. Christie, meanwhile, has picked up a string of Democratic endorsements.
The state has 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. When Christie won in 2009, it was against an unpopular incumbent, former Gov. Jon Corzine.
“The statute provides for the governor of New Jersey to make this decision if the governor deems it advisable to have a special election,” Christie said. “I deem it advisable to have a special election — in fact, I deem it necessary.”
Christie said he intends to appoint someone to fill the seat in the meantime, but he didn’t say who. The special primary would be Aug. 13 with the special election held Oct. 16.
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