(CNN) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie now has a Democratic challenger as he runs for re-election next year, but it's probably not the candidate you may have had in mind.
New Jersey state Sen. Barbara Buono Tuesday officially announced her bid for governor in an email to supporters and on her campaign website. In a video, the Democratic state lawmaker criticized the tough-talking Republican governor.
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"Today our state has an unemployment crisis, the highest jobless rate in over three decades. Instead of bipartisanship, Gov. Christie has offered trickle down economics, policies that have landed New Jersey 47th out of 50 states for economic growth," said Buono. "It's time for a leader in Trenton who will put the middle class first - lifting our schools instead of scapegoating our teachers; protecting property taxpayers rather than pushing income tax cuts for millionaires."
The Christie campaign pushed back against Buono's comments.
"Barbara Buono has never met a tax increase she didn't like. She was a chief architect of the failed tax, borrow and spend policies of the Corzine years. Sen. Buono ushered in an era of skyrocketing taxes and reckless spending that sent New Jersey's economy spiraling in the wrong direction," Christie campaign strategist Mike DuHaime told CNN.
Buono's announcement comes two days after Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he would make a decision on running for governor in the next two weeks, adding that there were many good Democratic candidates in his state that are waiting for his announcement. Booker, who's considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, could possibly be a field-clearing candidate if he decides on a bid for the Democratic nomination.
But Booker may pass on a gubernatorial run next year and instead campaign for U.S. Senate in 2014 if Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a fellow Democrat who turns 89 next month, decides to retire instead of running for re-election.
New Jersey state Senate President Steve Sweeney is also seriously considering a bid for governor. Other Democrats contemplating a 2013 run are state Sen. Richard Codey, who served as governor for 14 months following the November 2004 resignation of then-Gov. Jim McGreevey, as well as state Assembly member Lou Greenwald.
Fellow assembly member John Wisniewski announced over the weekend that he was not going to run for governor.
Christie announced his re-election bid late last month. A slew of recent polls in New Jersey indicated that the governor's approval rating was soaring, thanks in part to his very active response to Superstorm Sandy, which struck the Garden State in late October and caused severe damage.
The surveys also indicated that Christie had large double-digit leads over all of his potential Democratic challengers, including Booker, in hypothetical 2013 general election matchups.
Asked about those polls, Booker said Monday on CNN's "Starting Point" that "Christie is vulnerable, as it should be, because there's a lot of issues in the state he's not falling in line with. From women's issues, environmental issues, from really going in a balanced way."
At a news conference a few hours later, Christie responded to Booker's comments, saying, "What do you expect him to say? If I'm vulnerable at 77% so be it. That's OK. I'm fine."
New Jersey, along with Virginia, are the only two states to hold gubernatorial contests in the year after a presidential election. Because they are the only games in town, they often receive outsized attention.
- CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this story.