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Grapevine

Grapevine: Buono unafraid of 'Street Fight'

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The conventional wisdom is Cory Booker will clear the Democratic field if he decides to challenge Chris Christie for governor. But conventional wisdom hasn't made its way to Barbara Buono, apparently.

A Democratic source said Buono is "willing to take on anybody in a primary" and "stake her claim to the progressive wing of the party."

The state senator has long been rumored to want to run in 2013, but has made no announcement yet.

Christie's popularity has surged after Hurricane Sandy, which could give some Democrats pause about making a bid for governor. But Buono "could benefit dramatically" in a Don Quixote-type quest for governor if others decide to sit it out, the source said.

As for the speculation that the Newark mayor might run for governor next year, another Democratic source just doesn't see it happening.

"Does Cory want to go to the (expletive) Pennsauken parade?" the Democrat said about all the glad-handing Booker would have to do as governor. The source saw the U.S. Senate as a better fit for Booker: "Cory Booker can be Ted Kennedy" and be in Congress for 30 years, the source said. "He can go to Hollywood and Monte Carlo, and everyone will kiss his ass."

Booker has said he will soon decide whether he is running.

Assurance for insurance

Christie has until Dec. 14 to decide whether the Garden State should run its own health insurance exchange in 2014, when the Affordable Care Act will provide subsidies to moderate-income Americans to defray the cost of coverage purchased on the new state-based, online insurance markets. A veteran health policy expert in Trenton said it's unlikely the governor will turn the entire job over to the federal government, but Christie may opt for a hybrid setup, in which Washington provides the technological firepower, but New Jersey makes the public policy decisions.

But this expert said the state's health insurers are very busy getting ready to sell policies on the exchange, whatever form it ultimately takes.

He's got eyes only for Gibbons

Last week, Grapevine reported Bill Palatucci met with Ed Deutsch about possible employment at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter before accepting his new job with Gibbons earlier in November. On Nov. 26, Palatucci contacted NJBIZ to say he had never met with Deutsch and never even had a conversation with Deutsch about employment at the Morristown-based law firm.

Raising the Barchi

A Rutgers University insider told Grapevine that the state school is a "totally different place than it was six months ago."

The source said what Dr. Robert Barchi has been able to accomplish in just three months as president of the university has "just kicked the university into a whole other orbit" athletically, financially and academically. Since Labor Day weekend, when Barchi took the helm, the merger with UMDNJ was finalized, a $750 million bond referendum passed and the school finalized a long-rumored move to the Big Ten athletic conference. Barchi is said to have played a large role in each major decision.

The source said Richard McCormick got the school "started down the path" to these changes, but Barchi "closed the deal."

"Everyone is excited about what Bob Barchi has done for the university in the last three months," the source said.

Beating back Basel

Bankers across New Jersey are getting ready to comply with the complex new Basel III capital rules proposed by federal regulators, while also hoping strong objections to the new rules from bankers and regulators will lead to an easing of these new regs — at least, for small community banks.

But one industry expert said bankers should hope for the best and prepare for the worst: "The regulators are running scared, and unless more political pressure is put on them, most of it (Basel III) will go through."

Bankers have a long history of lobbying to scale back regulations, but now "are not just crying wolf," another expert said. Asked if the current pushback against Basel III is having an impact, the source said, "It's too early to tell — but I have not seen it yet."

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com.

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