State Senator Barbara Buono's decision to seek the Democratic nod for a gubernatorial run gets high marks from influential party faithful in Ocean County.

Former Toms River Mayor Paul Brush. (Ilya Hemlin/Townsquare Media NJ)

Former Toms River Mayor and onetime county Freeholder Paul Brush says that his meetings with her left the impression of a bright, well-liked and independent-thinking lawmaker who isn't afraid to cross swords with party leaders. He adds that the Metuchen 59-year-old is showing commitment and energy that hasn't surfaced among any others considered front-runners.

"[Newark Mayor] Cory Booker has said he'll decide shortly whether he'll run for Governor...Senator Codey is interested," says Brush. "And you know what? I admire her for getting out there early."

Brush considers that her location will be a valuable asset, something that may have hindered state Senator Joe Kyrillos in his failed U.S. Senate bid. "Senator Kyrillos suffers from being south of the Raritan River," Brush offers wryly. "Senator Buono is north of the Raritan River. A lot of people forget about us down here in Central and South Jersey. Senator Buono is well-known in the more populous parts of the state."

Buono launches her campaign at the same time that Governor Christie enjoys record-setting job-approval ratings, buoyed by his response to Hurricane Sandy. Brush views it as good strategy.

"I would imagine that she's also going to want to let people know what her plans are on the rebuilding of the shore and the areas affected by the storm," he says. "Why not get out there now and appeal to people about what her plans are and how they may differ with the Governor's, or agree with the Governor's?"

Plus, says Brush, Buono can reach into a demographic that continues to evade Christie. "He doesn't poll as well with women as he does with men," notes Brush, "and I think that she can appeal to women and others of an independent mind. I think it would be a very interesting campaign against Governor Christie if she was the candidate."

Buono served a year on the Metuchen Council in 1993 before moving to the state Assembly, then reaching the Senate in 2002. She's vice chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee and also serves on panels addressing health and human services, senior citizens, historic preservation, state government, wagering and tourism.