Monday, September 12, 2016

Christie blasts the kind of Democrats he used to court

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

Charles Stile reports in The Record:
Last month, three Somerset County officials stood at the base of a tiny, two-lane bridge, gripping a banner with a fairly concise plea: “Christie, Fix This Bridge.”

It succeeded in grabbing Christie’s attention. And it stoked his fury.

“What a shock: Three Democratic mayors blaming me,” Christie said Aug. 29 when asked about their demand that he allow state crews to resume repair work on the span in Rocky Hill, a fly-speck borough of roughly 700 just north of Princeton. 

Christie halted work on the project, and scores of others around the state, in July amid a stalemate with Democrats in the Legislature over transportation funding.
“I could care less what Democratic mayors think about a bridge,” he added.

It was a startling retort from a governor who three years ago cared very deeply what Democratic mayors thought and needed. Christie and his aides doted on them with offers of administration help, invitations to holiday dinners and funding.

His “Democratic mayors” remarks also reflected the Christie black-and-white brand of partisanship, where those who defy or cross him are classified as irredeemable enemies. And it is the same “you’re with me or you’re against me” ethos that could be dissected in the upcoming federal trial of two top former Christie aides, accused of illegally shutting down access to a much bigger span, the George Washington Bridge.

Federal prosecutors contend that Bridget Anne Kelly, a onetime deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, Christie’s top appointee to the Port Authority, plotted to create gridlock at the foot of the world’s busiest bridge during five mornings in September 2013 to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who refused to endorse Christie’s reelection that year. David Wildstein, a former Baroni deputy who was involved in the scheme, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and is expected to testify for the government.

The trial is expected to open a window into the inner workings of an administration that often blurred the lines between governing and campaign politics. It was an administration that turned what was seemingly a benign constituent operation on the third floor of the State House into a de facto office for Christie’s 2013 reelection. The Office of Intergovernmental Affairs was guided by a “T-100” list of mayors targeted for extra attention by Christie officials for velvet glove treatment, and later for their endorsements, according to documents and testimony from the Legislature’s investigation into the lane closures.

It was also an administration that was constantly keeping score. On the second day of the lane closings, Kelly lamented in a text message to Wildstein that the closures caused many Fort Lee students to be late on their first day of school. Wildstein replied, “They are the children of Buono voters,” a reference to Barbara Buono, the Democratic nominee for governor challenging Christie.

To some extent, Christie’s lashing out at the “Democratic mayors” protesting the Rocky Hill bridge is an echo of the “Buono voters” quip. These mayors are not simply officials who have a legitimate complaint about the havoc caused by the closed bridge in their region. They are, in Christie’s view, Democrats trying to score political points at his expense.

Read the full story here

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