2014: ‘The year of Bridgegate’ in New Jersey
What started as a strong year for Gov. Chris Christie following his landslide re-election quickly hit a roadblock in January when the so-called Bridgegate scandal began.
Christie entered 2014 hitting on all cylinders. He was fresh off a 22-point re-election victory and had positive poll numbers that were the envy of governors across the country. Christie was beginning his year-long stint as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and was an early frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination. In early 2014, however, everything changed when now infamous "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" email was made public.
"In New Jersey, 2014 is going to be the year of Bridgegate," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "It's incredible that Chris Christie entered this year as the odds-on favorite to get the Republican nomination with job approval ratings that were approaching 70 percent and then within a week or two of the year starting that all crumbled."
In September, access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee were closed without advance warning which jammed up traffic for hours. Democrats feel the lanes might have been ordered closed as political payback to the town's Democratic mayor for refusing to endorse Christie's re-election.
In early January an email sent from Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly to David Wildstein, the number-two man at the Port Authority, was made public. The email read, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
Since that time, Kelly and Wildstein have been fired. Christie also cut ties with his long time advisor and campaign strategist Bill Stepien. Christie's top appointee to the Port Authority, Bill Baroni, was also fired.
The governor has denied any involvement in the lane closures and a law firm he hired to investigate cleared him of any wrongdoing.
The U.S. Attorney is still investigating and indictments could come as early as January 2015.
"Even though he's (Christie) recovered from the initial impact of it we still have issues around the U.S. Attorney's Office that may just trickle out for a long time coming. Bridgegate still haunts the governor to this day," Murray said.