Christie Inaugural Ignores Scandal, Hails Bipartisanship [AUDIO, VIDEO]
Flanked by his family and most members of the State legislature, Gov. Chris Christie was officially sworn in Tuesday to begin a second term as New Jersey’s chief executive. He delivered an inaugural address focused bipartisanship and his agenda, with no mention of the scandals currently plaguing his administration.
“Today, once again, the people of New Jersey have given me the opportunity to serve,” said Christie in his 20-minute address. “We are at the dawn of a new age of pride and growth in our state and its people…I believe in you New Jersey and I always, always will.”
Prior to the 11:30 a.m. ceremonies at Trenton's War Memorial, New Jersey's Democratic legislative leadership announced the Assembly and Senate will merge investigative committees probing the decision to close access lanes to the George Washington Bridge and other matters raising concerns about the abuse of government power.
Principle among those other matters are charges made this past weekend by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. Zimmer, a Democrat who had previously given Republican Christie high praise, now claims Lt. Gov. Kim Gaudagno threatened to hold back Sandy relief money for Hoboken unless Zimmer approved a development project favored by Christie. Guadagno and other administration officials have issued strong denials, releasing Sandy aid numbers they said contradicted Zimmer's claim. But the Hoboken mayor is standing by her.
In his address Tuesday, the governor stressed the importance of growing the economy, improving education, helping the middle class and those struggling with addiction. Christie also assailed the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. and vowed to stand by his principles in his second term while also remaining willing to compromise.
“Today, I thank all those who have once again placed their faith and trust in me and I make this promise: I will not let up, I will insist we work together and I will make this government truly work for those who pay for it,” said Christie.
Tuesday's snowstorm also complicated the inauguration, forcing cancellation of a planned gala on Ellis Island which was to start at 7 p.m.
New Jersey political observers were prepared for a much less bipartisan scene at this second Christie inaugural.
"What a difference four years makes," said Monmouth University poll director Patrick Murray. "In his first inauguration, the big moment in that was when he invited the Senate president and Assembly speaker (both Democrats) up to the podium to join with him in a show of bipartisanship."
Despite themes of unity sounded in the advance text, Murray said, "It's not even so much about working together, but whether they'd want to be seen with him when they don't know which way the wind is blowing in these scandals," Murray said. "We're going to see a very, very different type of inauguration than we did four years ago because they won't have that show of bipartisanship today."
Christie has been the GOP frontrunner for president in 2016, according to many polls, but appears to have lost some luster in the eyes of some national Republicans over the Bridgegate scandal. The governor has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing on his part.
Democrats and even some fellow Republicans have been in attack mode for weeks. Almost two weeks ago, emails surfaced showing members of the governor's inner circle apparently orchestrating the closure of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September in retaliation against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, who had declined to endorse Christie's re-election bid.
But the advance text of the inaugural address signaled the governor would steer clear of Bridgegate and the Hoboken allegations and focus on themes easily adapted to a potential GOP presidential campaign.
“We will fight to continue to change government so that we value our differences and honor the strength of our diversity. We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, DC. The attitude that says I am always right and you are always wrong," Christie said. "The attitude that puts everyone into a box they are not permitted to leave. The attitude that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements. The belief that compromise is a dirty word."
The governor also sounded the small government note essential to any Republican presidential aspirant, saying, "I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive government that penalizes success and then gives the pittance left to a few in the name of income equity. What New Jerseyans want is an unfettered opportunity to succeed in the way they define success. They want an equal chance at the starting; not a government guaranteed result."
There was also a call to accept and appreciate diversity, something many national Republicans believe is essential to growing the party's base for 2016.
Christie said, "We have to be willing to play outside the red and blue boxes the media and pundits put us in; we have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us; we have to be willing to personally reach out a helping hand to a neighbor suffering from drug addiction, depression or the dignity stripping loss of a job."