Christie on floods: ‘Want me to go down there with a mop?’
Hours after Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno toured North Wildwood beaches in the aftermath of massive storm flooding, Gov Chris Christie drew Mayor Patrick Rosenello's ire when he called him "crazy mayor down in South Jersey" during a New Hampshire campaign stop.
During a town hall in Hooksett, N.H., the first question came from a woman who said she went to school in New Jersey and and asked the governor on behalf of her friends and family from New Jersey why he was in New Hampshire and not surveying blizzard damage.
"It's already done," responded a testy Christie, who asked her why she thought it wasn't. She said she was seeing pictures and video of damage from "all over the state."
Christie jumped in and replied, "All over the state? Really? There's been one county that's flooded in the state. That was Cape May County. I don't know where from 'all over the state' since we have 21 counties where that's happened. I don't know what you expect me to do. Do you want me to go down there with a mop?"
Christie said that by Sunday morning the roads were clear, NJ Transit was back up and that he had people on the ground ready to evacuate anyone who needed to get out because of flooding.
"People left voluntarily and saw family and friends like we asked them to if they lost their power. Did you know we had 94,000 people without power during the storm on Saturday? Today we have 500 people without power," said Christie to applause.
He mentioned the visit by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and DEP commissioner Bob Consadine to Ortley Beach, Long Beach Island, Stone Harbor and North Wildwood, and said help that would be available to businesses and property owners who need it.
"So for your friends and family who are concerned about why I'm not there I wonder what it is they think I'd be doing today. I'm the governor. I'm not the chief engineer. I run a government of 60,000 people," Christie said. "They know exactly what they need to do, and I was on the phone with them six different times today to check on what's going on."
He said that no matter what he did he would be criticized. "When the storm hit I was there," said Christie.
Christie returned to New Jersey from campaigning in New Hampshire Friday night, after initially saying he had no plans to but would if the forecast got worse. He was back in New Hampshire in time for a 12:30 appearance Sunday, as Cape May County towns continued to grapple with serious flooding.
Christie said it was "him and the plows" on the road Saturday driving around the state, and that he also spoke to several mayors who were experiencing flooding. He blamed CNN for showing the worst of the flooding."
Christie singled out "one crazy mayor down in South Jersey" — Rosenello, of North Wildwood — say the flooding was worse than Sandy.
"His town didn't get hit by Sandy. So of course it's worse than Sandy for him," Christie said.
Rosenello said in a statement that as one of Christie's earliest supporters for governor "I am disappointed that he would lower himself as much as he did this evening."
The mayor said he most disappointed in "the evident lack of concern or respect that he is showing for the first responders, residents, business and property owners of North Wildwood, Cape May County and other areas of New Jersey impacted by this storm. Having spent the entirety of this event in North Wildwood and coordinating with our emergency responders to safely rescue approximately 150 people from their flooded homes, my perspective is somewhat different from that of the governor as he campaigns in New Hampshire."
Earlier in the day, Rosenello had released a statement following a tour of his town with Guadagno and Considine that said it was "insensitive" to compare North Wildwood's damage to Sandy and thanked the governor's office for their assistance.
Christie has come under fire for his statements about the Cape May flooding as he returned to New Hampshire.
Christie, appearing on CNN early Sunday, was asked whether officials in New Jersey were caught off guard by major flooding seen along the southern New Jersey Shore all day Saturday.
“We’ve really done very very well in this storm, and we have no concerns about damage or damage from flooding anytime soon,” Christie said. The governor said that reflected his conversations with local officials.
Gov, Christie on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Monday, accused Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein of “making up” stories about criticism for ignoring heavy damage.
"I know there’s some flooding damage in the southern part of your state, clearly a lot of residual damage from the storm. What do you say to those critics who say, ‘Why did you go back up to New Hampshire so quickly?'” Stein asked.
Christie replied: “Sam, I don’t even know what critics you’re talking about. There is no residual damage, there is no residual flooding damage. All of the flooding receded yesterday morning. And there was no other damage. People were driving around the streets yesterday morning of New Jersey. So this is just what they wish would have happened.”
He continued: “Unfortunately for them we know how to do this. We managed the storm extraordinarily well, New Jersey transit was back at noon yesterday after the storm, our roads were all open as of 7 a.m. yesterday and so, you know, I think that’s just folks who want to criticize me for anything that I do. I have not heard any of that criticism, I haven’t seen any of that criticism and I think you are just making it up.”
Monday, state Sen. Jeff Van Drew issued a statement asking Christie to immediately apply to the federal government for a federal disaster relief declaration for Cape May and Cumberland Counties.