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New Jersey Governors, One On One

Craig Allen and Governor Christie
photo by Craig Allen

With the November edition of “Ask The Governor” coming up Tuesday Night (November 22) at 7pm, I got to thinking about the governors I have met since the 1980s.

Fair warning: If you are hoping that I am going to get political and bash any of them, you are going to be disappointed.  I started my radio career as a news reporter, and I am going to maintain my objectivity here.

In the late 80′s, I was working at the first station to “Ask The Governor.”  The State Police would lock down the building about an hour before broadcast time.  Staff wore station I-D badges, and it was pretty tense.  Then Governor Tom Kean would breeze in.  During the show, he was all business.  Beforehand, he was easy to engage in conversation.  Once, I was rather surprised how casual it could be.  While setting up the studio, I asked: “What did you do today, Governor?” Kean smiled, and said that some old friends had stopped by the statehouse for the afternoon, and “we were just ****in’ around.”  I maintained a poker face, while mentally asking: Did the governor just drop an f-bomb?!

Jim Florio.  He was all business, on and off the show.  Once, when I received my renewal driver’s license, I was shocked to find that my birthdate was “00″ rather than “25.”  Should I notify the DMV? I decided to ask the governor.  Florio looked at my license, and said: “I wouldn’t worry about it.”  And, I didn’t.  But, I always felt that I had extra incentive to avoid any “police activity.”

Christie Whitman.  While I was living and working in Philadelphia during her tenure, we did meet.  As a new radio reporter in 1985, I interviewed her when she was a Somerset County Freeholder.  Once, I remember seeing her at a Freeholder meeting in a checkered skirt and pigtails.  Very different from the Christie Whitman we saw on national TV in November 2000, counting hanging chads in Florida.

When Governor Whitman took a job with the Bush administration, Donald DiFrancesco became Acting Governor.  I was still out of state, and never met him.

Jim McGreevy.  Again, its back to the future in 1985.  On my first night covering the Woodbridge Township Council, the print reporters helped me get up to speed: “See the young guy? That’s Jim McGreevy.  He’s ambitious. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ran for governor one day.”  And, it came to pass.  Flash forward to 2003.  I’m a New Jersey 101.5 personality.  Rushing out the studio door, Governor McGreevy spies me.  He asks my name, and shakes my hand, saying: “Very nice to meet you!” With that, he’s gone.  And, we know what happened shortly thereafter.

Dick Codey.  I was standing inches from the Acting Governor, as he and a former afternoon host almost came to blows.  It was surreal.

Jon Corzine.  Then-Senator Corzine was seated directly across from me, as I engineered the 2005 Radio Network Gubernatorial Debate.  When his opponent made a remark that Corzine took exception to, he’d look up from his legal pad, make eye contact with me, and shake his head.  Governor Corzine made few visits to New Jersey 101.5.

Chris Christie.  First, he signed a pledge (on a paper plate) that if elected, he would do “Ask The Governor” every month for 4 years.  He even came in for an “Ask The Governor-Elect Show.” After that show, as I was still running the news and commercial breaks, Christie came around behind the board to shake my hand, and thank me for helping! Like Tom Kean, Chris Christie is a governor who is easy to engage in conversation.  And, as you can hear on the show, and in NJ101.5 promos, he enjoys talking with you, the caller.  His face is very expressive, and I have to admit that its fun to be standing across the engineering board from him as he tells a caller to stop complaining, and get a backbone!  After the August show, I pulled the governor aside, and asked if I could get a quick picture.  “Absolutely!”

Whether as a news reporter, or as a radio programmer, its been a privilege to meet so many New Jersey Governors.

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