Some say Christie’s gone too much to govern New Jersey
MAPLE SHADE, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's presidential run is adding a new dimension to his already complicated relationship with Democrats in his home state.
Democrats who have alternately supported his major initiatives and bashed him are telling a national audience that he's not worthy of the presidency — even that he should resign as governor. At the very least, he should be sure not to ignore his home state, they say — all while using their opposition to him as a new way to raise money.
In the days leading up to Christie's presidential campaign announcement Tuesday in Livingston, the state Democratic Committee sent supporters an email asking for contributions, telling them: "Urgent 2016 action needed. Chris Christie's White House run is nothing to take lightly. His misguided priorities have driven our state into a ditch. If we want to stop him, we'll need your buy-in right now."
And Monday, they held a teleconference with political reporters as Democratic officials and other activists pre-emptively stated their case against Christie, blaming him for an economy growing slower than those in neighboring states and the education funding cuts he made in the midst of a budget crisis five years ago.
The complaints have come in recent days from the New Jersey Education Association, a longtime foil for the Republican governor; the liberal group New Jersey Citizen Action; and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who said stepping down "would probably be in the best interest of the residents."
It's not unusual for critics of governors running for president to make such calls; there have been some calls in Louisiana, for instance, for Bobby Jindal, who also is seeking the GOP nomination, to step down as governor.
But Christie has been gone from the state frequently — an average of nearly three days a week in 2015 following heavy travels last year when he served as chairman of the Republican Governors Association and campaigned across the country. Several of his staffers also have followed him to the presidential campaign, including his former communications deputy, Maria Comella.
At a news conference on June 25 — his only one in New Jersey so far this year — Christie said technology and the New Jersey journalists who follow him everywhere keep him focused on his day job. "The idea that as governor of New Jersey you can ever really be disconnected — if you do it the way I do it, then you just can't," he said.
But Christie did concede that his travel schedule has had an effect on him. After delivering his state budget address in February, he vowed to hold a town hall event in the state every week until the budget was signed. He made good on that for seven weeks but has held only two in the state since April.
"It ain't easy. I got tired. I said: 'Listen guys, I'm tired. And when I'm tired, I make mistakes. You don't want to make mistakes.' So that's why I did it," he said. "You want a more honest answer than that? I was tired of it."
There's been weariness of Christie at home, too.
A Monmouth University poll released last week found that 76 percent of voters, including a slight majority of Republicans, thought Christie was more focused on his own political future than governing New Jersey. Independent public opinion polls in New Jersey also have found that the majority of the state's voters don't think he would make a good president.
Gary Brown, a barber in Maple Shade, a Philadelphia suburb with the slogan "Nice town, friendly people," said he's never been a Christie supporter but a couple years ago thought he had a real shot at the presidency. That belief has since changed. "A few years back, he was shaking things up," said Brown, 43. "Recently, he's probably been missing in action."
Christie has gathered endorsements from some 200 New Jersey Republican elected officials and party leaders. But not every GOP official is on board.
Greenwich Township Mayor George Shivery said he was the first elected official in Gloucester County to offer his endorsement when Christie first ran for governor and has supported him ever since. But Shivery isn't sure he wants to see him as president — partly because of what he sees as recent inaction.
He said Christie didn't call him or visit the area after a strong thunderstorm hit his town on June 23, leveling trees, cutting power and forcing some people out of their homes.
"I've known the governor since his first primary, and I expected more of him," Shivery told The Associated Press.
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