TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — With a special legislative committee probing the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, lawmakers were closely listening to Gov. Chris Christie’s State of the State speech on Tuesday.
Christie appeared humble during his address as the Republican tried to maneuver his way through a firestorm of controversy that has threatened his political future, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.
“My guess is he is disappointed, humiliated. But I think he is governing. That is what he does,” said Republican state Sen. Kevin O’Toole.
“The governor says he didn’t know so I have no reason not to believe him. We haven’t found any leaks to him,” Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney added.
But an Assembly select committee on investigations will continue to look into a lane closures scandal that has led to the firing of Christie’s close aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, the stepping down of his campaign manager, and resignations of two of his Port Authority of New York and New Jersey appointees.
The panel will look beyond the speculated motive that the lane closures were retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie during his re-election campaign.
“That it had to do with a large real estate development project scheduled to be started right at the intersection where the lanes come in, we need to get to the bottom of this,” said Democrat and committee head Assemblyman John Wisniewski.
Sources told CBS 2’s Sloan that subpoenas will be issued to at least four more of the governor’s staff members.
“This governor has to clean house,” state Sen. Ray Lesniak said.
Lesniak, a Democrat, said that includes Port Authority Chairman David Samson, who was caught in email exchanges badmouthing his agency’s executive director, Patrick Foye, who appears to have made the right moves after finding out about the fake traffic study.
“He complains about leaks and doesn’t care about all the lives endangered by this reckless act. I think he should step down,” Lesniak said of Samson.
“I think the most dangerous thing now is getting snippets of what they think occurred … interpret that and cast judgment of what they think occurred,” Sen. O’Toole added.
Christie wasted no time in addressing the George Washington Bridge scandal, but not before he stopped to shake the hands of some of the very people investigating him, CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
“Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we were entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better — much better,” Christie said.
New Jersey is no stranger to scandals. Former governor Jim McGreevey stepped down after an affair with a male appointee, and Jon Corzine had to answer about a relationship with the head of a big union.
Political pollster Patrick Murray said the lane closure scandal is different because it involves more than two people.
“What is going to happen is that at one point one of those people will talk and if they implicate others this is a problem,” said Murray, of Monmouth University.
The governor’s speech came as a new poll shows some slippage in his popularity. His 65-percent approval rating has dropped to 59 since the bridge scandal erupted.
The governor left after delivering his speech and said nothing to reporters. He did stop and hug a Democrat who has been one of his biggest supporters, Sloan reported.
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