Scandal-Tested Christie Sworn In For Second Term As NJ Governor
TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Chris Christie has been sworn in for a second term as governor of New Jersey.
Christie took the oath of office just before noon in Trenton on Tuesday, attending a prayer service in Newark before the swearing-in ceremony.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who was drawn into the Sandy aid controversy surrounding Christie last weekend, was also sworn in for her second term.
The 55th governor of New Jersey, who starts a second term with multiple investigations into his administration’s tactics under way, accented bipartisanship and diversity in his inaugural speech. He did not mention the scandals surrounding his administration Tuesday.
“We have survived the worst natural disaster in our state’s history and worked together to restore, renew and rebuild the state we love,” Christie said. “Each one of these challenges has been met by a new, unified force in public life — a New Jersey setting the tone for an entire nation. A tough New Jersey. A resilient New Jersey. A Proud New Jersey.”
Watch Gov. Christie’s Second Inaugural Address:
“You have to be willing to play outside the red and blue boxes that the media pundits put us in,” he said. “We have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us.”
Christie also returned to a favorite theme: Washington gridlock.
“We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C.,” he said. “The attitude that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements.”
“Suburbanites and city dwellers. African Americans and Latinos. Women and men. Doctors and teachers. Factory workers and tradesmen. Republicans and Democrats and Independents. Together, they have demanded that we stay the course they have helped set. To stand up for what is right. To fight the fights worth fighting. And, most of all, to work together to make government work for each and every one of those voices of affirmation.”
Christie said he views his landslide victory in November — by a 22-point margin over Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono — as a mandate by voters to stay the course.
“We have no moral option in my view but to heed the voice of the voters, and that is exactly what I intend to do,” the governor said.
Despite Christie’s troubles, former Gov. Thomas Kean said he seemed like a man who still has designs on the White House.
“And I think a lot of people around the country would like to keep him on that road,” Kean told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “We’ll see how the investigation comes out.”
Watch Gov. Christie Take Oath Of Office:
Weather has taken a toll on Christie’s inauguration celebrations.
Organizers have canceled the party that was scheduled for Tuesday night on Ellis Island. There’s fear heavy snow would pose a travel hazard.
Catered food for the event will be donated to food pantries in the Jersey City area.
The celebrations to mark the start of Christie’s second term could also be tempered by investigations into traffic tie-ups that appear to have been ordered by his staff for political retribution and an allegation that his administration linked Superstorm Sandy aid to approval for a real estate project.
Ellis Island was to be a symbolic spot for the inaugural party. The island where some 12 million immigrants first entered the U.S. is divided between New Jersey and New York, but his party was to have been in a hall on the New York side.
The $500 tickets to the inaugural celebration and other contributions were to be used to help support three charities: Save Ellis Island, The New Hope Baptist Church and New Jersey Heroes, which was founded by first lady Mary Pat Christie.
The Republican governor built a national following as a blunt-talking and often funny politician who strived to show that he could find common ground with Democrats on some key issues, including overhauling the state’s public-worker pension program and making it easier to fire teachers who are found to be underperforming.
Christie became a fixture in speculation about who would seek the 2016 presidential nomination with his leadership after Superstorm Sandy slammed into his state in October 2012.
He worked with President Barack Obama and took on Republican members of Congress who were reluctant to approve aid for storm victims, receiving high marks from his constituents and plentiful national attention.
But his reputation has been battered somewhat since revelations this month that a staffer ordered two of three approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge from the town of Fort Lee shut down for four days in September apparently as political retribution against the mayor there, perhaps for not endorsing Christie for re-election.
The U.S. attorney’s office and two state legislative committees are now investigating.
The state assembly has issued subpoenas to 20 New Jersey officials, many of them top aides to Christie, to testify under oath as to what they knew about the lane closures and when they knew it.
Christie has apologized, denied any involvement with or knowledge of the plot and fired a deputy chief of staff at the center of the controversy. But questions have continued.
“Mistakes were clearly made and as a result we let down the people we’re entrusted to serve,” Christie said during his State of the State address last week. “I know our citizens deserve better, much better.”
Christie’s administration also faces an allegation from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer who said she was pressured by Guadagno to green light a real estate development project in exchange for much-needed Sandy recovery money.
“She very clearly said these things shouldn’t be connected, but they are and it’s not right, and if you tell anyone, I’ll deny it,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer produced letters she wrote Christie’s office in April and May, urging they not connect project support with Sandy.
Zimmer said Guadagno came to her weeks later to strong-arm her in person — a claim Guadagno strongly denies.
“Any suggestion that Sandy funds were tied to the approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false,” Guadagno said. “Being a Sandy victim myself makes the mayor’s allegations particularly offensive to me.”
In his re-election campaign, Christie did not make big new promises, but said he would continue to work on recovery from Sandy, seek tax cuts and push for other previous priorities with which the Democrat-controlled Legislature has not been willing to go along.
Christie has not ruled out a 2016 presidential run.
Meanwhile, a new poll shows the scandals and accusations against Christie are taking a toll on his popularity.
The Pew Research Center survey finds unfavorable opinions of Christie have doubled over the past year.
His favorable level, which was at 40 percent last year, has declined to 38 percent.
Those who view the governor unfavorably has doubled from 17 percent last year to 34 percent.
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