TRENTON, New Jersey (Reuters) — New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie turned to themes of small but compassionate
government and bipartisan cooperation in his second inaugural address on
Tuesday, making no direct mention of the abuse of power charges facing
A charismatic and tough-talking fiscal conservative, Christie is
widely seen as a Republican contender for the White House in 2016.
Although he cruised to re-election in November, Christie has gone on
the defensive in recent weeks amid allegations that his top aides
orchestrated massive traffic snarls to exact political revenge and
that his administration withheld Superstorm Sandy relief money to
pressure a local mayor into approving a development deal.
In his address in the state capital of Trenton after he was sworn
into his second term, Christie returned to the themes that have been
hallmarks of his political brand and criticized the idea that an
"almighty government" can "fix any problem."
"I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive
government that penalizes success and then gives the pittance left
to a few in the name of income equity," Christie said.
Christie also returned to a subject common to his speeches: the need
for Republicans and Democrats to work together.
"We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C. ... The
attitude that puts political victories ahead of policy agreements.
The belief that compromise is a dirty word," said Christie. "As your
governor, I will always be willing to listen, as long as that
listening ends in decisive action for the people who are counting on
us to do our job."
State Senate President Steve Sweeney, a top Democrat, said the
speech was "long on rhetoric and short on solutions" and called for
Christie's support for an earned income tax credit and higher taxes
for the state's top earners.
"The governor delivered a nice speech today, but the working
families of New Jersey deserve real results," Sweeney said in a
A POLITICAL TEMPEST
Christie's second term begins amid a tempest — an area snowstorm
forced the cancellation of his inaugural party Tuesday evening on
Ellis Island — as well as a political storm that began this month
over a traffic-related scandal.
Emails released just weeks ago seemed to show that aides
deliberately snarled traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by closing
access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, which links New Jersey
and New York.
The lane closures appeared to be retribution against Fort Lee's
Democratic mayor, who declined to endorse Christie for re-election.
Christie has said he did not know of his aides' plans, and he fired
and cut ties with them after their roles were revealed. Federal
prosecutors and both chambers of the state legislature are
investigating the lane closings, which occurred without notice for
four days in September.
In a sign the scandal is taking a toll on Christie's image, a
Quinnipiac University poll found that just 35 percent of registered
voters said he would make a good president, compared to almost half
who voiced that opinion two months ago.
"New Jersey Governor Christopher Christie's 2016 presidential drive
is stuck in traffic," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the
Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Three-quarters of the voters surveyed had heard of the traffic
scandal, and half said it would damage Christie's 2016 White House
hopes. The poll of 1,933 registered voters was conducted from
January 15 to January 19, with a margin of error of plus or minus
2.2 percentage points.
The scandal broke two months after Christie, who has built a
political reputation on his blunt-spoken manner and his success in
getting his agenda through a heavily Democratic state, easily won
Democrats have since raised other accusations. Last week, Hoboken
Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat and frequent Christie ally, claimed
the governor's administration had linked the release of Superstorm
Sandy relief funds to approval of a Hoboken development project.
Zimmer has said Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno warned her that
Christie would withhold recovery funding if Zimmer did not support a
bid by the New York-based Rockefeller Group to build on several
blocks in the city.
Christie's spokesman over the weekend dismissed the Hoboken mayor's
claims as false, as did Guadagno.
Federal officials are also reviewing Christie's use of about $2
million in storm relief funds for a tourism campaign that features
him and his family. New Jersey Democratic Representative Frank
Pallone requested the probe, saying he was concerned about the
bidding process for the marketing campaign.
A spokesman for Christie said there was nothing improper about the
campaign and suggested Pallone's inquiry was politically motivated.
(Writing by Edith Honan; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Amanda Kwan)