Chris Christie, who is waist deep in allegations that his office abused its power, was sworn in for his second term as governor of New Jersey on Tuesday.
The Republican and potential 2016 presidential candidate, made no direct reference to his recent troubles, and instead tried to reclaim his reputation as a no-nonsense, bipartisan leader. The embattled governor pointed to his overwhelming re-election in November, suggesting it was a strong mandate to forge ahead.
“The people have definitively set the course for the next four years,” said Christie. “…It was not a vocal plurality like four years ago. This time it was the largest and loudest voice of affirmation that the people of our state have given to any direction in three decades. Suburbanites and city dwellers. African-Americans and Latinos. Women and men. Doctors and teachers. Factory workers and tradesmen. Republican and Democrats and Independents.”
Christie touted the benefits of small government and bipartisanship, saying “I will make this government truly work for those who pay for it,” at the Trenton inauguration ceremony, which should have been a bells-and-whistles coronation for the popular governor. Instead it was overshadowed by federal and state investigations into his top aides causing traffic jams—seemingly for political retribution.
Just before the ceremony, New Jersey lawmakers announced they were joining forces and creating a special new joint Assembly-Senate super committee to investigate the September lane closures on the George Washington Bridge and other alleged “abuses of government power.” It will consist of eight Assembly members and four senators.
Since he apologized – but denied involvement or knowledge about the scheme – more allegations have rocked his administration, including from Democratic Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer who is claiming her storm-torn city was denied Hurricane Sandy relief funds because she refused support a prime real estate development.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno – who delivered the alleged ultimatum but has vehemently denied the accusations – was also sworn in at the ceremony.
Christie is also being probed for the potential misuse of Hurricane Sandy relief money to produce tourism ads featuring his family during his bed for a second term in office.
Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop has also claimed state officials canceled a series of meetings it set up with Fulop after he told Christie’s allies he wouldn’t be endorsing the Republican governor’s re-election bid. And Olympian Carl Lewis said on Monday that Christie dropped a plan to make him New Jersey’s first physical fitness ambassador after he decided to run against a Republican incumbent for state senate in 2011.
Twenty subpoenas were served by a state legislative panel to key members of Christie’s administration and campaign last week.
Christie, at the inauguration ceremony, touted his state for beginning to beat the economic recession, putting special interests in their place, overcoming Hurricane Sandy and setting the tone for America. He also took a jab at Washington D.C. for having the attitude that “I am always right and you are always wrong” and for putting “political victories ahead of policy agreements.”
“One of the lessons that I have learned most acutely over the last four years is that New Jersey can really be one state. This election has taught us that the ways we divide each other — by race, by class, by ethnicity, by wealth, by political party — is neither permanent nor necessary,” said the governor. ”We have to be willing to play outside the red and blue boxes the media and pundits put us in. We have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us.”
Despite the latest accusations, Christie did a weekend swing throughout south Florida to raise money for the GOP and Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign. (His office announced before the speech that it was canceling the governor’s planned inaugural gala at Ellis Island due to a winter storm.) But Christie’s role as standard-bearer or role model for the GOP is being questioned. Former Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli, who lost to Democrat Terry McAuliffe in that state’s governor’s race, says Chris Christie should resign as head of the Republican Governors Association. “It makes sense for him to step aside,” Cuccinelli said on CNN.