In an effort to repair his administration’s bruised and battered image, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie nominated a registered Democrat and former attorney general to head the troubled Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Christie said at a news conference on Tuesday in Trenton, N.J. that his pick, John Degnan, 69, will “bring his best judgment without prejudice about any conclusion on where this agency needs to go.”
He added, “At a time when there are significant challenges to the Port Authority, both to its mission and to the purpose it serves to the people of the region, I wanted someone with unquestioned credentials both politically, from a partisan perspective and for most importantly, the issue of integrity.”
Degnan, if confirmed by the Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee, would replace David Samson, who stepped down in March amid so-called “Bridgegate.” Samson maintained he had no knowledge about September’s George Washington Bridge lane closures – ordered by some of Christie’s staffers and allies—seemingly for political retribution. But emails that were made public show Samson was consulted by those who were involved in the scheme.
Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has maintained he had no prior knowledge of the lane closures and has since fired top aide Bridget Anne Kelly and cut ties with his former campaign manager Bill Stepien.
Degnan, 69, attended Harvard Law School and later served as attorney general under Democratic Gov. Brendan Bryne from 1978 to 1981. He launched an unsuccessful bid for governor before working for law firm Shanley & Fisher, eventually serving as vice president and chief administration officer of The Chubb Corporation, according to Forbes.
Degnan gave brief remarks to reporters, insisting he will “come to the job without any preconceived ideas” and that “there is a lot of work ahead of us.”
Christie’s own, internal investigation, which was conducted by a law firm and cost state taxpayers $1 million, concluded the governor was not involved in the scandal, instead blaming others long associated with the plan. Christie’s administration is still being probed by federal prosecutors and a state legislative panel.
When asked by a reporter if he thinks the lane closure scandal investigation has run its course, Christie said he didn’t think it was appropriate to give his opinion during an ongoing investigation. He reiterated his promise to cooperate with the probes, insisting he has allowed for “unprecedented transparency.”
Meanwhile, a recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll showed 41% of New Jersey voters disapprove of Christie’s job performance. And the majority – 63% – said Christie’s own internal review was not objective. Just 22% believe Christie’s explanation of what happened.