BELMAR, N.J. – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may be waist deep in allegations that his office abused its power, but the Republican insisted on Tuesday at a town hall meeting that he wouldn’t trade his job for the world.
Despite the “difficulties and challenges,” Christie told a crowd of about 500 that “there isn’t a day that I get out of bed and don’t want to come into work. There isn’t a day that I don’t feel incredibly privileged” for being elected twice.
Unlike previous town halls, there were no hecklers or protesters interrupting the governor and overshadowing the event Tuesday. The seemingly politically motivated lane closures ordered by his staffers on the George Washington Bridge, and allegations that his office misused Hurricane Sandy relief funds for political ads, did not directly come up.
Christie—perhaps in an effort to repair his public image—has held a slew of town hall meetings since the scandals unfolded earlier this year. Tuesday’s Q&A appearance was his seventh such event in six weeks. The governor has not held a news conference to answer reporters’ questions since his epic, two-hour press conference on Jan. 9 in response to the lane closure revelations. Christie has consistently focused his town hall opening remarks on two subjects: Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts and his budget.
The questions at the Tuesday town hall in Belmar, which was heavily hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, centered on individuals trying to get federal grant money to rebuild their homes and projects the state is embarking on to ensure such extensive damage does not happen in the future.
Christie, as he has done in previous town halls, repeatedly blamed the federal government for several problems, including his inability to allow residents to begin construction – and get reimbursed – as they wait for grants, in addition to the National Flood Insurance Program and its refusal to participate in a mediation program.
At the end of the event, Christie told the crowd that he appreciates the “sense of support” he gets from many in the state. “I know there are times there are things I say that you don’t agree with, you believe I’m doing my best.” The governor took note of his parents, describing how his mother grew up in Newark and never went to college. His father, after serving in the Korean War and working at a Breyers ice cream plant, eventually became the first person in his family to go to college.
Of his mother, he said: “If she were here to see the circus my life has become, she just wouldn’t believe it.”
At the meeting, Therese Daidone, of Brick, N.J., asked Christie about Sandy relief funds. She had bought her home shortly before the storm hit and badly damaged her residence. Daidone said she now rents in addition to paying a mortgage and for storage – but can only do so for a few more months. Christie told the woman, who is waitlisted, she is likely to receive funds from the second round of federal money, which is expected to be doled out next month.
Afterward, when asked if she was optimistic with the governor’s response, she said: “Not really.”
“Money is going out to all these other projects we hear about … I’m playing the waiting game … We’re not getting answers, we’re not getting results,” she said.
Meanwhile, an internal review commissioned by Christie into the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal has found that the potential 2016 presidential candidate had nothing to do with the plan, the New York Times reported. A panel made of state legislators is conducting its own investigation.