New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was honored Wednesday with a “Father of the Year” award.
Every year, the National Father’s Day Committee – an entity of the Father’s Day/Mother’s Day Council – honors leaders who are dedicated to family, citizenship, charity and responsibility.
The honor is a positive moment for the governor in a year that has been tainted with allegations that his office abused its power. Christie’s administration is under federal and state investigation following revelations that some of governor’s staffers and allies ordered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge back in September—seemingly for political retribution. Christie – who once led the GOP in the nascent race to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2016 – has denied any prior knowledge, but his popularity has since taken a big hit.
Christie, a father of four children ranging in ages from 10 to 20, told a group of more than 800 people at the luncheon benefit Wednesday for the non-profit “Save the Children” that the award represented a recognition of the most important aspect of his life – his family.
“I get recognized and criticized and praised for all kinds of other things. But the most important thing I get to do every day is to be a father to my four children. And it’s the most lasting and important thing that I’ll ever do with my life,” said Christie at the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan. He was accompanied by his 18-year-old daughter, Bridget.
Christie often brings up his kids during his public remarks. At every town hall meeting he has held this year, the sometimes-brash governor has humorously said he’s “trained to ignore yell-out questions” because of his big family. At Wednesday’s ceremony, Christie joked that upon hearing their father won the award, his kids “just blankly stared back at me and said: ‘really?’”
Other recipients of the award this year were Bloomingdale’s CEO Tony Spring, designer Vince Camuto and football star Curtis Martin.
In previous years, former president Bill Clinton, hoops legend Shaquille O’Neal, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were given the award.
Despite the governor’s recent troubles, Christie – who chairs the Republican Governors Association – has proven he still has fundraising prowess. The RGA has highlighted its record fundraising hauls – $23.5 million in the first quarter – under Christie’s leadership. Last week, he was in New Mexico to stump on behalf of the state’ governor, Susana Martinez before going to Tennessee to fundraise for Sen. Lamar Alexander. Both Martinez and Alexander are up for re-election.
On Wednesday it was announced that Christie will keynote the annual Faith & Freedom Coalition “Road to Majority” conference in Washington, D.C., where thousands of evangelicals are set to gather and hear from potential 2016 candidates. Last year, Christie was noticeably absent from the event. Other GOP speakers this year include Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Christie has said he doesn’t intend to make a decision on a White House bid until a year from now. He has said he doesn’t think the lane closure scandal will make a difference to voters. The speech at the conference demonstrates a commitment to reach out to key conservative voters who often play a crucial role in determining early primaries.
Christie leads a largely Democratic state, and the governor has never been a favorite of his party’s right flank. There’s still anger over Christie’s warm embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy, shortly before the 2012 presidential election. And many in the conservative base think Christie is too moderate on issues like gun control, climate change and gay marriage.
The latest RealClearPolitics average of polling data from March 18 to May 4 surrounding the 2016 GOP presidential nomination shows Paul and Huckabee tied in the lead with 13% support each. Christie came in fourth place behind former Florida Gov Jeb Bush.