Fellow Governors Go Easy on Christie

Fallin and Hickenlooper say none of their colleagues have called on Christie to resign as RGA Chair

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attends his election night event after winning a second term at the Asbury Park Convention Hall on November 05, 2013 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Incumbent Governor Chris Christie defeated his Democratic opponent Barbara Buono by a commanding margin. 
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Karyn Bruggeman
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Karyn Bruggeman
Feb. 21, 2014, 1:15 p.m.

On the eve of this week­end’s winter meet­ing of the Na­tion­al Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation, the group’s lead­ers offered en­cour­age­ment to a be­sieged col­league, New Jer­sey Gov­ernor Chris Christie.

NGA chair Mary Fal­l­in, R-Okla. and vice-chair John Hick­en­loop­er, D-Colo., stopped well short of de­fend­ing Christie dur­ing a private meet­ing with re­port­ers Fri­day at the J.W. Mar­ri­ott hotel in Wash­ing­ton. But the pair did of­fer broad em­pathy to­ward him as a fel­low gov­ernor deal­ing with polit­ic­al is­sues in a state that’s nat­ur­ally at odds with Christie’s party.

“All gov­ernors have is­sues they have to deal with wheth­er you’re Re­pub­lic­an or Demo­crat,” Fal­l­in said. “It’s not easy to lead,” es­pe­cially, she says, when “you have dif­fer­ent fac­tions with­in your state and across the na­tion.”

Hick­en­loop­er re­layed that Christie’s Bridgeg­ate troubles have spawned jokes in his home state of Col­or­ado, but ac­know­ledged that he, as a cen­ter-left Demo­crat in a swing—state, doesn’t face quite the same polit­ic­al fric­tion as Christie does as a Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernor in a blue state. Hick­en­loop­er says people have joked, “The traffic com­ing out of Boulder is really tough. Well, maybe Hick­en­loop­er had a dis­agree­ment with one of the Re­pub­lic­an com­mis­sion­ers of Boulder. Oh, well ac­tu­ally that’s right, there are no Re­pub­lic­an com­mis­sion­ers in Boulder.”

Hick­en­loop­er says people in Col­or­ado make those kinds of jokes be­cause the no­tion of polit­ic­al re­tri­bu­tion is “just nev­er con­sidered” in his state, which he chalked up to re­gion­al dif­fer­ences in the way politi­cians tra­di­tion­ally op­er­ate in the north­east versus the west, dif­fer­ences which he says “have made [Christie’s] job more dif­fi­cult.”

Fal­l­in ar­gued that Christie has been a “good lead­er.” “He’s proven this dur­ing Hur­ricane Sandy. He’s taken on tough is­sues, and at times been pretty strong in his words and how he feels about things. But there are a lot of oth­er gov­ernors that have done those same things as far as ex­press­ing their opin­ions, tak­ing on tough is­sues, fight­ing the good fight to cre­ate change in their states.”

Des­pite much chat­ter to the con­trary, neither Hick­en­loop­er nor Fal­l­in says they have heard of any gov­ernor call­ing on Christie to resign as chair of the Re­pub­lic­an Gov­ernors As­so­ci­ation.

“I’ve nev­er heard of any gov­ernor of any party say that,” Hick­en­loop­er said.

As for what will hap­pen to Christie in the long run, Fal­l­in em­phas­ized the im­port­ance of tak­ing the ne­ces­sary time “to sep­ar­ate the facts from the polit­ics.”

For now, Fal­l­in’s ad­vice to Christie is to fo­cus on his job as gov­ernor. “Every time a gov­ernor goes through something like that you’ve just got to keep the fo­cus on, as [former Mis­sis­sippi Gov­ernor] Haley Bar­bour used to say, you’ve got to keep fo­cus­ing on the main things, the main things, the main thing,” Fal­l­in said. “Keep up what you’d nor­mally be do­ing as a gov­ernor, and don’t get dis­trac­ted by all this oth­er stuff and this noise that’s out there.”

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