Chris Christie’s Worst Day as Governor

The New Jersey governor’s presidential prospects are bound to take a hit over politically motivated retribution.

MENDHAM, NJ - NOVEMBER 05: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (C) shakes hands after casting his ballot for New Jersey governor in the general election outside a polling center at the Mendham Township Fire Department on November 05, 2013 in Mendham, New Jersey. Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic challenger Barbara Buono are the top contenders for governor seat but there are six other independent or third party candidates also running: William Araujo, Jeff Boss, Kenneth Kaplan, Diane Sare, Hank Schroeder and Steven Welzer. 
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Steven Shepard
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Steven Shepard
Jan. 8, 2014, 6 a.m.

Since last Novem­ber, Demo­crats have sug­ges­ted that a com­plic­ated story in­volving traffic pat­terns on a bridge con­nect­ing New Jer­sey and New York demon­strated that New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie — the nom­in­al, early front-run­ner for the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion — is a vin­dict­ive bully un­fit for high­er of­fice. On Wed­nes­day, Demo­crats got some ma­jor am­muni­tion for that ef­fort in the form of emails from seni­or Christie ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials that un­veil a co­ordin­ated ef­fort to pun­ish a polit­ic­al rival and con­tra­dict deni­als from Christie and his aides that such an ef­fort ex­is­ted.

It turns out that Christie’s close aides and seni­or of­fi­cials on his reelec­tion cam­paign were in­volved with or aware of plans to choke off ac­cess to the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge, the north­ern­most of the Garden State’s three Hud­son River cross­ings in­to Man­hat­tan, at the foot of the bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., the Ber­gen Re­cord re­por­ted Wed­nes­day. Fort Lee May­or Mark Soko­lich, a Demo­crat, was the ap­par­ent tar­get of the cam­paign, and the snarled traffic is viewed by some as pay­back for Soko­lich’s fail­ure to en­dorse Christie for reelec­tion. Christie won eas­ily at the bal­lot last Novem­ber, earn­ing the sup­port of some of the state’s Demo­crat­ic of­fi­cials along the way.

Christie has denied that his team was in­volved in chan­ging the traffic pat­terns and that they were polit­ic­ally mo­tiv­ated, so Wed­nes­day’s rev­el­a­tions pose threats to his im­age and cred­ib­il­ity. Voters ap­proved when Christie took on Demo­crats and their al­lies on the state budget, and they ap­plauded when he be­rated mem­bers of his own party who op­posed fed­er­al aid for Hur­ricane Sandy vic­tims.

But Christie’s out­spoken style poses risks for him in a pres­id­en­tial cam­paign. And a tale about in­ten­tion­ally di­ver­ted traffic, stran­ded com­muters, and secret polit­ic­al pay­back might sound more “Jer­sey wiseguy” than pres­id­en­tial to a na­tion­al audi­ence. The Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee is already out with a Web video — its third on the sub­ject — in hopes of cap­it­al­iz­ing on the grow­ing con­tro­versy. 

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