If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has any chance of gaining traction in his bid to become the 2016 Republican candidate for president he has to maintain support in suburban communities like East Greenwich Township, a small, predominately white, upper middle income area located about fifty miles south of Trenton, NJ’s capital city.
Republican Christie received 71.5 percent of the votes in East Greenwich Township when he won a landslide reelection in 2013, up nearly twenty points from his 2009 victory margin in that community where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans.
Today however, the most likely thing Christie would get from East Greenwich Township is a chorus of boos and a mass wave of middle fingers because he was notably MIA (Missing In Action) during the aftermath of a recent storm that tore through large sections of southern New Jersey. The 85 mph winds in that storm sent trees crashing into houses and cut electric service to tens of thousands of homes and small businesses for days.
Residents of East Greenwich Township and other Gloucester County communities pummeled by that storm are fuming because Christie, a self-proclaimed Hands-On Manager, ignored their pleas for help. Residents across sections of four South Jersey counties hit hard by that powerful storm are bitter that their state’s governor campaigned heavily during past weeks in Iowa and New Hampshire but couldn’t find time to at least tour their storm ravaged communities.
Dale Archer, the Republican mayor of East Greenwich Township, told reporters that, “I have lost all respect for our governor. Most importantly…he’s lost my vote.”
The mayor of adjacent Greenwich Township, George Shivery, told reporters that he called Christie’s office twice pleading for help for his town after the storm but the only response he received was an email asking for a contribution to Christie’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
“I have been a supporter [of Christie] from day one,” said Russell Johnson, the Republican mayor of Pittman, another small Gloucester County town ravaged by the storm. Like those Greenwich communities, Christie won big in Pittman during his 2013 reelection but today Mayor Johnson said Christie “has lost my support.”
While late night talk show hosts constantly make fat-jokes about Christie, growing numbers of New Jersey residents are seeing their governor as a fraud more focused on his presidential agenda than in effectively administering his state where residents are moving out due to high property taxes and low job growth. New Jersey has led the nation in outward migration for four of the past five years.
When Christie recently announced his formal bid for the Republican presidential nomination in late June he had dismal poll ratings across New Jersey where 55 percent disapprove of his performance in office. That Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, taken weeks before that recent damaging storm, recorded a 35 percent unfavorable rating for Christie among Republicans and 70 percent among Democrats.
When Christie made his presidential bid announcement over one thousand demonstrators protested at that event. Those demonstrators included victims from Hurricane Sandy who fault Christie for failing to make reconstruction of their ruined homes and damaged shore towns a priority. Christie had utilized federal aid for Sandy relief to make a feel-good, promotional video about his commitment to repair hurricane damage that was broadcast repeatedly statewide, coincidentally, during the last weeks of his 2013 reelection campaign.
Christie has burnished his blunt talking gubernatorial image by bashing public school teachers and teacher unions. Yet, Christie used the public high school he attended as the site prop for his presidential bid announcement. Most of those demonstrating against Christie at that announcement event were public school teachers fed-up with Christie castigating them for supposedly being more concerned about their incomes than about the educational outcomes of their students. Contrary to Christie’s contentions though, student achievement in the state’s public schools ranks among the best in the nation.
The same Christie who boosts his presidential candidacy on his alleged practice of responsible fiscal conservatism has in fact presided over a state government that saw its credit rating reduced nearly nine times due largely to Christie reneging on deals made with Democratic legislators to properly fund the state’s ailing pension system.
The same Christie who proclaims that he is the right guy to run the country apparently can’t even run his own office. One of those indicted by federal prosecutors for orchestrating the infamous closure of toll lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey and New York City was a top aide to Christie whose office was in the same suite as Christie’s office. The self-styled vigilant Christie claimed he had no clue about the shenanigans engineered by his top aide and his political appointee at the Port Authority allegedly responsible for what became known as Bridge Gate.
Christie spokesmen deflect criticisms directed at their boss for his failures in the wake of that storm declaring Christie “is concerned” but he was tied up with state budget matters not political campaigning. However Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, locked in a bruising budget battle with a Republican controlled legislature, found time to tour areas in Southeastern Pennsylvania smashed by that storm.
Christie is the fourteenth candidate in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. After he held his announcement event in his North Jersey hometown left for campaigning in New Hampshire.
‘Christie: Bad for New Jersey – Disaster for U.S.A.’ was a slogan on tee shirts worn by some demonstrators at his announcement.
Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.