New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tried to turn the page Tuesday on the traffic scandal that has imperiled his political future, using his State of the State address to apologize again before brandishing his achievements in office.
“The last week has certainly tested this administration,” Christie said in opening a speech that quickly pivoted away from the scandal after a promise to cooperate with all investigations. “Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better. Much better.”
The annual address — Christie’s first since he was overwhelmingly re-elected in November — came as he is grappling with the first serious scandal of his political career. Documents that surfaced last week showed his aides plotting to snarl traffic in a North Jersey town as payback because the town’s mayor didn’t back his re-election. New Jersey lawmakers and federal authorities are both probing the incident, for which Christie apologized and fired a top aide last week.
Christie, a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2016, was adamant Tuesday that the scandal won’t distract him from forging ahead in his second term.
“But I also want to assure the people of New Jersey today that what has occurred does not define us or our state,” Christie said. “This administration and this legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people’s lives in New Jersey to be delayed.”
He cited four consecutive years of private-sector job growth and the lowest unemployment rate in five years.
“The good news is that today, the state of our state is good and it is getting better,” Christie said.
And the governor, who ruffled GOP feathers when he toured storm-wrecked areas of the state with President Barack Obama ahead of Obama’s 2012 re-election, also gestured toward his bipartisan bona fides.
“No state in this country has shown more bipartisan cooperation in the last four years than New Jersey,” Christie said, “and our people are proud of it.”