Beachgate, Bridgegate: Christie's time in headlines not over
Posted July 8
TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. Chris Christie's week started with Beachgate — viral photos showing him lounging on a public beach closed by the state budget shutdown. Next week, Bridgegate will revisit.
It doesn't promise the same kind of international response, but the term-limited Republican will be in the headlines again when the former aide prosecutors say masterminded the 2013 George Washington Bridge lane closure scheme is sentenced, and when the attorney who represented him during the scandal gets a hearing on Capitol Hill to be the next FBI director.
David Wildstein is set to be sentenced Wednesday, and the GOP Senate is holding a hearing the same day on President Donald Trump's FBI pick, Christopher Wray.
It's a string of events that could grind any other politician's agenda to a halt, said Matthew Hale, a political science professor at Seton Hall University.
"Normally, a week with Bridgegate sentencing, Senate hearings where his name will come up and Beachgate would crush a politician," Hale said.
But for Christie, the events come as he enters lame-duck territory with a 15 percent approval rating and as the Democratic and even Republican candidates running to succeed him toss him aside.
Democratic nominee Phil Murphy is using the beach photos to help raise cash. In an email to supporters Thursday, he wrote that Christie "disgraced New Jersey" by shutting down the government and sitting on the state beach that was closed to the public.
Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who publicly questioned Christie's decision to go to the beach, said the budget Christie signed "spends too much" and that the people "get too little."
Christie has denied wrongdoing and was never charged in the 2013 scheme that has already seen two former aides convicted and sentenced in a plot to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge to retaliate against a Democratic mayor who wouldn't endorse Christie's re-election effort.
He called Wray, a former Justice Department official under George W. Bush, a top-rate lawyer and said he was the only lawyer he sought out when he needed legal help during the bridge scandal. Wray held the missing cellphone that was used by the governor and contained about a dozen text messages that Christie exchanged with a former staffer during a legislative hearing related to the bridge scandal in 2013.
The beach photos came during a three-day government shutdown of nonessential services after Christie and the Democrat-led Legislature failed to reach an agreement on the state's nearly $35 billion budget. The public reaction was compounded in part because, when asked by a reporter, the governor denied getting any "sun."
"I don't apologize for it. I don't back away from it. And I think my poll numbers show I don't care about political optics," Christie said shortly before signing a budget to reopen government.
Christie has also called out the media over what he viewed as unfair coverage of the bridge scandal. And he mocked NJ Advance Media over the photos of him on the beach, saying it deserved a Pulitzer Prize and adding that he was where he said he'd be — with his family.
While that same media will be ablaze with headlines about Christie once again next week, Christie will be a working member of the media himself: He will co-host a sports talk radio show in New York on Monday and Tuesday afternoon.