Breaking News Emails
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used his state of the state address on Tuesday to seize attention back from a scandal that has engulfed his administration and presidential ambitions.
"The last week has certainly tested this administration," Christie said at the very beginning of his speech. "Mistakes were clearly made, and as a result, we let down the people we were entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better -- much better."
Christie's address at the New Jersey state capitol follows a whirlwind series of days for the 2016 GOP presidential hopeful after local media outlets tied a top aide to the governor (who has since been fired) to a conspiracy to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge last fall as retaliation against a Democratic mayor who declined to endorse his re-election bid.
The ensuing firestorm has engulfed the Christie administration, and risked tarnishing the governor's case for the presidency should he choose to week the GOP nomination in a few years.
But Christie sought on Tuesday to begin moving past the scandal, vowing to "cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to make sure that this breach of trust does not happen again."
"This administration, and this legislature, will not allow the work that needs to improve the people's lives of New Jersey to be delayed for any reason," Christie vowed. "I am the leader of this state and its people, and I stand here today proud to be both."
The governor's desire to quickly move past the scandal might prove fanciful, though.
Democrats and some of Christie's foes within the Republican Party have begun to dig into the scandal. Christie faces ongoing investigations in New Jersey's state legislature, where Democrats control both chambers. And federal authorities are looking into whether promotional ads using Superstorm Sandy relief funds which starred Christie and his family constituted a misuse of funds.
State Democrats were set to respond to Christie immediately after the governor's speech; Democratic research groups previewed the state of the state address with videos suggesting Christie had "embarrassed" New Jersey.
So far, though, Christie's poll numbers -- both in New Jersey, and nationally -- have held steady. But the Asbury Park Press/Monmouth University poll released Monday also found that voters' trust in Christie has declined somewhat, even as a slight majority of the state's residents believe Christie's insistent message that he was not involved with and did not know of the retribution scheme.
Beyond the initial words nodding toward the scandal, though, Christie's address focused largely on issues of state policy. Christie toasted many of the bipartisan accomplishments from his first term that had helped him win re-election by a commanding margin last fall, and burnish his credentials as a White House contender.
"The best part of our turnaround in these past four years is because we have chosen to work together," Christie said.
"These are our achievements. Four balanced budgets. Passed with bipartisan support. Pension reform and tenure reform Passed with bipartisan support. A cap on property taxes. Passed with bipartisan support. We acted and we acted together."
Some elements of Christie's speech were Republican boilerplate. He called for property tax reforms in New Jersey and said the tax burden facing New Jerseyans should not increase. He furthermore called for education reforms, with a particular emphasis on lengthening both the school day and the school year.