JERSEY CITY — Governor-Elect Chris Christie said that Assembly Majority Leader-Elect Joseph Cryan (D-Union), the head of the state Democratic Party, “stuck out like a sore thumb” at a press conference with other incoming legislative leaders yesterday.
While most of the other leaders said they were not willing to “waver” on core Democratic principles, they took a more conciliatory tone towards Christie. Cryan, however, had the toughest rhetoric, reminding Christie that every incumbent legislator was reelected and 47 out of 48 assembly seats remained Democratic.
“I would suggest to Mr. Cryan to get out of Democratic State Committee chairman mode, and that he get into the mode of governing,” said Christie.
Christie said that he did not hear the same tone from incoming Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford), Assembly Speaker-Elect Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange), Senate Majority Leader-Elect Barbara Buono (D-Metuchen) or state Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge), the incoming chair of the appropriations committee.
“And I was listening very carefully,” said Christie. “So listen, I know this is a tough conversion for Joe. He presided over a losing statewide election. So it’s difficult for him to get out of that mode and to admit what happened.”
Christie said he looked forward to working with Cryan as majority leader, “not as chairman of his political party.”
“Maybe it’s good that they make a change at the Democratic State Committee sooner rather than later so he can change his mindset, and get into the idea that everyone else seems to be into, myself included: that it’s time to govern for the people of the State of New Jersey,” he said.
Reached by phone, Cryan kept his response short.
”I’ll be just as interested to see Mr. Christie’s transition from prosecutor to governor,” he said.
Asked about whether he agreed with Gov. Jon Corzine on getting emergency food and energy relief for New Jerseyans during the lame duck session, Christie said he is “willing to work with everybody on everything, but “The fact of the matter is we’re broke… and it’s getting worse, not better.”
“I’m going to work with the governor on things that are of absolute necessity, but this is the attitude that continues to get us in trouble to get along,” he said.
Christie made the comments in response to a question during a press conference at St. Lucy’s Shelter, where he toured the shelter’s dormitory and then spent about 10 minutes packing Thanksgiving dinners for the needy.
The event was organized by political consultant Tom Bertolli and education and reform activist Shelley Skinner, a registered Democrat who helps run the Learning Community Charter School, which Christie visited during the campaign. Skinner was named to Christie’s education transition team yesterday.
Shortly before the event, the Jersey Journal reported that Christie was subpoenaed by white supremacist blogger Hal Turner to testify at his federal trial. Turner, accused of threatening three federal judges, claims that he was an informant for the FBI and was issued a “Blanket Letter of Declination” by Christie, refusing to prosecute him.
Christie said he had not been served the subpoena and did not know about it. He cast doubt on the prospect of testifying because of the sensitive nature of internal deliberations in the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“If they really want me, we’ll obviously consult with the Justice Department and see what we’re supposed to do,” he said.
Also present at St. Lucy’s was state Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham (D-Jersey City), who is also a member of Christie’s transition team; Jersey City Department of Housing, Economic Development & Commerce Director Carl Czaplicki; and Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
As U.S. Attorney, Christie touched off the corruption investigation that ultimately ensnared scores of Jersey City officials and politicians – some of whom were close allies with Healy – and some of whom were accused of funneling bribe money into Healy’s reelection fund. And both Healy and Czaplicki, neither of whom were charged, factored into the investigation as unnamed officials – “Jersey City Official 4” and “Jersey City Official 3,” respectively. Criminal complaints from the U.S. Attorney’s Office against others recounted Healy and Czaplicki meeting with FBI informant Solomon Dwek, who was posing as a developer attempting to get politicians to speed through permits and approvals in exchange for cash (the meetings took place after Christie had left the office).
Healy said he did not find the event awkward.
“He’s the new governor, and we wish him the greatest success possible. If he’s successful, all the people I work for – a quarter of a million people in Jersey City – are going to be better off for him,” he said. “We’re rooting for him.”