Grading Chris Christie’s Biggest Defeats

Watching Governor Chris Christie’s shocking BridgeGate implosion, it’s easy to forget the time when he truly seemed unstoppable.  Blessed with incredible political gifts and a Jersey bluster to match, Christie seemed to be — to paraphrase his campaign — playing 3-D chess while the rest of us were playing checkers.  It’s an audacious analogy but given Chris Christie’s meteoric rise,  a fair comparison.  But despite his well-earned (carefully-cultivated) alpha-dog persona, Chris Christie’s opened a few cans of whoopass in his day. 
That’s what this post is all about: recalling the times Chris Christie tasted defeat.  

Redistricting

In early 2011, the GOP and Democratic “redistricting squads” went into battle in that once-a-decade partisan-a-polooza we call redistricting.  (For the uninitiated, that’s when the contours of New Jersey’s 40 legislative districts get redrawn after each census to reflect population changes between decades.)   Redistricting is quintessential partisan bloodsport: both sides vigorously and aggressively push a different map to ensure their own advantage and this time, well, “New Jersey Democrats won a crucial victory for the next decade as the state redistricting commission approved their legislative district map, dealing a blow to Republican hopes of retaking control of the Legislature.” 

In other words, for the duration of his Governorship every item on Chris Christie’s agenda has to pass through through the opposition party.  That’s what losing the redistricting fight means to the Governor.  Faced with a political landscape that favored the Democrats, Chris Christie insinuated himself in the fight by (almost) literally crashing the otherwise deliberative, staid redistricting process: “‘This is just part of his personality. He is the only person who knows how to do anything,” said (a Democratic rival) sarcastically, “and he wants to be in charge…Either that or he doesn’t trust his team.”

By putting himself on the line through unprecedented intrusion into the legislative redistricting process, Governor Chris Christie has to live with the loser label on this one, as both a practical matter (he’ll never get the Republican majority he coveted) and politically: he looked the part by going all-in and coming up short.  In retrospect, this was the first proper defeat the Dems leveled on the Governor.  And in a delicious display of foreshadowing, the head of the Democratic redistricting squad was Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who’d later lead the investigations that served up #BridgeGate.

N.J. Supreme Court to Gov: “you can’t eliminate housing agency!”

Chris Christie’s biggest NJ Supreme Court defeat was resounding: “in a 5-2 decision, the court ruled that Christie overstepped his authority in 2011 when he announced plans to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing.” 

 

“NorthJersey.com: The ruling represents a major reversal for Christie’s efforts to expand the powers of the New Jersey governor, which are already considered among the most expansive in the United States. It also protects the independence of state agencies that regulate everything from campaign finance to development in the Highlands and Pinelands.”

Adam Gordon argued the case against Christie for the Fair Share Housing Center, an advocacy org that sued to save the affordable housing agency from Chris Christie’s insatiable desire to consolidate power.  According to Gordon, Christie didn’t take any lessons from his Supreme Court beat-down, “Since the ruling, Gov. Christie has done one thing after another to block working families, low-income seniors, and people with special needs from having decent homes in communities throughout New Jersey,” Gordon tells PolitickerNJ. “Gov. Christie has carried on this obstruction despite its tragic consequences for so many people displaced after Sandy who need a decent place to live, putting his personal politics above what people need to rebuild.

Putting personal politics before anything any everyone. Sounds about right. 

As Gays Wedding Bells Ring in New Jersey, Christie Surrenders Court Fight

Chris Christie campaigned in 2009 on a promise to deprive gays and lesbians the right to marry in New Jersey.   He delivered on that promise in Feb 2012 when he vetoed a gay marriage liberty bill.  His veto was never about New Jersey voters. After all, Governor Christie is among a dwindling number — only 28% in the latest Rutgers/Eagleton poll —  of New Jersey residents opposed to gay marriage (versus 64% who support.)  Vetoing a gay marriage bill in New Jersey was designed to appease the GOP primary voters in places like Iowa and South Carolina if Chris Christie runs for president in 2016. That’s the real reason he fought so hard against gay rights.  In Sep 2103, a NJ Superior Court ruled the state must allow same-sex weddings. Christie immediately filed an appeal vowing to take the matter to the NJ Supreme Court.  

The Governor kept fighting until the very moment rings were exchanged between newly-minted same sex married couples. 

And then suddenly, Chris Christie knew he’d been out-dueled. 

“As couples across New Jersey began marrying on Monday after the stroke of midnight, Gov. Chris Christie abandoned his long fight against same-sex marriage, concluding that signals from the court and the march of history were against him.  Politically, members of his staff bet that they could contain the damage by arguing that the governor had never changed his mind — he still opposes same-sex marriage — and blaming activist judges.”

 

Of course, with BridgeGate, Chris Christie has bigger problem that scape-goating activist judges in presidential primary.  With his presidential ambitions in shambles, there’s no more upside to his anti gay liberty intransigence.  Chris Christie’s never gonna be President.  But he is a guy who’ll have to tell his grandkids why Grandpa invested so much into keeping loving,  gay couples from getting married. 

How sad for him. 

The Time Chris Christie Tried To Roll His Mentor’s Head 

Talk about picking an unnecessary fight:  “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), fresh off a landslide reelection win and seemingly with an eye on the 2016 presidential race, spent Thursday trying to oust a longtime Republican ally from power.”  Christie’s team vigorously lobbied the Senate GOP. Caucus to oust Sen Tom Kean Jr. as Minority Leader and replace him with a more loyal Christie handmaiden, Sen. Kevin O’Toole. 

In the end, Christie lost. Badly. Chris Christie’s attempt to disrupt the pecking order of another branch of government was so over-the-top, an erstwhile compliant GOP caucus rebuffed the Governor by a vote of 10-4. 

To make matters worse, Christie’s play on Kean Jr.’s job really hacked off a former Chris Christie mentor, none other than Tom Kean Jr’s father, Tom Kean Sr. The tension came quickly and accelerated after BridgeGate scandal hit the proverbial fan.   

NY Times: “It’s a sign of increasing trouble for Mr. Christie, then, that former Gov. Kean — a man he frequently calls his mentor — has been leveling some of the sharpest criticism at him after revelations that Christie aides ordered lanes closed to the GW Bridge as an act of political retribution. (Republicans re-elected the younger Mr. Kean, in what was seen as a rare rebuke of the governor. Mr. Christie rewarded those who voted against Mr. Kean with seats in the governor’s box at a Giants game.)”

“You look at these other qualities and ask, do you really want that in your president?” asked the elder Kean referring to Chris Christie’s presidential ambitions.  More and more the answer to that question is a resounding NO. 

BridgeGate

For the uninitiated, BridgeGate refers to the time Chris Christie blocked the busiest bridge on the planet for five days just to brandish his mojo. It worked for a minute.  Then if failed. Boy did it fail.  Now if anyone tells you BridgeGate’s gonna harm Chris Christie’s White House ambitions, they’re naïve.  BridgeGate has killed Chris Christie’s presidential chances. It’s over. 

Game, set, match.  

And since the BridgeGate saga’s unfolding so methodically, it’s difficult to know how many casualties Chris Christie’s epic crash will take down with him.  But two months into the scandal, Governor Christie’s lawyer bill’s already $200,000 and counting.  Chris Christie can at least take some solace at least knowing he’s not responsible for paying his own legal fees.

YOU ARE. 

Jay Lassiter is a liberal policial consultant and campaign professional. When he’s not tweeting, he’s spear-heading the effort to legalize Marijuana in New Jersey. 

Grading Chris Christie’s Biggest Defeats