New Jersey governor Chris Christie will be getting his exit from the governor’s office after all—but the change will only move the one-time favorite for a cabinet position in the coming Trump administration down the street. In a bait-and-switch press conference that he ended by scolding the State House press corps for attending, Christie announced that his administration will begin renovation projects on the more than 200 year-old State House itself in a bid to extend his legacy into the next governor’s tenure when he is term-limited out in 2018.
Christie said once again that he will finish out his term at Tuesday’s news conference, his first since the election. Conventional wisdom had it after president-elect Donald Trump’s victory on election night that Christie would be up for a plum job in Washington after making one of the earliest establishment endorsements for the voluble real estate developer back in February. Then the governor’s choices started narrowing.
“This is one of those projects that I would put in the category of things only a second-term governor can do,” said Christie from the State House’s rotunda entryway. “First-term governors are always worried about how things are will be perceived and looking like I’m only making my own office nicer. Well I’ll never work here.
“That’ll be for the next governor to enjoy,” he continued. “And for his or her staff to enjoy.”
Hillary Clinton may have failed to make Atlantic City, a longtime cash cow for state lawmakers before the gambling capital’s precipitous decline, into a metaphorical stand-in for Trump’s America. With the announcement of the $300 million renovation that will bear his name, Christie may have learned from the former Secretary of State’s mistake.
Sometimes before digging into perceptions, it helps to alter the territory first. When Christie, his staff, and the sundry journalists and lobbyists and visiting grade schoolers evacuate the executive side of the Capitol Complex in July, work will begin on crafting a safer building that is a monument to itself instead of the state’s beleaguered pension system, soaring property taxes and annual budget woes papered over with heedless lending.
Christie’s likely Democratic successor, former U.S. ambassador Phil Murphy, would eventually benefit from the three years of construction that will keep them out of Christie’s offices. As would Republican underdog and Christie’s mutual fair-weather friend Kim Guadagno, who as lieutenant governor stood to take his place if and when he fled to Washington.
Some are already predicting that the heirs apparent in the Murphy camp will seethe at the news.
“I’m hopeful the project will take about four years,” said the governor, whose 19 percent approval rating has sunk to the lowest of any governor in the country. “I’ll come back maybe as a tourist. For the governors who come after me, they deserve this to be done.
“Everyone should just get logical about this and lower the hysteria,” he said of any potential move to the national stage.
Questions from the press were not permitted.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.