Although he pointed out that Chris Christie’s filing doesn’t constitute a formal declaration to run for governor, today’s news didn’t surprise gubernatorial candidate Assemblyman Richard Merkt (R-Mendham), Christie’s former running mate.
“A lot of people file papers and then don’t run, but he’s clearly been pointing in that direction for months,” said Merkt. “I welcome his entry into the race. I hope this is competitive race where the public picks the candidate. I look forward to being able to express vigorous differences on policy in a way that’s civil and respectful and doesn’t demean the office we’re seeking.”
A declared candidate since last fall, Merkt has positioned himself as the only one among former U.S. Attorney Christie, former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and Franklin Township Brian Levine who possesses state government experience.
“I respect Chris’s accomplishments as a prosecutor and Brian Levine and Steve Lonegan’s work as the mayors of their towns, but I have been a deputy attorney general, chief of administration and legislator,” he said. “If you’re going to fix this mess, you’re going to have to have knowledge. Corzine came in not knowing anything about government, and he foundered. We need to win this election, yes, but we also need to be able to govern.”
Merkt said Christie, a fellow attorney with whom he ran on an unsuccessful ticket for the state Assembly in the 1990s, has proved he understands law enforcement.
“But we’re talking about the State of New Jersey – an 80,000-person organization with expenditures including federal funds of $40 billion per year,” said the veteran assemblyman. “I’m running for governor because I have the knowledge and do not believe we have another four years to wait to solve the dire fiscal problems of our state.”