While the common wisdom is that last week’s arrest of dozens of public officials and political insiders benefits former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie’s gubernatorial candidacy immeasurably, Assembly members Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) are using the turn of events to recount a controversial episode that they hope will take some luster off Christie.
Gusciora and Huttle, for the third time, called on the State Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney to investigate whether Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie’s friend and ally, John Inglesino, tried to “bribe” Assemblyman Richard Merkt (R-Mendham) out of the race for governor.
“The allegations against Christie adviser Mr. Inglesino by a fellow a Republican are quite serious and demand investigation, especially in light of recent events,” said Gusciora. “A South Jersey mayor is now facing five years in prison for the same type of conduct that Christie’s adviser allegedly engaged in. The public deserves to know – especially in this time of heightened awareness of public corruption – whether or not there was an attempt to affect the governor’s race through bribery.”
Merkt, a long shot candidate for governor who shares a hometown with Christie, held a press conference in which he claimed Inglesino, among other things, offered him a job in a future Christie Administration in exchange for him dropping out of the race. Inglesino called the claim a “lie.”
Huttle and Gusciora also mentioned the extension of former Carneys Point Mayor John “Mack” Lake’s sentence for trying to get rid of opponent Anthony Rullo by offering him a municipal job.
Merkt, who got a tiny portion of the vote in the Republican primary, stands by his story, but doesn’t think an investigation is necessary.
“I didn’t see it so much as a bribe as just one more strategy he could throw out at the way of getting me to drop out,” he said. “I think it’s over, and I also think this is a partisan effort by the Democrats to try to find an issue – any issue that they can to try to drag down Chris Christie.”