Christie says he won’t play a role in recruiting Pallone challenger

Governor Christopher Christie said today that he’s “happy to discuss” potential candidacies with Republicans who seek his advice, but demurred from saying whether he talked to Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Ocean Twp.) about a possible run against U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch).

“I am happy to discuss with any members of my party any ambitions that they might have for higher office.  Mary Pat Angelini is a friend of mine and someone I have great respect for.  Whether or not she runs for Congress is going to be her decision,” said Christie during a press conference at which he introduced two new cabinet appointments.

Angelini acknowledged Monday that she is mulling a congressional bid this year, but said that it remains “speculation” at this point and did not go into detail. 

It would be a challenging race for a Republican.  The district has many more Democrats than Republicans, and Pallone, who has not faced a significant challenge since 1998, has amassed a $4 million war chest. 

But Republicans would love to force Pallone to spend some money, and suggest that Christie has a bone to pick with him. 

When Christie was U.S. attorney, Pallone criticized him for giving a lucrative federal monitoring contract he awarded to former Attorney General John Ashcroft.  Later, Pallone authored legislation changing the way federal monitors are appointed, which resulted in Christie being called to Washington to testify at a contentious hearing last summer.  Some of the hearing’s more heated moments cut into an advertisement for Gov. Jon Corzine’s reelection campaign. 

“To the extent that she wants to consult with folks that I respect about that decision, that’s up to her.  But I have a great deal of respect for Mary Pat, think she’s a good person, but I’m going to let all those things sort out about election 2010,” said Christie.  “There will be a lot of different people who will want to run for Congress on our side of the ticket, and I’ll let the process sort itself out. I’m not going to inject myself too much into that.”

Christie says he won’t play a role in recruiting Pallone challenger