This week’s Report Card

This week, the three new top politicians in state government had a chance to work together.

Gov. Christopher Christie started off his term by bringing the two already sworn-in legislative leaders, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford) and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange), on stage with him as a sign of bi-partisanship, then the next day signed eight executive orders – among them one that would subject unions to pay-to-play restricting, potentially cutting the legs out from under the Democratic fundraising machine. 

So how did the three do in their first week together?  We asked three academics to grade their performances. 

Governor Christopher J. Christie

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute
Grade: A
Comment: “There is no question that the new governor has a different style.  Also, his Cabinet and other appointments have met little opposition from any corner, with one notable exception (Schundler) – and that was on purpose.”

Brigid Harrison, political science professor at Montclair State University
Grade: A
Comment: “His inaugural address set exactly the right tone, saying what most voters in the state want to hear. His efforts at bi-partisanship are important, and he scored points coming right out of the box to bring about the ‘change’ that he has been talking about. Business and industry, particularly the gaming industry, have sat up and taken notice of his first actions, and this could even cause some much-needed economic optimism.” 

Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University
Grade:  A
Comment: “Everyone is an A student at the beginning of the semester.”

Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney

Patrick Murray
Grade: A-
Comment: “Dick who?”

Brigid Harrison
Grade: C+
Comment: “In the minds if many, Sweeney still needs to redeem himself after his cowardly decision to dodge the gay marriage vote while leaving his colleagues to twist in the wind. In my view, Senator Codey scheduled the vote as retribution for being dumped as Senate President, so it is rather ironic that Sweeney refused to step up and be a leader. And in a final coup de grace, it turns out Codey further stuck it to Sweeney by spending down the Senate Democrats’ war chest, leading some State Senate Democrats to hope that they won’t again be twisting in the wind. That said, he served adequately, perhaps even charmingly as Acting Governor, and there seems to be genuine cause for hope for a decent working relationship between Sweeney and Christie. But note to Sweeney: leaders can’t shirk from the tough decisions — that’s when leaders need to lead.”

Ben Dworkin
Grade: A
Comment: “Everyone is an A student at the beginning of the semester.”

Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver

Patrick Murray
Grade: C
Comment: “Please direct any questions about this grade to Majority Leader Cryan.”

Brigid Harrison
Grade: B
Comment: “In essentially her first act as speaker following Gov. Corzine’s State of the State address, Ms. Oliver sought to have the state auditor appointed over the arguments of Republicans that they had not been notified that such a vote would be taking place. Then, in a clumsy series of gaffes, she adjourned only the assembly (both chambers were in session). In was not a big deal, but it was, for many, their first introduction to Ms. Oliver. It put on display both her inexperience (which is to be expected, as she is the newly elected leader) and the fact that despite the bipartisan love-in rhetoric, this legislative session is not going to be all sweetness and light. But again, her seemingly genuine interest in working with Gov. Christie gives room for optimism.”

Ben Dworkin
Grade: A
Comment: “Everyone is an A student at the beginning of the semester.”

This week’s Report Card