SAYREVILLE – Democrats today reveled in hearing Gov. Chris Christie talk about ethics, unleashing a barrage of press releases that hounded the GOP governor on the economy and highlighted the marority party’s latest round of pro-business bills.
“With New Jersey’s unemployment at 9.4 percent and residents still reeling from the Christie property tax hikes, the governor’s performance today shows how out-of-touch he truly is with working class New Jersey,” said Democratic Assembly spokesman Tom Hester, Jr.
The majority party has succeeded in at least one regard, according to one expert, who says Christie’s ethics reform redo is a counter-offensive to the Democrats’ criticism of his appearance at the Koch Brothers convention.
In short, the governor’s not talking about property taxes, which is the chief issue in New Jersey, said Patrick Murray, professor of political science and pollster with Monmouth University.
The trouble is the Democrats aren’t either, he added.
Christie in June regaled an out-of-state crowd of conservative Republicans with tales of putting Democrats back on their heels. State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Teaneck, and other Democrats subsequently amped up accountability talk with a Weinberg bill that would require the governor to give a 24-hour heads-up anytime he leaves the state.
That went right into the wheelhouse of the former U.S. Attorney who notched over 130 public corruption busts during his tenure.
“The message is if you want to talk about ethics, I’ve always got the ace in the hole. I’ll take you on any day,” said Murray.
Democrats don’t buy it, of course.
“Let’s face it,” said Hester, “this governor preaching on ethics is laughable. New Jerseyans know that someone who travels secretly around the country to raise money, endorses the efforts of covert conservative groups and uses taxpayer-paid state police property for personal and political use cannot be taken seriously.”
Christie’s gamble is that he can beat the Democrats on ethics.
However, the fact that he’s not talking about property taxes and instead reaches for his comfort zone of government reform opens up possibilities for the opposition.
“The issue Governor Christie has to focus on is property taxes,” said Murray. “That’s the main task he was elected to address. The Democrats would be better to ask him about property taxes more than the economy, which people recognize as a national issue.”
Murray said Christie’s education reform movement – which the governor focused on last week – goes to property taxes more than ethics.
“With education reform there is the tacit understanding that the issue impacts property taxes,” said Murray.
But given the chance in the aftermath of Koch, Christie has more than happily embraced a chance to talk about ethics, said Murray.
“He built his reputation on that,” said Murray. “It works. It’s a message that has worked for him before and so it fits that this is his counterattack.”