Bergen County Exec’s race: Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich sees Bridgegate investigations as potential election catalyst

FORT LEE – Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was the emcee of Tuesday’s meet-and-greet event at the Richard A. Nest Adult Activity Center in his Bergen County borough, introducing U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., (D-9) to the lunchtime crowd of about 50 people. 

More than 50 members of the press were jammed on the grass of Fort Lee’s neighboring Borough Hall in January as what has become known as the Bridgegate scandal erupted. Sokolich stood in the national spotlight as Republican Gov. Chris Christie came to apologize. 

Christie’s mea culpa, accepted by Sokolich, came after the revelation of email exchanges between a deputy on Gov. Christie’s senior staff and Port Authority executives that link the two parties to controversial local access lane closures in September 2013 on the George Washington Bridge. 

The email exchange, which included “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” created chaos in town, whose Democratic Mayor Sokolich failed to endorse Christie in last year’s gubernatorial race. The Christie administration has been accused of exacting political retribution on Sokolich for not backing the governor’s re-election effort. Christie has denied that any retaliation took place, and both state and federal authorities still seek answers in separate investigations of the matter. 

Political observers have wondered if the Bridgegate investigations could color the 2014 Bergen County Executive’s race between Republican incumbent Kathleen Donovan and her Democratic challenger, Bergen County Freeholder Jim Tedesco. 

Tedesco has questioned Donovan’s professional relationship with former Port Authority Chairman David Samson, who was appointed by Christie and who has been subpoenaed to produce documents by the state legislative committee investigating the scandal. Tedesco called on Samson to resign his position as chairman in January, which Samson did in March. 

But in a conversation with PolitickerNJ, Sokolich said that whether the Bridgegate spotlight turns out to be the light at the end of the tunnel for the Tedesco campaign hinges on the investigations’ results.

“The impact will be dictated by what comes of the investigations, quite frankly,” Sokolich told PolitickerNJ. “If nothing comes of the investigations, probably no. I think that some people remember [the lane closures], although Fort Lee has moved on. If facts are confirmed that there was intentionality, of course that’s going to have an impact. If none of that comes out of the investigations, then I think it will have a limited impact.”

Bergen County Exec’s race: Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich sees Bridgegate investigations as potential election catalyst