FORT LEE – Gov. Chris Christie might hope that any remembrance of the September 2013 George Washington Bridge access lane closures, known colloquially as the Bridgegate scandal, be forgotten as he gears up for a potential run for the 2016 presidential nomination.
But at a Monday morning news conference overlooking the bridge, nearly drowned out by the roar of traffic and an occasional screaming cliff hawk, a troika of prominent national and state Democrats made it clear they hadn’t forgotten, nor should the American public.
“One year ago today, Chris Christie was running for re-election on his so-called Jersey comeback, and on promises that he was a consensus builder, someone who worked across the aisle, who championed compromise and who could get things done,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23). “One year later, we know that those promises were false. They were a sham. What has Chris Christie delivered instead? Gridlock.”
The Bridgegate scandal bloomed after the revelation in January 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 the Bergen County borough for four days, whose Democratic Mayor Mark 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.
The Democrats slammed Christie’s record on matters other than Bridgegate, including slow private sector job growth in New Jersey, high property taxes and repeated state credit rating downgrades. But party stalwarts consistently turned their focus back to the bridge.
“Was it a political score to settle? An effort to be a big bully? Part of a real estate conspiracy? Or just because he could?” asked New Jersey State Democratic Committee Chairman John Currie. “We would like to know who issued the order, and why. One year after Bridgegate, we know still very, very little about what happened. Many questions remain unanswered. Chris Christie called Bridgegate just a distraction. Bridgegate is more than a distraction. It put people in harm’s way. This is the wrong message to send. Either the governor should know better, or he should admit that he’s involved.”
State Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-15) made it clear what she believes should happen regarding Christie’s political present and future.
“I called for his resignation early, and this is why I stand by that call today,” said Watson-Coleman, the Democratic candidate for Congress in New Jersey’s Twelfth Congressional District. “In what world do you failures promote you to a higher office?”
When asked by the press if Christie’s potential presidential run poses a threat to Democrats, Wasserman Schultz posited her answer in a local framework.
“I view Gov. Christie as someone who is ignoring his constituents,” Wasserman Schultz said. “He is willing to spend time on anything other than moving New Jersey forward. He only cares about one thing: Chris Christie and his own ambition.”