TRENTON – State Sen. Mike Doherty’s (R-23) grilling of Jamie Fox, Gov. Chris Christie’s nominee to serve as the state’s next Department of Transportation Commissioner, was the highlight of this morning’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
A party-building Republican, Doherty sits far across the aisle from Fox, a longtime Democratic political strategist who’s worked behind governors Jim McGreevey and Jim Florio and served early in his career as aide to former U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli.
But outside a few pointed questions, that political disconnect wasn’t strong enough to keep Doherty from eventually supporting Fox this morning — nor was Christie’s decision to nominate the Democrat to the position enough to have Doherty hold it against him.
Doherty told PolitickerNJ following the hearing that he was a little concerned with appointing a Democrat like Fox to a post as important — especially now as the state faces problems in funding its Transportation Trust Fund — as DOT commissioner, but that he was ultimately swayed by the candidate’s testimony and background.
“Mr. Fox, I think he did a good job, he answered the questions, I think he has a lot of experience, but I expressed a little bit of disappointment that in view of the fact that in a lot of these positions it matters what party you’re from, that for me it’d be nice if we had a Republican nomination in this position,” Doherty said.
Doherty wouldn’t say, however, whether Christie’s decision would affect the senator’s willingness to get behind the governor in his own future political ventures, namely the possibility of a presidential primary run ahead of 2016. (Christie has come under some fire in recent weeks from Republican legislators for neglecting the NJGOP in favor of brand-building abroad, where he’s spent many days traveling as head of the Republican Governors Association).
Doherty said he had to give Christie the “benefit of the doubt” in this case.
“He’s certainly experienced — I wish it was more Republican experience but he’s certainly experienced,” he said. “And he indicated a willingness to understand some of the issues I brought to his attention, so I guess you’ve got to give the governor the benefit of the doubt to some extent.”
“That being said, I don’t think I stand alone — maybe I stand alone saying it publicly — in saying that for some of these positions, it’d be a nice opportunity for Republicans to get some experience and do a good job statewide,” he added.