The Top 10 Jersey-Centric Political Stories of 2016

New Jersey State House.
Library of Congress
Alex Blanco
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U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer.
Alyana Alfaro for Observer
8. Samson pleads guilty. Back in July, former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Chairman David Samson pleaded guilty to using his position to coerce United Airlines into chartering a special flight from Newark Airport to an airport close to his second home in South Carolina, costing the airline over $900,000 in lost revenue. That flight ran from 2012 until days after Samson’s resignation in 2014. While Samson’s story may not have been the biggest story to come out of the Port Authority in 2016, it certainly did get the ball rolling on a tough year for the bi-state agency. Samson was an appointee of and close friend to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
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7. Bridgegate. Samson’s guilty plea was the opening act for one of the most-covered political stories of 2016 in New Jersey: the Bridgegate trial. In that case, two Christie appointees (former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni and former Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly) were found guilty on nine counts of conspiracy and related charges for misusing Port Authority property as a way to enact political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie for re-election in 2013. While the closures happened three years ago in 2013, the trial renewed public interest and attention on the case. Now, the case is in limbo as defendants pursue a re-trail or acquittal.
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6. The collapse of north Jersey casinos. Despite urging from legislators and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a ballot question that would allow for casinos to be built outside of Atlantic City failed big time during the November 8 election. The referendum's huge loss is attributed to a lobbying group called Trenton’s Bad Bet that was able to convince voters that expanding gaming would be detrimental to the entire state of New Jersey. However, legislators are expected to push similar proposals in coming years in an attempt to recapture gamblers they say are leaving the state in order to visit casinos in neighboring states.
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The gas ta
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4. The Hoboken train crash and the TTF. In late September, tragedy struck when a commuter train crashed at the Hoboken terminal, killed one person and injured over 100 more. That crash led to an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board that is currently still underway. The crash also led to a joint investigation by NJ Transit and New Jersey lawmakers as well as an increased interest in finding a solution to transit issues plaguing the state. The crash is believed to be one of the primary reasons a deal was made on the Transportation Trust Fund and the gas tax was raised.
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A lifeguard boat in Atlantic City.
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2. The fall of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. In the beginning of 2016, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was a declared presidential candidate. That run ended in February after a dismal showing for the presidential contender in the New Hampshire primary. Upon his return to New Jersey, many in the Garden State thought the governor would show a renewed interest in the state and start to rebuild the legacy he abandoned in pursuit of his higher ambitions. Instead, Christie shocked the left-leaning state—and the Democrats who once supported him—by hitching his train to the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and becoming one of his most high-profile early surrogates. While things looked to be on the up-and-up for Christie following that choice and it seemed that a cabinet position or job and Washington was likely, the momentum ended quickly after Christie’s approval ratings in New Jersey sunk to a new low of 18 percent following testimony in the Bridgegate trail that regularly invoked Christie’s name. Now, the once-popular governor is floundering as he pushes back against a legislature dominated by Democrats who are waiting for the next governor to take the reigns.
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Phil Murphy, candidate for governor in N.J.
Alyana Alfaro for Observer

While media coverage in 2016 was primarily focused on the presidential race that named President-elect Donald Trump as President Barack Obama’s successor, the state of New Jersey was not without it’s own political hoopla in 2016. This year, the Garden State brought us controversy, scandal and change.

Check out our slideshow to see the defining political stories of 2016 in the Garden State.

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.

 

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