Gov. Chris Christie (R) could have made 24 New Jersey school teachers millionaires today. But, instead, he decided to spend the taxpayers money on a Special Election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) this October, just three weeks before his own previously scheduled election in November.
"Party leaders sent around a list of the kind of budget cuts that Mr. Christie could restore with the money to be spent on the special election," the New York Times noted. "$10 million he cut from after-school programs for children in the state’s most troubled cities; $8.6 million in tuition subsidies for college students; and $12 million in charity care at hospitals. Just weeks ago, they noted, Mr. Christie vetoed a proposal to establish early voting, saying the price tag — $25 million — was too high."
"I don’t know what the cost is and I quite frankly don’t care," said the Governor who has pretended, since coming to office in 2009, to be a fiscal conservative. "We’re not going to be penny-wise and pound-foolish around here," he said cryptically.
"Despite the governor's public denials, Christie allies were concerned that if a special election coincided with the gubernatorial election, Democratic candidate Barbara Buono could benefit," reports National Journal. "With [Newark Mayor Cory] Booker as the favored Democratic Senate nominee, less-reliable Democratic voters, particularly African-Americans, would be more likely to show up at the polls. Even with a comfortable lead in the race, that's not a risk Christie welcomed."
Republicans, already incensed that Christie had the temerity to meet President Obama during a horrific natural disaster and not punch him in the face, are furious about it all.
While quietly working for a number of weeks prior to breaking the story of the Secret Koch Brothers Tapes and Christie's secret keynote stem-winder at their 2011 Summer Seminar, I recall, as I researched through hours of his speeches and various appearances, that this guy would have been the Democrats' worse nightmare had he decided to run for President in 2012. He was incredibly under-rated by Democrats who saw him only as a former Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney hack. He may have been a bald-faced liar, but he was really good at it, and really charming to boot, when he wanted (or needed) to be.
That, of course, was back when he was seen as a hard rightwinger (which he is, even today, as many have forgotten). Back when David Koch described him as "my kind of guy" after secretly meeting with him in New York City. Back prior to Christie's re-invention as a "reasonable bi-partisan Republican" --- a stroke of "luck" blown onshore by Superstorm Sandy and a common-sense willingness to not be a complete asshole while tens of thousands of his own constituents were literally drowning and/or fighting for their lives in the freezing cold, even if it was just days before a Presidential election.
That, in turn, earned him the eternal loathing of many of the base Primary voters in a party that hasn't a clue what's good for them, and stunningly high approval ratings from Democrats who may have forgotten who Christie really is, and just how opportunistically disingenuous he is willing to be.
His transparent edict today, declaring an extraordinarily wasteful Special Election only weeks before his own was already scheduled in the state, may remind Democrats about some of that, even as it further pisses of Republicans at the same time. But, at least just about everyone seemed happy to ignore his absurd protests that "There's no political purpose" to his purposely political move today. "The political purpose," he claimed with a straight face, "is to give the people a voice [because] the issues facing the United States Senate are too important not to have an elected representative making those decisions."
Yes, after waiting four months for that elected representative, the people of New Jersey simply couldn't have waited four months and three weeks. That would be a bridge too far. A bridge he'd be willing to sell you for about $24 million.
I don't have a whole lot to add right now to all of this, but it's a helluva fun story, so I figured I'd open it up to readers of The BRAD BLOG who may have some thoughts of their own to share on all of this. Will all be forgiven by the time the 2016 Primaries roll around? Will Christie be able to thread the impossible needle his party has created for him? Or will his rising star fall as quickly as it rose?
* * *
UPDATE 6/6/13: Jon Stewart now takes his own whack at Christie right here...