By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
New Jersey’s two celebrity politicians came together this morning to cut a ribbon. The optics might seem a little strange since Chris Christie is backing his fellow Republican Steve Lonegan over Cory Booker for U.S. Senate and Booker is backing his fellow Democrat Barbara Buono over Christie for governor. But such is politics in the Garden State.
The occasion was the opening of Teachers Village, a mixed use development of charter schools, housing and retail shops on Halsey Street in downtown Newark. The two politicians sat together during a round of speeches, then spoke themselves.
“I want to give some gov-love right now, because we happen to be in this silly season of politics. I don’t know if you all know, but the governor and I are in the midst of elections right now. You probably haven’t heard much about that,” Booker said.
Booker said everyone is trying to pit people against each other.
“The truth is, that America is great when we come together. That is the hallmark of this country — E pluribus unum,” said Booker.
“Cory, well put. In politics it’s easy to find the things that divide us and to yell and scream at each other, but it’s much harder for people to stand up and say that what matters most is that people elected us to these jobs to actually get something done,” Christie said.
Christie and Booker did not sound like two men working at cross-purposes.
“Listen, they’re friends. They come from different parties. But we don’t want what’s happening in Washington. We need people to get along together, be able to work things and get things done, and that’s what’s happening here,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.
“This is the largest city in the state of New Jersey. And whatever happens in Newark affects the entire state. It’s good for the both of them to be a part of something as big as this,” said Assemblywoman Grace Spencer.
Booker said they have differences. “He eats meat. I’m a vegetarian. He likes a good beer perhaps when he’s watching a game. Give me a green tea. As you’ve noticed, the governor is losing weight and I am gaining it,” he said.
“I really believe that that it’s not necessarily a facade. I think they get along. I think that here’s some kind of chemistry between those two guys,” former Assemblyman William Payne said.
Comedian Joe Piscopo sat behind the two men.
“Isn’t it funny how New Jersey can be the cutting edge of politics through Gov. Christie and Mayor Booker? Because politically they disagree, and they agree to disagree, but they’re like buddies and it’s all for the good of the people,” Piscopo said.
“With the governor and I, I disagree with him on he closed Planned Parenthoods, he cut funding to the earned income tax credit, he pulled us out of regional greenhouse gas agreements. These are policy reasons why I’m supporting Barbara Buono, but I’m the mayor of the largest city in the state. He’s the governor. We have to work together across partisan aisles,” Booker said.
It’s hard to know what Christie and Booker would really like to happen in the two elections. But it wouldn’t be surprising if their endorsements of each other’s rivals are more expedient than heartfelt.