By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Matt Mowers worked with Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly in outreach from Gov. Chris Christie’s office to local officials. And like the last two witnesses before this committee, he said he’s dumbfounded by a scheme he knew nothing about.
“I spent two and a half years working in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of the Governor. This is simply unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and IGA to my knowledge did not operate in this fashion,” Mowers said.
Just 24 years old, Mowers said he was the liaison to 183 North Jersey towns and their mayors. Thirteen months ago he left to work for Christie’s reelection campaign. He had already become friendly with Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, and in March 2013 asked Sokolich, a Democrat, if he would join the dozens of other Jersey Democratic mayors who would ultimately endorse the Republican Christie.
“He used colorful language, explained the fact that he supports the governor, would like to endorse him but because of professional contracts with some other municipalities controlled by Democrats and because of fear of political retribution by the Bergen County Democratic Chairman, that he did not feel he was able to endorse and while he’d like to, he did not have the fortitude to do so,” said Mowers.
The committee showed him a number of his own emails in which he was raising political matters while still in the employ of the governor’s office.
“So as a state employee, you believe it was appropriate to keep your coworkers and your boss aware of potential Chris Christie campaign volunteers almost two years prior to the governor’s reelection?” asked Sen. Nia Gill. Mowers replied, “Senator, I’d keep them apprised of any information I was told from any conversation I had that involved anything involving the governor, sure.”
They also asked him about a phone call from Bridget Kelly the night before she sent the infamous “time for some traffic problems” email.
“She said, ‘Is Mayor Sokolich endorsing?’ I said, ‘No, he’s not. He’s definitely not endorsing. Not gonna happen’. I said, ‘No not gonna happen. From everything I know, Door shut, not gonna happen.’ She said, ‘OK, that’s all I need to know,’” Mowers relayed.
It was ironic to see a room full of seasoned politicians chiding a 24-year-old for talking politics while on government time. The next hearing is two weeks from today.