By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
They stood on the beach in a steady drizzle, sat in a grandstand and filled up the boardwalk outside Convention Hall — dozens of dignitaries like the governor’s brother and father. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono was there. She met with the president privately as part of a small group.
It was the kind of occasion that brought together Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and the man who just beat him, Steve Fulop. Healy is on a White House Sandy rebuilding task force.
“I wanted Steve to come down and hear whatever was to be heard or learned from the governor and the president with this presentation today. So that’s why we asked him to join us in this mission to Asbury Park,” Healy said.
“Let me just say also, thank you to Jerry. He had one person that he could bring and I really appreciate him reaching out to me in order to have me a part of this today,” Fulop said. “Obviously he has a great relationship with the president. The president endorsed him during the campaign so it was really nice that he reached out and extended that invitation.”
As the president delivered his remarks, Gov. Chris Christie stood near three Democratic members of Congress who attended.
Obama’s speech was short but sweet to the ears of the many local and state officials in the crowd.
“One of the things that was really great to hear was that they haven’t checked the box. In their minds, recovery is not over, which is a huge relief to a local official like myself where half my community still is struggling to get home,” said Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long.
“The president coming here, acknowledging that we’re open for business is a huge shot in the arm. We’re spending $25 million on an ad campaign, add this to it, it’ll be repeated over and over again. People are going to get the message — we are open,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon.
But does a visit like this really change anything?
“Anytime someone sees it on TV, someone sees a news report, I think it refocuses people’s attention back to this area. So any time it comes back, I think it changes the conversation a little bit,” said Brick Township Mayor Stephen Acropolis.
“It keeps the enthusiasm going and it’s a reminder that as he said, hurricane season’s coming and it starts with personal preparedness and that’s what we’re working on in Hoboken,” said Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
And what about the other folks in the crowd?
“I thought it was good. I love Obama and I’m glad they’re redoing the shore because we need it,” said Neptune resident Cindy Eschner.
“If for nothing else it gives us hope and makes us feel a little bit better. I think things are in the works and still being improved anyway so whether it’ll change anything, I don’t know. But hopefully it’ll keep us going forward,” said Harvey Cedars resident Julie Oldham.
Mayors, freeholders and legislators of both parties and from all over the state were here to witness the second Obama/Christie embrace and to support the recovery of the Jersey Shore.