By Brenda Flanagan
Gov. Chris Christie took the podium before a perplexed crowd who had expected to hear a keynote speech from his Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno at the League of Municipalities luncheon. But Christie bumped her aside at the last minute — in part — to address what he sarcastically called the media’s “inordinate concern” about his future.
“I have every intention of serving out my full term as governor. I’ve said that from the beginning. And I have no reason to believe, as we stand here today, that I will do anything other than serve out my full term as governor,” Christie said.
The remarks come amid intense speculation about any potential role Christie might play in the nascent administration of President-Elect Donald Trump who bypassed him for vice president and demoted him as the head of the transition team. Christie praised Trump as someone who will unite a divided country.
“No matter what happens, whether I join a Trump administration in my capacity, whether I stay here and finish my term. As the servant of the people of this state I’ve had a pretty good run,” he said.
Christie spent half his speech extolling the 23-cent gas tax hike and Transportation Trust Fund deal while Guadagno listened, impassively. She publicly disagreed with the tax increase and Christie took some not-so-subtle jabs.
“Let them disagree all they like but when they disagree, make them tell you the ‘or else’ — what will happen if we don’t do this? And by the way, do not let them hide behind the old fraud, waste and abuse thing. It is the place every politician hides when they don’t want to give you an honest answer,” said Christie.
Guadagno was gracious about it all in the end and said she’d spend the holidays deciding whether to run for governor in 2017.
As for Christie co-opting the podium, when asked if she feet at all disrespected about Christie, she said, “Absolutely not! Absolutely not! I am honored to be here. I love every one of these mayors. You know, I give hundreds of speeches a year — this is just another speech.”
“This whole situation was weird from her speech getting bumped to his. However that comes with the territory. When you’re the governor, you get top bill, you get to do what you want,” Atlantic City Council President Marty Small said.
“I was really looking forward to seeing what the lieutenant governor had to say, but like I said I think it was refreshing, straightforward as the governor’s always been,” said Millstone Mayor Bob Kinsey.
The governor again declined to take any questions from the media after his speech. His lieutenant governor said she will give her speech another day.