By David Cruz
In a day when Democrats across the state are rapidly jumping off the Chris Christie bandwagon, Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty remains a fervent exception.
“He doesn’t care about party labels. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent, unaffiliated, whether you voted for him or you didn’t vote for him. All he cares about, his singular focus, is doing what’s right for the people in New Jersey and for the people in our community as well,” Doherty said.
The governor came bearing gifts, in this case $6 million for a flood prevention project in Belmar as part of his annual jaunt south.
“The very first place I came after Sandy, the next day, was right here on this street. And saw for myself for the first time, not over a video, but in person, the extraordinary destruction that Sandy had wrought,” Christie said.
No one would accuse the governor of stacking an audience, but the love fest in Belmar explains why when he makes a shore tour, this is usually his first stop.
“I’ve lived through all these politicians. I don’t believe any of them but you,” said one woman in attendance.
“You know, I love Doherty. He is a Democrat but also a great politician. He said, ‘Can you take a question from the Costar reporter back there?’ He’s buttering the local muffin. It’s very good,” Christie said.
But the governor did take some real questions from reporters on a wide range of subjects from the presidential race — he’s not yet in — to his decision to opt out of the Common Core curriculum to his thoughts on last week’s large student protest in Newark.
“It’s really shocking to me that students walked out in a protest on a sunny Friday afternoon. When they start walking out on a rainy Tuesday, maybe I’ll take it a little more seriously,” Christie said.
The governor wasn’t quite as glib when we asked about some salty language he used at last week’s State House Correspondents’ Dinner.
“Let me stop you right there. I’m not answering any questions about this. I go to an event that you all put on — that you put on and invite me to, that you tell everybody is off the record and then you guys go out and report it. And this is why no one trusts you. That’s why. And I’m not answering your questions on it,” Christie said.
He took no follow-ups, ignored us as we followed him to his SUV and was off to the next stop, where another appreciative crowd awaited and he only had to answer questions like “See you in the White House too I hope?”