By David Cruz
On the day he was announcing a new attorney general nominee, Gov. Chris Christie was dogged by old questions about how much politics permeated his office as he ran for reelection in 2013. Emails released as part of the GWB lane closure case seem to suggest that the governor’s office of Intergovernmental Affairs was targeting politicians for political support. The 2013 emails — from then deputy chief of staff Bill Stepien — said the governor could count on the endorsement of two Essex County mayors.
Today, the governor shrugged his shoulders at the question.
“It’s not politics. The fact is the office of Intergovernmental Affairs job is to work with local mayors, council people, free holders and other elected officials to provide them with the most information with the best service and the best explanation of our policies they possibly can. And if over the course of those four years the work of the Intergovernmental Affairs office lead the Mayor of Belville to be so pleased with our policies and our interactions that he then was in a position to be willing to endorse me, than they did their job really well from a governmental perspective. And then it was my job to go out and get him to make the endorsement which is what Mr. Stepien was telling me I could do and then I went ahead and did it,” he said.
Christie said all government work is political and that good government encourages political support. The media, he says, would rather interpret the emails to suggest something nefarious.
“The idea that some how IGA was engaged in a regular course of politics is not consistent of my understanding of it. I don’t think the email indicates that and it certainly not the way I took it at the time. When I took it at the time was that they had done their job really well and that my job now was as the political person to bring those people over the top to be supportive of my re-election campaign which I c learly wanted to do,” he said.
And did, to great effect, getting endorsements from many Democrats. It’s old news the governor dismisses today, preferring to talk about his new Attorney General nominee — former chief counsel Chris Porrino, who left state government less than a year ago.
“It is incredibly gratifying for me on a personal level to welcome Chris back to the administration. I’ve missed him during his absence. He’s continued to serve as an important adviser to me and he and Christina and the boys continue to be good personal friends,” Christie said.
Christie says Porrino will only have an acting title until he’s confirmed by the Senate. The governor’s last two attorneys general have served in acting capacities.
“I look forward to appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and I wanted to thank Gov. Christie’s for his continues expression of confidence in me,” he said.
The governor said he expects to get cooperation from the Democrats Legislature on Porrino’s nomination, which he said today he expects to move through the body swiftly.