‘Govs. of NJ’ Editor: Byrne, Christie Have Been Strong Leaders

Governor of New Jersey has been considered the most powerful governor’s jobs in the country. Main editor of The Governors of New Jersey Michael Birkner told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that most of the people who occupy the position don’t usually live up to the billing.

“In any long scheme of history the good, the bad and the pretty awful and New Jersey fits the bill as I think Pennsylvania, New York or any other state would, so we have quite a range in terms of our governors,” said Birkner.

Throughout the years, Birkner says that there have been different opportunities for governors to exercise power and over the last 50 years of New Jersey history, there has been more powerful governors. The Constitution of 1947 has made a big difference in terms of governing the state, according to Birkner.

Since New Jersey began to have governors in power, there have been a range of weak and strong, he said. There have also been governors from both political parties.

Birkner considers former Gov. Brendan Byrne as one of the strongest governors in the state’s history and said he had plenty to do with making New Jersey a modern state.

“He had to deal with the fact that we had a deficit in terms of revenue,” said Birkner. “He had to fight really hard to get an income tax passed which would enable him to do some of the things he wanted to do and some of the things he did with executive orders such as the Pinelands until he could get legislation through. He was involved with the Meadowlands. He was involved with higher education.”

Over the years, New Jersey has swung back and forth between Democrats and Republicans in the governor’s seat, according to Birkner. He said that the seat is still up for grabs since currently the governor is Republican in what is considered to be a blue Democratic state.

Birkner said that Gov. Chris Christie has been strong in his tenure.

“There are certain things about Christie that are clear regardless of the recent news and that is that he’s a strong governor,” Birkner said. “That he’s accomplished a good deal certainly in his first term as governor, he had quite a legislative legacy of success and that he’s a personality who’s really outsized for the state of New Jersey because people are interested in Chris Christie well beyond New Jersey. That is an unusual part of his governorship because relatively few New Jersey governors have made waves nationally. Woodrow Wilson certainly did but not too many others have.”