POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

Out of office a day, Christie remains in public eye

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

He exited a black SUV, took a tour and spoke at a news conference. Chris Christie’s first day out of office, at least superficially, resembled countless other public events he’d attended for eight years as governor. But after the walk-through at Essex County’s new Vocational Tech High School, Christie looked almost wistful. He said the day felt very different.

“This is the first morning I’ve woken up in 40 years without a job,” Christie said. “Mary Pat was like, ‘So, what are you doing today?’ I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to do an event with Joe D.’ She said, ‘I thought you were out. How many years have you been doing events with Joe D?'”

“Joe D” is Essex County’s powerful Executive Joe DiVincenzo. He invited Christie to check out the $165 million Vocational Tech school that will ultimately accommodate 1,300 kids. Christie helped facilitate funding, and 90 percent will be reimbursed by the state.

“Without his support, we couldn’t have built this facility,” said DiVincenzo, “so I’m very much appreciative and the kids are very much appreciative.”

DiVincenzo, a Democrat, did not endorse Christie when he first ran for governor. He likes to describe the morning after Christie won.

“I had to go there with Cory Booker and say, ‘Listen, is there any way we can work this out?’ And what happened was he was open to it, because he knew he had to get Democratic support because he couldn’t get anything done. So what we did is we worked together,” said DiVincenzo.

DiVincenzo endorsed Christie the second time around, and their political alliance has benefited both, sometimes to scandalous effect. Christie’s a Newark native. They bantered easily Wednesday, while touring the gym, cosmetology classrooms and other amenities in the state-of-the-art facility.

To honor his pal, DiVincenzo said the school’s law and public safety center will be named for Christie,  who was also U.S. attorney for New Jersey from 2002 to 2008. The school will be named for the late Rep. Don Payne Sr. Meanwhile, governor 55 praised 56’s inaugural speech.

“The most important thing for someone in public life is to be authentic and be themselves. And sometimes people like that and sometimes they won’t, but at least I’ll never have to wonder if you’re being yourself. And to me, what I saw from the governor yesterday was, that’s the way he campaigned, those are the issues that he campaigned on, the things he spoke about yesterday, and I thought he was incredibly kind and gracious to me and to Mary Pat,” said Christie.

The new school is scheduled to open on time in September. As for Christie’s future schedule, that’s TBA.