Chris Christie biography
Born in New Jersey in 1962, Chris Christie is the Republican governor of New Jersey, known for his combative style and for being popular with Republicans throughout the country. During his tenure as head of the state, Christie's long-running battle with powerful and relatively popular teachers' unions mobilized strong opposition to many of his policies, but he has won national acclaim for his ability to move legislation forward and to win over constituents.
Christopher James Christie was born in Newark, New Jersey, on September 6, 1962, to Irish father Bill Christie and Sicilian mother Sondra Christie, and raised in nearby Livingston. "Dad was just a passenger; Mom was the driver," He later said. "She told me that love without respect was always fleeting, but that respect could grow into real and lasting love. Now, of course, she was talking about women. But I have learned over time that it applies just as much to leadership. In fact, I think that advice applies to America more than ever today."
Chris Christie has lived in the Garden State his whole life, barring the four years he spent studying political science at the University of Delaware. At Delaware, Christie met his future wife, Mary Pat Foster, whom he married in 1986. Upon graduation, Christie returned to New Jersey to study law at Seton Hall University, where he received his J.D. He was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1987.
Entry Into Politics
Christie started his political career as a relatively brash freeholder in Morris County, where he was a moderate Republican who regularly supported pro-choice positions. An ambitious newcomer to state GOP politics, Christie almost immediately began laying plans for a run for State Assembly, even if it meant challenging well-established party regulars who stood in his way.
But Christie had not yet built up support within the party apparatus and ended up suffering a crushing defeat in that 1995 Assembly race; a fellow Republican who joined Christie's insurgent campaign and ended up sharing his also-ran status called the campaign "the worst political decision I ever made." Stung by this first electoral rebuke, Chris Christie did not run again for elective political office until 2009.
Instead, Christie became a lobbyist for energy companies in 1998, positioning him to become a top fundraiser for George W. Bush's Republican presidential campaign in 2000. In 2001, Bush nominated Christie to serve as United States Attorney for New Jersey, a nomination that did came with considerable controversy as Christie had little previous prosecutorial experience.
Many Democrats and some skeptical Republicans worried that Bush political guru Karl Rove had given Christie the job as the spoils for his fundraising efforts. However, once in office Christie changed many doubters' minds by spearheading aggressive investigations against corrupt public officials of both parties—amassing a record of 130 convictions against zero acquittals—while focusing on ethics as a primary theme of his tenure.
New Jersey Governor
After building up a reputation as a capable and fair-minded prosecutor through more than six years in the United States Attorney's office, Chris Christie began contemplating a return to electoral politics. Resigning from office in December 2008, Christie filed papers to run for governor in January 2009. Despite a rising tide of uncompromisingly conservative Tea Party activism at the national level, in moderate New Jersey, Christie easily won the primary election against his more conservative Republican rivals.
Running on a more socially conservative platform than he had in his freeholder days, but still distinguishing himself from the more combative Tea Party base, Christie defeated the unpopular incumbent Democratic governor Jon Corzine—who had been dogged by allegations of widespread corruption—with a relatively comfortable margin of 49-to-45 percent of the vote.
As a Republican at the head of a relatively liberal state and working with a Democratic legislature, Christie has won national acclaim for his ability to move legislation forward and to win over constituents, despite agreeing that he is about "as slick as sandpaper." Christie's tenure as governor was not all smooth sailing, however; his long-running battle with powerful and relatively popular teachers' unions mobilized strong opposition to many of his policies.
Despite some early setbacks, however, Chris Christie remains a popular figure in New Jersey. As the 2012 presidential election neared, many political observers nationwide considered Christie a strong candidate for the Republican Party. The governor downplayed such expectations, however. "I'm a kid from Jersey who has people asking him to run for president," he said. "I'm thrilled by it. I just don't want to do it."
When Mitt Romney was selected as the Republican Party's presidential candidate, Christie's name was bandied about as a possible running mate. Romney chose Paul Ryan for the spot, however, and the Republican candidates eventually lost the election to Democratic incumbents President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
In any case, Christie is clearly an important member of the Republican Party. He was the keynote speaker at the Republican Convention on August 28, 2012. There, he spoke about the responsibility of U.S. citizens to be politically active, and to remember their freedoms as well as their roots, stating, "We are the great-grandchildren of the men and women who broke their backs in the name of American ingenuity, the grandchildren of the greatest generation, the sons and daughters of immigrants, the brothers and sisters of everyday heroes, the neighbors of entrepreneurs and firefighters, teachers and farmers, veterans and factory workers and everyone in between who shows up, not just on the big days, or the good days, but on the bad days, and the hard days. Each and every day. All 365 of them."
Challenges and Triumphs
Christie has helped lead his state through some difficult times.
The New Jersey shore was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Just as the coastal communities had begun to heal from the hurricane's devastation, the town of Seaside Park saw much of its boardwalk go up in flames the following September. Christie was on the scene during the fire-fighting effort and pledged to his support to the community.
The following November, Christie appeared to have the backing of most of the state. He easily won re-election to the governor's office, besting his Democratic opponent Barbara Buono and taking roughly 60 percent of the votes. After this impressive victory, Christie's name was once again tossed around by the press as a possible presidential candidate for 2016.
Christie's potential bid for president could be in jeopardy due to a scandal that the governor found himself in at the start of 2014. In September 2013, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey caused a massive traffic jam when two lanes of the George Washington Bridge entering New York City were closed. It was later revealed that Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, helped to incite the traffic jam, having sent an email to Port Authority official David Wildstein stating, "Time for some traffic problems." Wildstein replied with, "Got it."
Kelly's actions were reportedly in response to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich not endorsing Christie during his 2013 reelection bid. Upon finding out, Christie issued a public statement on January 8, 2014, stating, "What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable." He also fired deputy chief Kelly and went to Fort Lee in order to issue Sokolich an apology in person. Wildstein resigned in December 2013 before the scandal came to light. In spite of Christie's claim that he had no knowledge of the scheme against Sokolich, some still believe that he was involved in the scandal, possibly putting a damper on his 2016 bid for the presidency, should he choose to run.
Long known for his weight, reportedly weighing more than 300 pounds in 2012, Christie announced in May 2013 that he had lost 40 pounds—the result of undergoing weight loss surgery three months earlier.