Who Is Chris Christie?
Born in New Jersey in 1962, Chris Christie is a former Republican governor of New Jersey, known for his combative style. During his tenure as head of the state, from 2010 into 2018, Christie's long-running battle with powerful and relatively popular teachers unions mobilized strong opposition to many of his policies, though he also garnered acclaim for his ability to move legislation forward. In 2015, Christie announced that he was running for the Republican presidential nomination, only to drop out of the race in early 2016.
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. 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, 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 presidential campaign in 2000. In 2001, Bush nominated Christie to serve as United States Attorney for New Jersey, a nomination that 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, 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 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, Christie remained 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.
Continuing to be an important figure in his party, Christie 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 helped lead his state through difficult times. The New Jersey shore was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 and Christie became renowned for the immediate attention and time he gave to those who had suffered. 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 firefighting effort and pledged his support to the community.
The following November, Christie appeared to have the backing of most of the state. He easily won reelection to the governor's office, besting his Democratic opponent Barbara Buono and taking roughly 60 percent of the votes. Christie's name was once again tossed around by the press as a possible presidential candidate for 2016.
But the governor later found himself embroiled in scandal. 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 June 2015, Christie announced that he was running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. According to ABC News, he told a crowd gathered in Livingston, New Jersey, that "We need to have strength and decision-making and authority back in the Oval office and that is why today I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination for president of the United States of America."
During his months on the campaign trail, Christie faced much opposition in the form of other Republican contenders, including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump. After coming in sixth place in the early 2016 New Hampshire primary, Christie announced that he was ending his presidential run.
In February 2016, Christie announced his endorsement of Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. Following Trump's Election Day victory, the New Jersey governor was said to be seeking a prominent position in the new administration, though he wound up only briefly overseeing Trump's transition team before being let go.
Returning to New Jersey, Christie faced low approval ratings over his final year in office. In November 2017, state residents soundly rejected his GOP successor, Kim Guadagno, and elected Democrat Phil Murphy their new governor.
Shortly before leaving office, Christie teamed up with Governor-elect Murphy and New Jersey Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez to write a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that expressed their united opposition to drilling off the coast of their state. Penned after Zinke had excluded Florida from offshore drilling proposals because its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism, the New Jersey politicians argued that their state should be excluded for the same reason.
On January 29, 2018, news leaked that Christie had been hired to be a political contributor to ABC News. In his debut appearance for the network two days later, he expressed his belief that the president stood little to gain by agreeing to an interview with Robert Mueller, the special counsel charged with investigating possible ties between Trump's people and Russian agents.
Book: 'Let Me Finish'
Christie returned to the headlines in January 2019 with the release of excerpts from his new book, Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics. A memoir that delves into Christie's experiences with the Trump campaign and transition team, the book drew attention for passages that highlight the inexperience of Trump's close advisers, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, though it also paints the president as a more complex person than often portrayed.
Chris Christie married his wife Mary Pat in 1986. The couple has four children: sons Andrew and Patrick and daughters Sarah and Bridget. They live in Mendham, New Jersey.
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