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What will Christie's 2016 run mean for N.J.?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015   (0 Comments)
Share | 06/29/15

Gov. Chris Christie's run for president is expected to have a ripple effect on New Jersey politics and policies, emboldening politicians already angling to replace him in Trenton and making it tougher for the Republican governor to chalk up any big second term accomplishments. Christie will declare his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday, but for all intents and purposes he has been running for his entire second term. The governor, for years the dominant force in Trenton, has less influence with his 30 percent approval rating from New Jersey voters. Virtually the day Christie was reelected, Democrats — who control the Legislature and consider the governorship likely to return to them post-Christie — began lining up to succeed him. At least three Democratic lawmakers — state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) — are exploring a run. Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Phil Murphy, a Democratic donor and former ambassador to Germany, are also in the mix.

At the same time, the kind of "big things" that Christie touted accomplishing in his first term have been few in his second term, as he has focused elsewhere and ambitious New Jersey Democrats have thought about higher office for themselves. "The decline that we've seen (in the polls) since basically Labor Day of last year has been almost entirely of New Jerseyans being fed up with him being out of the state so much and seemingly letting big ticket items fall through the cracks," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. Signs of Christie's slipping popularity and clout abound in New Jersey political circles. The governor, who a few years ago had his party united in lock step behind him on who to endorse for president, now finds rival Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio coming to New Jersey this summer for fundraisers.

Lawmakers had hoped for a breakthrough with Christie on funding the Transportation Trust Fund this year, but talks, which included trading a gas tax increase for an estate tax repeal, faded. Christie cobbled together $1.2 billion for transportation projects for the fiscal year beginning Wednesday, but the fund is set to go broke next summer. And while Christie has been seeking a new overhaul to the pension and health benefit system, unions refuse to deal with him for breaking his 2011 pension funding commitments. Democratic leaders are siding with the unions. "The Democrats have been less inclined to give the governor big victories. The governor has had less time to focus on big legislative victories" said Ben Dworkin, a professor of political science at Rider.

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