Beachgate: Who Is Chris Christie?
Chris Christie photographed at Island Beach State Park
On Saturday, the Government of New Jersey went into "partial shutdown mode," as reported by NPR, as Republican Governor Chris Christie and Democrat Vincent Prieto, the state assembly's speaker, were unable reach an agreement by the midnight, Friday deadline. The governor later defended his family's planned weekend use of a state-owned home at Island Beach State Park, while the property is closed under the shutdown.
"That’s the way it goes. Run for governor, and you can have the residence," Chris Christie was quoted by People.
On Sunday, Governor Christie and his family were photographed sunbathing on the beach at the closed state park, prompting criticism from social media users. Bradd Jaffy tweeted the cover of The Star Ledger, which featured Christie seated in a beach chair, "One of the most brutal front pages you will ever see for a politician. The largest newspaper in New Jersey."
Later in the day, the governor held a press conference where he was asked by a reporter if he had gotten any sun that day. The uproar surrounding the incident has earned it the nickname "beachgate."
"I didn't," Chris Christie can be seen stating in footage with the BBC. "I didn’t get any sun today... There's no one at Island State Beach Park. There are no lifeguards. There's no one to pick up the garbage. There's no one providing any services at all at Island Beach State Park."
When the reporter asked if swimming was permitted in the absence of lifeguards, the governor moved the press conference along, firmly stating, "Next!"
State assembly gridlock freezes government
However, still later in the day, Brian Murray, a spokesperson for the governor, elaborated on his earlier remarks, "Yes, the governor was on the beach briefly today talking to his wife and family before heading into the office. He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on."
At the press conference, the governor explained that the shutdown was required constitutionally, because he doesn't "have any money." The BBC notes that this is only the second time in the history of New Jersey that the state government has found itself without a budget and shut down. The first was in 2006.
The dispute between the governor and the assembly speaker stems from the Republican's assertion that legislation aimed at revamping Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is part of the budget, and the Democrat's contention that it is not. Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney are said to back the legislation, while Vincent Prieto opposes it. NPR writes of Prieto's position, "the legislation could lead to rate hikes on the insurer's 3.8 million subscribers and that the legislation is separate from the budget."
"They actually caught a politician being where he said he was going to be with the people he said he was going to be with, his wife and children and their friends," Christie was quoted after the beachgate drama had begun to unfold. "I am sure they will get a Pulitzer for this one."
Reuters reports that over 30,000 state employees were off work on Monday, waiting for some type of resolution with the budget.
Fellow Republican, Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, who is said to have aspirations to follow Christie, called his family's beach time "beyond words." The governor is in the final of year of his second, and last, term as New Jersey governor.
Chris Christie is also well known for his connection to another "-gate" affair, bridgegate, which led to Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Anne Kelly, a former "top Christie aide," serving time in jail, as reported by USA Today. MSNBC has reported on a recent Qunnipiac poll showing the governor with an 81 percent disapproval rating. Christie ran against President Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries. He later endorsed the president, as reported by CNN.
Maine, similar to New Jersey, also went into "partial shutdown" on Saturday, July 1. Illinois is entering its third year without a state budget, of which Bloomberg has written, "Without a deal around July 1, S&P Global Ratings has warned that the nation's fifth-most-populous state will likely get downgraded again, losing its investment-grade status."
© 2017 Stephen Sinclair