White House Brief: Things to know about Gov. Chris Christie
Jun. 25, 2015
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is joining the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and plans to announce that Tuesday. Here's a quick snapshot of things to know about him.
"Sit down and shut up!" ''Get the hell off the beach." These are the made-for-YouTube moments that turned the brash New Jersey governor into a familiar national figure — and one of the field's most polarizing candidates. Back in 2012, his mix of tough talk and charisma had billionaires pleading with him to run for the White House. He demurred, saying he wasn't ready, then cruised to re-election victory, racking up impressive margins with women and minority voters. But his tactics during that election have come back to haunt him: Three former aides have been charged with creating politically motivated traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge to retaliate against a Democratic mayor who chose not to endorse Christie's re-election. With that episode, and New Jersey's economic recovery sluggish, Christie has had trouble gaining traction in the 2016 GOP contest.
Before he was governor, Christie built his reputation as a media-savvy prosecutor who took on the state's notorious public corruption and won, scoring 130 convictions or guilty pleas on his watch. He was widely praised for his performance, despite initiation skepticism: Critics charged President George W. Bush only appointed the lawyer and registered lobbyist to the post of U.S. Attorney in New Jersey because of the money he raised for Bush's 2000 campaign. Two years later, Christie, whose political career to that point consisted of failed bids for state office and several years as a local freeholder, leveraged his reputation to oust incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009. He secured a commanding re-election victory in 2013 after a term spent confronting public employees' unions and rebuilding from Superstorm Sandy. But his poll numbers at home have tanked during his second term. Christie is also expected to face challenges appealing to more conservative voters, who are skeptical of his views on issues like guns. He also stoked anger when he embraced President Barack Obama in the aftermath of Sandy in the days before the 2012 election.
The son of an Irish father and a Sicilian mother (he credits his combative nature to her) Christie was born in Newark, New Jersey, on Sept. 6, 1962. His family moved to the leafy suburban town of Livingston, where he grew up playing Little League and high school baseball and serving in student government. After four years away to attend the University of Delaware, where he met his future wife, Mary Pat, Christie returned to New Jersey to attend the Seton Hall University School of Law. He and Mary Pat, who recently took a break from her career in investment banking, have four children, including a college-aged son and daughter. Christie often likes to marvel at how the son of a man who put himself through college working at a Breyers Ice Cream plant managed to become governor.
CALLING CARD MOMENT
"Get the hell off the beach," Christie scolded sun worshippers in Asbury Park during a press conference as Hurricane Irene was about to wallop the East Coast in 2011. "It's 4:30," he told them, "you've maximized your tan." Christie's tough love approach and frequent clashes with critics, as well as appearances on late-night television, quickly made him one of the most famous governors in the country. And a landmark deal he reached with public sector unions and Democrats in the legislature that included higher retirement ages and health care contributions was hailed as a national model. (He's since reneged on the terms of the deal.) He's also drawn compliments on his significant weight loss following lap-band surgery in 2013.
EARLY STATE ACTION
Christie has spent significant time in New Hampshire, where voters have shown themselves to be more open to a tough-talking Northeastern governor than Republicans in other early-voting states. He also has deep ties in Iowa, thanks to longstanding relationships with the state's governor, Terry Branstad, and its conservative congressman, Steve King.
Christie has yet to pen a memoir, perhaps in part because New Jersey laws prohibit him from receiving royalties from book sales. While there had been discussion several months ago about lifting the restrictions, that hasn't happened. He did participate in a biography titled "The Inside Story of his Rise to Power" by journalists Bob Ingle and Michael Symons.
ONLINE AND SOCIAL MEDIA