New Jersey Governor Chris Christie aims to move on after traffic scandal
Governor's state-of-the-state speech offers an apology but focus is on bipartisan co-operation
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offered a fresh apology and vowed to co-operate with an investigation into a traffic scandal rocking his administration, but mostly touted the state's bipartisan co-operation during a key speech.
Christie, a charismatic early favourite in the Republican bid for the White House in 2016, used his state-of-the-state address to list his conservative policy prescriptions.
"The last week has certainly tested this administration. Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve," he said. "Without a doubt, we will co-operate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure that this breach of trust does not happen again."
Re-elected in a landslide victory last November, he faces accusations that his aides orchestrated a bridge blocking to punish a political opponent, coupled with new allegations, pushed by a Democratic lawmaker, over Christie's use of federal storm aid.
Two sets of e-mails last week appeared to show that aides planned lane closures for several days last September on a stretch of highway leading to the George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River between New Jersey and Manhattan, and then lied about it.
Christie has denied any knowledge of the plan to snarl traffic at the bridge as political payback against the Democratic mayor of nearby Fort Lee, New Jersey, for his refusal to endorse Christie's gubernatorial bid.
The governor's speech mostly addressed the "Jersey Comeback" - which Christie has long claimed has resulted in private sector jobs growth and secured public-private investment in the Garden State - and his co-operation with the Democrat-controlled state legislature.
"No state in this country has shown more bipartisan co-operation and governance over the last four years than New Jersey, and our people are proud of it. Let's resolve today that we will continue to put those people first. We will do our jobs," he said.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed the bridge-closure scandal had taken a toll on Christie's image, with 26 per cent saying they were now less favourable toward him, compared with 3 per cent who were more favourable and 49 per cent whose view was the same.
Meanwhile, a New Jersey Democrat has requested a federal probe into the use of storm-relief funds after Hurricane Sandy for an advertising campaign that featured Christie as he was seeking re-election.