Chris Christie sworn in for 2nd term as N.J. governor
Angela Delli Santi and Geoff Mulvihill, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, January 21, 2014 9:54AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014 3:27PM EST
TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has taken the oath of office for his second term while he deals with a growing traffic scandal that has led to other allegations of abuse of power.
Christie, considered a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2016, was inaugurated amid a snowstorm that forced him to cancel an evening celebration, and then gave an 18-minute address that dwelled on his 22-point election victory in the fall.
He made no mention of investigations into his administration's apparently politically motivated decision to close approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge in September, causing a traffic backup. He also faces allegations that his administration linked Superstorm Sandy aid to approval for a real estate project.
The people making up a broad coalition that returned him to office, he said, "have demanded that we stay the course they have helped set."
"It was the largest and loudest voice of affirmation that the people of our state have given to any direction in three decades," Christie said, noting priorities including the economy, education and improving access to jobs for recovering drug addicts. "We have no moral option but to heed the voice of the voters, and that is exactly what I intend to do."
His speech came less than an hour after Democratic lawmakers announced they were consolidating twin probes into allegations that aides engineered traffic jams in September in the community of Fort Lee as political retribution, apparently against the town's mayor for not endorsing his re-election bid.
New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who was on the podium during the inaugural address, said the merger of Assembly and Senate committees was the "optimal approach to ensuring the people of New Jersey get the answers they need to these questions about the abuse of government power."
Lawmakers have not decided whether the probe will also be extended to allegations raised over the weekend by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer. The Democratic mayor said Christie's underlings tied the delivery of Superstorm Sandy aid to the low-lying city of 50,000 across from Manhattan to support for a prime real estate project.
Zimmer said she was told by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno that the ultimatum came directly from Christie. Guadagno, who was also sworn in Tuesday to a second term, has strongly denied those claims and described them as "false" and "illogical."
Zimmer met with investigators from the U.S. attorney's office for several hours Sunday and gave them journal entries she said were made at the time of the conversation at a supermarket opening in May. She also has offered to take a lie-detector test or testify under oath.
The U.S. attorney's office is also looking into the traffic jams, which happened over a few days when lanes leading to the busy George Washington Bridge to New York City were closed.
Christie has apologized, denied any involvement with or knowledge of the plot, fired a deputy chief of staff at the centre of the controversy, and banished one of his top campaign advisers. Two officials Christie had a role in getting hired to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge, resigned.
David Samson, a former state attorney general who is chairman of the Port Authority, was at the inauguration. His law firm was involved in the development project that Zimmer said administration officials wanted her to support.
Christie has built a national following as a blunt-talking and often funny politician who has striven to show that he could find common ground with Democrats on some key issues, including overhauling the state's public-worker pension program and making it easier to fire teachers who are found to be underperforming.
Christie's leadership after Sandy devastated parts of the state in October 2012 also helped strengthen his standing as a potential presidential candidate.
He worked with President Barack Obama and took on Republican members of Congress who were reluctant to approve aid for storm victims, receiving high marks from his constituents and plentiful national attention, along with criticism from some conservatives who blamed him for being too cozy with Democrats.
Christie used his speech, as he often does, to bash Washington.
"We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C. The attitude that says I am always right and you are always wrong," he said. "The attitude that puts everyone into a box they are not permitted to leave."