N.J. newspaper regrets endorsing Christie for re-election

Feb. 10, 2014 at 1:00 AM
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NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 10 (UPI) -- New Jersey's largest newspaper is sorry it endorsed Republican Gov. Chris Christie for re-election last year, its editorial page editor writes.

"We blew this one," Tom Moran says in a column, citing a political scandal involving the governor's staff members and political appointees who allegedly conspired to create traffic jams in Fort Lee, N.J., at a New York-bound toll plaza entrance to the George Washington Bridge.

The closure was an alleged political payback against the Fort Lee mayor for not endorsing Christie.

That scandal has led to other revelations.

"Yes, we knew Christie was a bully," Moran says in his Sunday column. "But we didn't know his crew was crazy enough to put people's lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor.

"We didn't know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn't know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno."

Zimmer, a Democrat, alleged last month two top aides to Christie, including Guadagno, threatened to withhold Superstorm Sandy relief funds unless she approved a redevelopment plan supported by the governor's office.

Moran says in his column the newspaper's editorial board was split over its Oct. 20 endorsement of Christie and, within the endorsement, harshly criticized the governor while ultimately endorsing him over state Sen. Barbara Buono, who the editorial board said was "a deeply flawed candidate."

The editorial said: "Our own view is that Christie is overrated. His spin is way ahead of his substance" -- a position Moran voices even more strongly in his column, saying the board considers him "the most overrated politician in the country, at least until now, a man who is better at talking than governing."

Endorsing a candidate "is not about who we like better," Moran says. "Christie has boycotted the editorial board for years, an attempt to bully us into more loving coverage. So we've had a front-row view of what a creep he can be. Buono is the more likable person by far."

But, Moran says, "An endorsement is not a love embrace. It is a choice between two flawed human beings. And the winner is often the less bad option."

To illustrate the point, Moran looks to the 2016 presidential race and asks: "What if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, and some dark secret emerges about her tenure as secretary of state? How does President Rand Paul sound to you?"

"Now ask yourself this: If the Republican primary came to a choice between Paul and Christie, which candidate would you endorse?

"At the risk of repeating a mistake, I'd pick Christie in that primary, even now," Moran says. "And if you think that makes some sense, then you understand how excruciating the endorsement process can be."

Christie's office had no immediate comment on Moran's piece.

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