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Chris Christie: The Man, The Myth, The Governor

christieGovernor Chris Christie has become famous for his town hall style meetings. I was able to attend one on Tuesday, March 19, along with 1,500 other residents of Manasquan. Now being a political science major, this was a must-attend event. I am not a fan of any politician in general but my thoughts were, “If he may run for president one day, it would be cool to say I saw him when he was New Jersey Governor.”

Being from an area severely affected by Superstorm Sandy, I was curious about the types of questions that would be asked and how the Governor would respond. As a student journalist, I wanted to ask a question of the Governor yet did not receive the opportunity.

What surprised me most about this event was how humorous the Governor was. He was cracking jokes about himself, government and his family, particularly his mother-in-law.

Most of the time you see a clip of the Governor at a town hall meeting, he is yelling at someone or being defensive. However, he was very calm and even warned the crowd beforehand to “disagree respectfully.”

Most questions were in regards to Superstorm Sandy recovery and how funds would be given out. This to me, as a taxpayer, was very interesting. He brought up his wife’s, Mary-Pat organization, which has not released funds yet but has accumulated over 33 million dollars from 24,000 donors.

Every person in that building had a story about that storm, including the Governor. He spoke about how the Governor’s mansion had no power and how he spoke to President Barack Obama and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Bush told Christie his advice about dealing with storms.

“This is why they [the people] hired you. They didn’t expect this but this is why you hire a tough guy from Jersey. In the days following the storm, you will be what they need,” said Bush.

To put some perspective on how many people were affected by the storm, out of the 8.8 million people in New Jersey, 750,000 were without power following the storm according to Christie.

The big elephant in the room was whether someone would ask Christie about a possible 2016 presidential run. That question was asked by a sixth grade girl who looked so scared to be talking to him.

To my surprise, he did not talk to the 1,500 other people in the room but to this little girl. He walked up to her and explained some advice his mother gave him about “her ambitious son.”

He said that his mother told him, “Do the job in front of you and if you do, the future will take care of itself.” For a man who is often called a bully, I was impressed with how gently he approached this repeated question.

In my town, it is a Republican majority so many of those people who were there used their chance to ask a question in exchange for a hug or picture. Meanwhile, I tend to not affiliate with parties because it clouds your vision.

One young woman challenged the Governor on his stance on minimum wage and severely disagreed with him. She identified herself as a Democrat and felt his policies hurt those middle class families who are trying to make ends meet. To me, that took courage but yet again, the Governor surprised me. He took her question, said he respected their difference and explained where he came from on the issue. He explained to her that he offered a conditional veto where he would consider the raise but not the $1.25 that the State Democrats were offering. He did not want it put in the New Jersey Constitution or tied to the Unites States consumer price index.

As the Governor gears up for re-election in November, his time as governor will be defined by this storm. If he is able to assist all those who need help, he will be respected. However, if his administration fails to do so, the outcome may not affect him this November but could tarnish his legacy and potential presidential bid.

As I mentioned before, I am not a fan of politicians. I am skeptical, fact driven, and, in some cases, pessimistic about politics, yet I love it. Governor Christie and I have had times where we have not seen eye to eye but I do believe that I agree with Jeb Bush’s quote. I was one of the many shore residents who was happy to have him fighting for us, even by going against his own party, which is shocking in its own right.

PHOTO TAKEN by Christopher Orlando

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