The Star-Ledger, NJ's biggest newspaper, endorsed incumbent Governor Chris Christie last fall over Democratic challenger State Senator Barbara Buono, citing his "impressive... skill at playing Trenton’s inside game" even though "his achievements have been only modest." Now, after Bridgegate and other disturbing allegations, the editorial board is feeling awful.
Tom Moran, the editorial page editor, writes today, "We blew this one. When the endorsement ran, I could not get a cup of coffee in the People’s Republic of Montclair without my liberal friends taunting me. Back then, I pushed back."
Yes, we knew Christie was a bully. 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.
Even before this scandal train got rolling, this endorsement was a close call and a split vote among the editorial board. We regard Christie as the most overrated politician in the country, at least until now, a man who is better at talking than governing. We criticized him for trashing the working poor, for his tea party approach to the environment, for his opposition to gay marriage and a livable minimum wage. And so on.
But there is more to it. Christie has made good progress on education with a focus on struggling cities, especially Newark and Camden. His pension and health reforms helped contain public costs that were spiraling out of control.
Moran adds, "Let’s not forget his opponent, Sen. Barbara Buono. She was not up to the job of being governor — even in the view of many Democrats."
He admits that the Star-Ledger could have skipped the endorsement process, but they wanted to give readers the "best choice." And Morgan leaves these parting words, "Now ask yourself this: If the Republican primary came to a choice between [Rand] Paul and Christie, which candidate would you endorse? At the risk of repeating a mistake, I’d pick Christie in that primary, even now. And if you think that makes some sense, then you understand how excruciating the endorsement process can be."