Chris Christie won the New Jersey governor’s race Tuesday night by out-polling Gov. Jon Corzine (D) among swing voters and the elderly and stressing a mantra of “change.”
Christie won 48.8 percent of the vote to Corzine’s 44.6. Independent Chris Daggett, after appearing to surge late in the race, pulled only 5.7 percent.
The former U.S. Attorney swatted away attempts by the Corzine campaign to portray him as corrupt and above the law. Instead, Christie stressed his crime-fighting record as the state’s top prosecutor and accused the incumbent, a former Goldman Sachs CEO, of being clueless about how to help New Jersey pull out of a deep recession.
President Obama lent his prestige to Corzine, appearing at a rally with him on Sunday in an attempt to stave off an embarrassing mid-term defeat for the Democratic party. In Virginia, Republicans won as well, with Robert McDonnell crushing the Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds, 59 to 41 percent. McDonnell, a Christian conservative trained at Pat Robertson’s Regent University, downplayed social issues and stressed jobs and economic development.
According to the New York Times:
In New Jersey, a sprawling corruption case begun by Mr. Christie, which culminated in July with the arrests of dozens of politicians and others, appeared to have taken its toll on the Democratic get-out-the-vote machinery. In Hudson County, a party bastion where a number of Democratic officials were charged, only 39 percent of registered voters cast their ballots, county officials said.
Christie’s running mate, Lieutenant Gov.-elect Kim Guadagno, is also a former federal prosecutor.
Of the 39 percent of voters who said they wanted change, Christie won 67 percent of their support, according to exit polls reported by Fox News. The elderly voted 55 percent for Christie and 40 percent for Corzine in a state where one in five voters is over 65. And a quarter of the New Jersey voters who call themselves independent strongly backed Christie: 60 percent to 30 percent for Corzine.
While Republicans were energized for Christie, voting 91 percent for the former prosecutor, Democrats were more ambivalent about their candidate, giving Corzine only 86 percent of their votes.
Although Christie maintained a consistent lead in the polls, he was dogged by controversies from his tenure as U.S. Attorney, which lasted from Jan. 17, 2002 to Dec. 1, 2008.
In April, Christie again came under fire by Democrats for controversial court-monitoring contracts his office awarded while he state’s top federal prosecutor. One contract was worth at least $52 million to the firm headed by former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft; the contract was to monitor a medical device maker accused of offering kickbacks to doctors. Another monitoring contract went to David Kelley, a former U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, who had previously investigated and cleared Christie’s brother for stock fraud.
Four months later it was revealed that Christie spoke with Bush White House advisor Karl Rove about running for governor of New Jersey while Christie was serving as U.S. Attorney, raising questions about whether Christie had politicized his office.
Later in August, it became public that Christie failed to disclose on ethics and tax forms a $46,000 loan he made to acting First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Brown. The disclosure resulted in significant bad press for Brown, who resigned Aug. 25.
Also that month the Corzine campaign insinuated an improper relationship between Christie and the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office, specifically regarding fulfilling a Freedom of Information Act request by Corzine’s campaign for his and Brown’s travel records.
The Corzine camp also attacked Christie’s driving record. Between 1985 and 2009 Christie was found guilty on 13 tickets and between 1989 and 2007, and he had been involved in six accidents, including one in which he hit a motorcyclist while driving the wrong way down a one-say street. A Corzine spokesman called him a “complete menace” on the roads.
In none of the accidents was Christie ticketed. A Corzine ad said Christie ” threw his weight around” as a U.S. Attorney in order to avoid being ticketed. The ad run set off a back and forth between the two candidates regarding Christie’s weight and the governor’s bald head.
Last month, Christie came under attack for excessive spending while he was the state’s U.S. Attorney. According to reports, Christie exceeded the government hotel allowance on 14 of 16 trips he took in 2008. In 30 business trips Christie took between 2004 and 2008, he exceeded the government lodging allowance 23 times.
And let’s not forget that Christie was also accused of hiring the inexperienced son of a friend and mentor as a prosecutor.