New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was sworn in for a second term Tuesday in the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J., as Democrats ramped up an investigation into whether his administration abused its power.
Christie is considered a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate. His 18-minute address dwelled on a 22-point lead in his re-election, which he called the “voices of affirmation.”
He made no direct mention of investigations that have already led to the firing or departure of four top aides or associates.
Christie also referred to New Jersey as “tough, resilient, and proud” and pointed to a bond between his administration and the people of the state, repeatedly using the phrase “faith and trust.”
Promises for his second term include easing the fiscal burden on the middle class, ensuring all children get quality education, and improving access to jobs for recovering drug addicts.
“We have no moral option in my view but to heed the voice of the voters and that is exactly what I intend to do,” said Christie.
His speech came less than an hour after Democratic lawmakers in the New Jersey Legislature announced they were joining twin probes into allegations that Christie’s aides engineered traffic jams in September as political retribution against a town mayor who did not support Christie in his re-election bid.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said the merger of Assembly and Senate committees are the “optimal approach to ensuring the people of New Jersey get the answers they need to these questions about the abuse of government power.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office is also investigating the traffic jams. They happened over a few days in September when lanes leading to George Washington Bridge to New York City were closed.
Christie has apologized, denied any involvement, fired a deputy chief of staff at the center of the controversy, and cut ties with one of his top campaign advisers. Two officials Christie helped get hired at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge, resigned.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who was also sworn in as lieutenant governor on Tuesday, is at the center of a new controversy that erupted over the weekend.
Democratic Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer has accused Guadagno of pressuring her to support a real estate project in return for the delivery of Superstorm Sandy aid. Zimmer said Guadagno told her that the ultimatum was a direct message from Christie and the development is very important to him. Guadagno has described the account as false and illogical.
Though state lawmakers haven’t decided to extend their probe to the Hoboken issue, Zimmer did meet with investigators from the U.S. attorney’s office Sunday and gave them journal entries that are the main evidence to support her claims. She also offered to take a lie-detector test or testify under oath.
Christie has a national reputation as a blunt-talking and often funny politician committed to finding common ground with Democrats on certain key issues, including overhauling the state’s public-worker pension program and making it easier to fire teachers who are found to be underperforming. His leadership after parts of the state were hit hard by Sandy also raised his profile 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, getting high marks from constituents and national attention, as well as criticism from some conservatives who blamed him for being too cozy with Democrats.