By Angela Delli Santi, AP
TRENTON, New Jersey–Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says the scandal that threatens his status as a rising Republican star and possible presidential candidate in 2016 has tested his administration, but he vowed to continue working to improve the lives of the people in his state.
On the eve of his second term, Christie opened his annual State of the State address on Tuesday by touching only briefly on the scandal before moving on to take credit for the state’s improving economy.
“The last week has certainly tested this administration,” he told lawmakers and others gathered at the Statehouse. “Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better.”
Christie’s office is being investigated after allegations that a top aide, since fired, helped to orchestrate massive traffic jams at the foot of one of the world’s busiest bridges in an apparent act of political revenge.
Christie apologized in a marathon press conference last week and said he was “humiliated,” but he denied involvement.
Two state legislative panels announced plans Monday to continue their investigations into the incident that one Democratic leader has called an “abuse of power” probe.
“The question is, who abused their power and how high did it go?” the Democrat, Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, said.
The larger-than-life governor, who has crafted an image of blunt pragmatism and ability to work with Democrats, is now on the defensive as his second term in office begins. His inauguration takes place next week.
On Tuesday, Christie must address his Democratic-leaning state on issues far beyond the traffic jam. He is expected to revive the theme of bipartisanship, which has taken a hit in the scandal.