July 13, 2010

WITH THE BARK ON:

New Jersey Governor Defies Political Expectations (RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, 6/11/10, NY Times)

Mr. Christie has turned out to be a far more deft politician than his detractors — and even some supporters — had expected, making few compromises as he pursues a broad agenda for remaking New Jersey’s free-spending political culture. So far, polls suggest, the public is giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“The most important thing in public life, in a job like governor, is for the people you’re representing to know exactly where you stand,” Mr. Christie said in an interview on Friday. “People who disagree with me on things at least have a sense of comfort in knowing where I’m coming from.”

In a mostly blue state where Democrats control the Legislature, Mr. Christie, a Republican, won election last year mostly because of the deep unpopularity of his opponent, Gov. Jon S. Corzine. Mr. Christie, a former federal prosecutor known for aggression rather than deal-making, took office to predictions that his hard-charging style would not work in the labyrinth of Trenton, where factions of party, region and interest group would slow him down.

Instead, he confronted the powerful public employees’ unions and won, cutting future pensions and benefits, and persuaded voters to defeat hundreds of local school budgets. He got nearly everything he wanted in the state budget, making the deepest cuts in generations. And the Assembly is expected this week to give final passage to one of his cherished goals: a cap on local property taxes.

The governor has repeatedly used his powers more confrontationally than his predecessors, wading into school budget fights, freezing the actions of semiautonomous public authorities and breaking with tradition by refusing to reappoint a State Supreme Court justice.

“I think we all underestimated his political skill coming in,” said Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University. “You can’t deny that he’s been a tour de force in Trenton. He has managed to control the legislative agenda more than other governors, despite having a Legislature controlled by the opposite party.”

The governor has a direct, pithy speaking style — the sharp rise in property taxes in the past decade, he said, “is not a mystery; it’s a mandate” — often leavened by humor. And he is relentless, willing to hammer any message repeatedly and take on any critic, and he rarely meanders or evades a question.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 13, 2010 5:32 AM
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