MORRISTOWN, NJ – Governor Chris Christie is back in New Jersey politics after being silent for nearly three years since the end of his second term as New Jersey Governor. Now, many feel he is preparing for a third term as governor in 2021, which is allowed by New Jersey law. Although a governor can’t have three consecutive terms, they can have a third term.
This year, Governor Christie has worked as a behind the scenes political power broker and kingmaker, anointing candidates. Those who get the Christie seal-of-approval get on the ballot as Republicans on the Trump ticket. Those who don’t get the Christie nod, are relegated to column left and column right on the ballot, treated as political outcasts and angry dissenters of the New Republican Party power base.
“It’s good to vote for Team Christie again,” said New Jersey RNC committeeman William Palatucci on a social media post, showing his ballot selections for Christie-anointed candidates Tom Kean, Jr. for Congress and Rikin Mehta for Senate.
But, what does the return of Christie mean for New Jersey politics and the Republican Party?
Christie didn’t leave office in New Jersey on the best of terms with Republicans, especially conservative Republicans which were his primary base during his first term and powering him into his second term. Christie’s troubles with President Trump distanced him even more with conservatives, but the Christie gas tax was the final nail in the coffin for Christie and his relationship with his diehard once-conservative base.
This month, Christie announced he’s going to also be a political lobbyist for the drug treatment and rehabilitation industry.
In many ways, Christie’s entrance behind the scenes into the 2020 election has created an even bigger rift between establishment Republicans and the conservative base within the Republican Party after Christie melted in with the establishment Republican faction, including Palatucci, Kean and others who have supported more liberal-leaning Republican candidates in office in New Jersey over the past two years.
Although the liberal experiment has failed the party, with devastating losses in 2017 and 2018 at all levels, 2019 showed a glimmer of hope as strong conservative candidates including Michael Testa and Ryan Peters, the party has gone back to its safe space in 2020 aligning with candidates who would be better Democrat candidates for office, including besieged former Burington County Freeholder Kate Gibbs and former Obama Democrat Rikin Mehta.
The party also fell in line, under duress from the Trump administration to back long time Democrat Jeff Van Drew, who had previously consistently voted against the Trump agenda for his entire term in Congress as a Democrat.
So as New Jersey heads into the 2020 Republican Primary, we’ll learn on July 7th, whether or not the devolution back into a more blue Republican Party will rue the day for conservatives or will the conservative resurgence continue to overpower the limp and lifeless GOP establishment that has descended New Jersey into the 2nd most blue state in America.
This year’s Achilles heel for the party might just be Chris Christie, as the party is ready to take to the trenches to fight Cory Booker. Christie and Booker have had quite the bromance in politics despite being on opposite ends of the political spectrums, in public anyway.