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|Alexandra Jaffe||January 14th 2014|
During his State of the State address on Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) again accepted full responsibility for last year's George Washington Bridge lane closures, which have grown into a full-blown scandal for the potential presidential candidate.
“The last week has certainly tested this administration. Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better. Much better,” the Republican governor said.
“I am the governor and I am ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch — both good and bad,” he added.
Christie promised to cooperate with ongoing investigations into the scandal, but insisted that "what occurred does not define our state."
Christie’s aides privately admit his only chance to move past the controversy lies in refocusing on governing New Jersey. His Tuesday address was the first step down that path.
The governor spent the rest of the speech touting the accomplishments of his first term and outlining proposals for school and tax reform and crime reduction that he plans to pursue during his second term.
But the bipartisan accomplishments of his first term might not be so easy to come by in the next — Democrats in the state could be wary to work with someone tainted by scandal, something Christie advisers privately admit the governor is aware of.
And the renewed focus on New Jersey might not be enough to move past the scandal. New details are emerging about the extent of his administration’s involvement in the bridge closures as payback against a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse his reelection, and another New Jersey elected official has come forward to accuse the Christie administration of further political retribution.
News this week of an audit into the use of federal funds allocated for Hurricane Sandy relief by Christie's administration threaten to taint Christie further. Democrats believe the funds may have been misallocated for political reasons and to achieve political gains.
The New Jersey Democratic Party touched on that controversy and the developing bridge scandal with a video preempting his speech that featured clips of the tough national news coverage of the scandal. “The state of the state?” text on the video reads. “Embarrassed.”
Christie didn’t shy away from Hurricane Sandy, however, his handling of which had been seen as one of his greatest political assets. In his speech, he noted the progress the shore has made since the storm, and said he would continue to make the recovery efforts a priority.
“The bottom line is this: we are a long way from the finish line, but we are a long way from where we were one year ago,” he said. “Challenges remain and I will not rest until every person hurt by Sandy has their life back. That is my mission.”
Alexandra Jaffe writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.