New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is now serving his final days in office. On Tuesday, Democrat Phil Murphy will be sworn in. With a bigger than life personality, Christie was hailed for his commanding leadership after Superstorm Sandy, but Bridgegate took its toll on his political viability.
He leaves office with historic low approval ratings for a governor. Political analysts say Christie made some big changes, many positive, but they say most residents are glad to see him go.
Seton Hall political science professor Matthew Hale is giving Christie a grade of A for his first four years in office and an F for the last four. He says in his first term Christie showed a remarkable ability to capture the imagination of people and was successful in getting bipartisan support in solving tough problems.
“That went away when Chris Christie decided that he wanted to be President. He sort of abandoned New Jersey and when he came back he seemed to lose all interest in the bipartisanship, the compromise, and the willingness to get things done. It was his way or the highway.”
Christie gets an overall grade of C plus from Ben Dworkin, the director of the Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship at Rowan University.
“This is somebody who had once in a generation political skills and it all seemed squandered between Bridgegate and then an ill-fated presidential run and then the Trump endorsement.”
Dworkin credits Christie for taking steps that helped control property tax increases.
“He absolutely changed the culture in Trenton. But we still have a pension crisis. We still have issues with urban schools. We still have tremendous transportation infrastructure problems. New Jersey Transit is a mess.”
Hale says Christie did have significant accomplishments.
“He’s clearly the leader on combatting the opioid epidemic. He clearly did some major things in bail reform. He did some fantastic things in reorganizing higher education. All of those things are going to be lasting and important things. But I think overall it’s going to be about what could have been.”
Christie says he’ll be missed, but Dworkin says his record low voter approval rating in recent months shows the public doesn’t agree.
“They were more than ready to wave goodbye and they have been for several months now. With certainly that kind of approval rating, the Governor will certainly shrug his shoulders and said he doesn’t care. But the people who care are the Republicans who have to run in his legacy.”
What will Christie’s legacy’s be? Hale says it depends on what happens in the future.
“If the pension system gets worse, if the amount that we owe in that skyrockets even more beyond control, yeah, he’s going to look a lot more favorable then we look at him today.”