Outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose record unpopularity has become a key factor in the state’s gubernatorial election, argued with a constituent this morning as he spoke with reporters outside his polling place.
The fiery Republican, who logged a 15 percent approval rating in a late-October poll by Quinnipiac University, faced off with a woman who asked him why he had not used his time in office to merge the adjoining towns of Mendham Borough and Mendham Township. Christie resides in Mendham Township.
“Because I can’t,” Christie responded in the exchange, captured by a reporter for The New York Times. “As governor, I can’t. I don’t have the authority to do it.”
New Jersey voters head to the polls today to elect Christie’s replacement, choosing between Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Democratic former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy. Recent polls have shown Murphy with a consistent double-digit lead over Guadagno, whose association with Christie is frequently cited as having a negative impact on her candidacy.
Christie’s often testy disagreements with New Jerseyans brought widespread attention after his election in 2009. He frequently engaged in town halls across the state in which he raised his voice and scolded state residents in a fashion unusual for U.S. politicians.
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During his second term in office, Christie found himself embroiled in a scandal related to the politically motivated closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge, was criticized for the amount of time he spent out of state during his failed presidential bid and was infamously photographed on vacation outside the state-owned shore house on a day when a state government shutdown had closed public beaches.
“Listen, go in and vote for whoever you want,” Christie said today as the woman asked why she should vote for “another Republican.”
“The easiest thing in the world is to stand where you stand and stand on the sidelines and critique,” he added, suggesting that she run for the township committee. “[It’s] easier to sit here and complain, but you know what? That’s the joy of public service … It’s serving folks like you that is really such a unique joy. It really is.”
“You’re fabulous,” he said.