What New Jersey Journalists Want You To Know About Chris Christie
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is garnering increased attention among Republican candidates thanks to a rise in his New Hampshire polling numbers, is misleading many about his economic record, has a history of big corporate tax breaks, and continues to fall in the polls back home, according to Garden State journalists who have covered him for years.
Many reporters and editors who have followed Christie's career for the past six years as governor, and before that as U.S. attorney, say the image of Christie in campaign coverage is lacking in important details.
"I think New Jersey's economic record will get talked about a lot. It is not as good as he portrays it being," said Michael Symons, a statehouse reporter for Gannett's six New Jersey newspapers. "He says job growth under him has been more than it was under the past four governors. That is in part the result of the national economy. New Jersey as it compares to other states, only 7 or 8 states have a lower rate of private sector job growth when you go back to when he took office."
He later added, "Machinery of state government has kind of ground to a halt, a lot of it due to a lack of him being here. If you look at the polls, New Jerseyans don't approve of the job he is doing. There has not been a lot of action going on in Trenton."
Michael Aron, chief political correspondent for NJTV, the local public television network, agreed that Christie's record deserves closer scrutiny from the Beltway press: "His popularity in the state has plummeted."
"His record is an albatross," Aron added. "It's very easy to say that New Jersey lags in the nation in recovery, nine credit downgrades. We lead the nation in foreclosures, we have the highest property taxes in the nation, we are the 49th or 50th most heavily taxed state in the country."
Salvador Rizzo, who covers the statehouse for The Record of Bergen County, the state's second largest newspaper, also points to the economic record.
"He says that we've had some of the best economic growth in 15 years. But if you compare New Jersey's job growth in the private sector to other states, we have been among the lowest growing," says Rizzo.
Rizzo invoked the difficulties media outlets that are not as familiar with New Jersey might have in fact-checking Christie's claims. "We have complex economic problems and it's tough to fact-check them on the spot when he portrays it perhaps as a more healthy recovery than it has been compared to other states."
Bob Jordan, a political reporter for the Asbury Park Press, pointed to a recent editorial in his paper giving Christie failing marks in many areas.
"That does not look like a good home state record," Jordan said, later citing issues he says Christie has failed on since taking office. "Property tax reform, education funding reforms, tenure protection for teachers, a lot of stuff Christie made promises on. He hasn't been here to follow through on his top promises. Estimates of him being out of state last year are between 60% and 70% of the days."
Jordan also pointed to Christie's efforts after the devastating Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He said Christie got some initial credit for being on the scene, but added that his push for federal aid was weak.
"People in New Jersey still are not (supportive of) how Christie performed after Sandy," Jordan said. "In terms of the federal funding and how that money was spent and the contracts that went out as seemingly political favors -- from debris collection to the $25 million tourism campaign that featured the governor in the commercials."
David Cruz, another NJTV reporter who's been covering Christie on the campaign trail, said his tax breaks to corporations did not provide the job growth he had promised.
"There had been tax breaks to corporations through the state Economic Development Authority that have lavished tax gifts on corporations and have not really produced the kind of jobs that people were promised or expected."
He also cited Christie's claims as a crime-fighting U.S. attorney: "The terrorism fighter image is slightly exaggerated. But when he was U.S. attorney and running for governor twice, his focus was always on how much of a corruption fighter he was, but there were a lot of easy targets."
Then there's Tom Moran, editorial page editor and columnist for The Star-Ledger, who has been a longtime critic of Christie and says he "flat out lies on the campaign trail all the time. This is not like the shading of the truth, there are flat out things that are not true that he knows are not true."
Asked to list some examples, Moran cited three:
Christie said the U.S. attorney had said there will be no further charges in the so-called Bridgegate scandal, in which several Christie aides ordered lanes closed to the George Washington Bridge at rush hour. Moran said that is untrue.
Christie said the King of Jordan was a personal friend. Moran said they met once and he used that claim to allow the king to pay for a personal trip, bypassing conflict of interest laws.
Christie said he never signed any gun control measures. Moran points to three measures that provided higher penalties for unlawful gun ownership; banned gun licenses to people on the FAA terror watch list; and required the state to cooperate with federal background checks.
Moran said media outlets "need to check his record as governor and every claim he makes because he's shameless."
"What is sort of being lost in all the hubbub is that he has a terrible record in New Jersey," Moran added. "The state's credit rating is the second lowest in the country and has dropped nine times under his watch. The state's transportation system is in a real mess, the transportation trust fund is going broke in six months, and he's done nothing about the state's housing crisis."