Chris Christie has kept a low public persona since leaving the Statehouse six months ago, but with Democrats making much noise in his home county of Morris, the former governor couldn’t stay silent.
“You’ve got till Labor Day to fall in love with Jay Webber,” Christie said at a Republican “unity breakfast” Tuesday morning at the Zeris Inn in Mountain Lakes.
Webber just survived a contentious primary to win the GOP nomination to run for
Congress in District 11. His Democratic opponent, Mikie Sherrill, already has a campaign warchest of more than $4 million.
Zeroing in on what many see as one of the most pivotal House races in the country this year, Christie predicted that Sherrill, if elected, will support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker and the impeachment of Donald Trump. And he said that’s not the type of congress person who should replace the retiring Rodney P. Frelinghuysen.
Notwithstanding Christie’s crystal ball, Sherrill has said she would not back Pelosi as speaker and has withheld judgment on any possible move to impeach the president.
The main point of the breakfast, however, was not merely a pep rally for Webber.
The former governor’s point was clear. GOP primaries in Morris County, which is without a county line, are often contentious by design. But when they end – they end.
This year there were spirited battles for both Congress and three freeholder nominations. Mailings were occasionally nasty and accusations often flew back and forth.
Christie admitted it takes a while for the anger to subside, which explained his mention of Labor Day. But subside it must, he said.
The former governor was mindful of the county’s changing landscape, noting that 20 years ago Republican candidates were destined to win no matter who they were.
But those days are gone. Morris County has changed a bit demographically and there is more enthusiasm – or even anger – among Democrats and those on the left. That’s the type of thing that drives turnout.
“We can’t live in yesteryear,” Christie said.
When it comes to acrimonious county primaries, Christie can speak with authority. He was in three of them.
His record is one win, two losses and three lawsuits at least indirectly related to primary elections.
The former governor mentioned his losses and the litigation, but his main historical tale was about the primary he won, which was a freeholder race in 1994.
He talked about how the late Rep. Dean A. Gallo, who was the county’s most influential Republican at the time, summoned him to a dinner meeting after the election and told the gathering that he (Christie) was now a party leader.
The story was not new. Like the dinner itself, it’s more than 20 years old.
But it could have been new to some of the people in the room. The point was unmistakable. When the primary is over, you support the winners even if you are not necessarily the best of friends.
Christie made that point by again reaching into the pages of county political history. Christie noted that he never was on “Cissy Laureys’ Christmas card list.”
For the younger generation, Cecilia Laureys, who is now deceased, was one of three freeholders who filed suit against Christie’s campaign tactics in the 1994 race.
More than 225 people attended the breakfast, including virtually all county and state elected officials representing parts of Morris County.
One not there was Webber, who was in Washington.
But in a letter read to the crowd, Webber said, “I humbly ask that everyone in the room join forces now.”
Also in attendance was U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin, who was enthused by a poll Monday that showed the race between him and incumbent Bob Menendez within the margin of error.
“It’s neck and neck,” Hugin said.
Christie remarked that the GOP has a chance to win a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey for the first time in more than 40 years.
As the crowd finished their scrambled eggs and prepared to leave, they were left to digest the main reason why political unity is so vital.
“Losing in November is always worse than losing in June,” Christie said.