State Senator (D-32)/North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco pulled no punches when going after Republican Gov. Chris Christie (R), referring to him as “the architect” of Bridgegate and “the man who sunk New Jersey” during a fundraiser last week.
” … No state is in worse shape than our own and he [Christie] got away with it in his first term and he kind of became a popular hero and anyone who realized what he was doing knew exactly what was going on,” Sacco said during a fundraiser for close friend and political ally Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-32) on Thursday.
“He used the U.S. attorney’s office to become governor. He uses his [state] attorney general’s office to remain governor. Anyone who doesn’t think that is kidding.”
Christie was the U.S. Attorney of New Jersey between 2002 and 2008 and was known for taking a firm stance on public corruption.
In January 2009, Christie announced he would be challenging Democrat Jon Corzine for the governor’s seat.
While he had been out of office for nearly eight months, Christie was largely credited for leading the two-year investigation that led to the arrest of 44 people on July 23, 2009 (h/t The New York Times).
The sting saw Hudson officials such as then-Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell and ex-Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega arrested and sentenced to jail time (though the case has been scrutinized since several people caught up in the scandal had their charges dismissed).
Given his background in law enforcement, many of his political enemies have accused Christie of using the state AG’s office to his advantage.
In March of last year, the state AG’s office raided the North Bergen Parks and Recreation Department, which led to two employees being indicted for stealing township time.
Meanwhile, an ongoing investigation into the North Bergen Department of Public Works led to two supervisors being sentenced to five years in state prison last year after being convicted of charges stemming from working on political campaigns while on township time.
Sacco, who talked up leading Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy at his annual mayor’s ball earlier this month, also went after his Republican nemesis for his involvement on the Bridgegate trial – which is now more than halfway complete.
“Anyone who believes that Bridgegate was an accident doesn’t understand this man. He runs every part of the governor’s [office] from top to bottom. He was involved in Bridgegate, he was the architect of it: he was the person who knew exactly what his staff would do,” Sacco exclaimed.
Some witnesses in the trial of former Port Authority official Bill Baroni and ex-Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly have said Christie and his office were well aware of the scheme to close lanes of the George Washington Bridge back in September 2013 after Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich declined to endorse Christie for re-election.
Christie and his office have repeatedly denied such claims.
Acknowledging that he was expecting to endorse Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop for next year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary (who instead endorsed Murphy and is seeking re-election), Sacco called Murphy “a man of integrity … who will be the governor.”
“We will no longer be dismissed. You don’t even realize … best practices that the mayors have to go through. Here’s a man who sunk New Jersey by giving us best practices. Are we kidding ourselves as to what we’ve been through?,” Sacco reflected.
“It’s enough, let’s end it: let’s end it quickly, bring in Phil Murphy, bring back Democrats and let’s run the state of New Jersey right.”
In July, a line-veto item by Christie effectively gave himself the power to cut hundreds and millions of dollars in state aid to local municipalities. Instead, local governments are encouraged to implement the best practices put forth by the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services (h/t NJ Advance Media).
Christie’s office declined to respond to Sacco’s criticisms.