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Embattled N.J. governor to be sworn in for second term

Embattled N.J. governor to be sworn in for second term

SECOND TERM: Chris Christie will officially start his second term as governor today. Photo: Associated Press

By Edith Honan

(Reuters) – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican Party star enmeshed in scandal after re-election in November, will return to the themes of small government and bipartisan cooperation when he is sworn in for a second term on Tuesday.

Excerpts from Christie’s inaugural address provided by the governor’s office made no mention of the abuse of power accusations swirling around some of his closest aides. Instead, the speech criticized the idea that an “almighty government” can “fix any problem.”

“I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive government that penalizes success and then gives the pittance left to a few in the name of income equity,” Christie said in the excerpt.

Christie will also repeat a common theme in his speeches: the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together.

“We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C. … the attitude that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements. The belief that compromise is a dirty word,” the excerpt said.

A charismatic and tough-talking fiscal conservative, Christie is widely seen as a Republican contender for the White House in 2016. But after cruising to re-election, Christie has been forced on the defensive in recent weeks as several of his top aides have faced accusations of abusing their power.

The political tempest erupted this month with the release of emails that seemed to show aides purposely snarling traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by closing access lanes to the George Washington Bridge linking New Jersey and New York.

PAYBACK?

The lane closures appeared to be retribution against Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor, who declined to endorse Christie for re-election.

Christie has said he did not know of his aides’ plans, and he fired and cut ties with them after their roles were revealed. Federal prosecutors and both chambers of the state legislature are investigating the lane closings, which occurred without notice for four days in September.

The scandal broke some two months after Christie, who has built a political brand on his blunt-spoken manner and his success in getting his agenda through his heavily Democratic state, easily won re-election.

But after the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal broke, Democrats began raising new accusations.

Last week, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat and frequent Christie ally, claimed the governor’s administration had linked the release of Superstorm Sandy relief funds to approval of a Hoboken development project.

Zimmer has said that Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno told her Christie would withhold disaster recovery funding if Zimmer did not support a bid by the New York-based Rockefeller Group to build on several blocks in the city.

Christie’s spokesman on Sunday dismissed the Hoboken mayor’s claims as false, as did Guadagno on Monday at a public appearance in Union Beach, New Jersey. Christie was on a fundraising trip in Florida over the weekend.

Federal officials are also reviewing Christie’s use of about $2 million in storm relief funds for a tourism campaign that features him and his family. New Jersey Democratic Representative Frank Pallone requested the probe, saying he was concerned about the bidding process for the marketing campaign.

A spokesman for Christie said there was nothing improper about the campaign and suggested Pallone’s inquiry was politically motivated.

Christie will attend an inaugural service at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. It will be followed by an inauguration ceremony in the state capital of Trenton and an evening celebration on Ellis Island in New York harbor.

(Reporting by Edith Honan in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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