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A Vote of Confidence?

A Vote of Confidence? …From the pages of South Jersey Magazine…

In the midst of his second term as governor and with a potential presidential run looming in 2016, South Jersey sounds off on Chris Christie.

There’s no doubt about it: Gov. Chris Christie has a big personality, and an even bigger presence.

Over his tenure, the governor has made headlines again and again, from granting millions in tax breaks to large corporations under Grow NJ, to the Bridgegate scandal of 2013 to criticism of how he handled Hurricane Sandy relief to alternately, compliments on how he handled Hurricane Sandy relief. There was the time he told a heckler at a Mount Laurel town hall meeting, to “sit down and keep quiet or get out,” not to mention heated confrontations with constituents on the boardwalk on the Jersey Shore. His trademark, no-nonsense manner has made Christie a polarizing figure not just in the state, but nationwide.

New Jersey’s larger-than-life governor has certainly had his share of ups and downs. Last month, a survey found that 35 percent of voters in the state say they approve of Christie’s job performance thus far, compared to 51 percent who say they disapprove. According to the same survey, released in March by Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind, this approval rating has dropped since January, when 39 percent of voters said they approved of his performance, and 47 percent disapproved.

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But Christie maintains his unequivocal belief in the way things should be done, and his no-holds-barred, blunt manner of doing business. And while he certainly has weathered his share of criticism, you can’t argue with results.

A Republican, he has been elected twice in a state with two times as many Democratic voters than from his own party. He’s also emerged as a very real contender to pursue a presidential run in 2016.

Putting it simply, his aura just got a whole lot bigger.

But not all New Jerseyans are on board with Christie’s potential run for the White House. Almost 3 in 5 registered voters in New Jersey do not think Christie would make a good president, according to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University. In fact, that same poll found that 52 percent of New Jerseyans polled would vote for Democratic former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over their own governor.

SOUTH JERSEY MAGAZINE: What do you think of Christie’s tenure thus far?

“I think Christie has shown himself as a man who has confused rudeness for tenacity. In his efforts to ensure that he isn’t seen as a push-over, he’s been blustering and often unkind. I don’t think he’s a positive role model. I honestly think it’s unfortunate that there are so many impressionable minds observing him already. I don’t see a need to increase that number.”
—Alice Ozma, Haddon Township

“In my lifetime there has not been a governor as committed to revitalizing the city of Camden as Chris Christie has been. He has worked with local and state leaders to fundamentally rethink how the city works—from public safety to economic development to education—and the impact of these efforts is becoming clearer every day. Crime is down, new schools are opening and there’s over $1 billion of committed capital for new buildings and job creation. There is certainly more to do, but there is no single person more responsible for what’s happening here now, and what will happen, than Gov. Christie.”
—George E. Norcross III, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Cooper Health System and Cooper University Hospital in Camden, Executive Chairman of Conner Strong & Buckelew

“Christie’s tenure so far has been a mixed bag. He has had some big success (the response to Hurricane Sandy for instance) and some big failures, perhaps most notably Bridgegate.”
—Anne C. Pluta, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rowan University

“He was dealt a terrible hand after years of total Democrat control in Trenton and the disastrous leadership of Jon Corzine. He’s been digging out ever since. Gov. Christie has made the tough decisions that are moving New Jersey forward for generations to come. He has taken on the teachers union; he has instituted a 2 percent tax cap to contain the out-of-control spending that has been happening in some of the municipalities across the state; and he has been steadfast in opposing tax increases in the state that already has the highest taxes in the country. He’s a Republican governor in a Democrat state and has won re-election by one of the largest margins in New Jersey history.”
—Burlington County Republican Committee Chairman William F. Layton

“Unfortunately for the vast majority of people in New Jersey, the governor’s record on jobs and the economy has failed to provide middle class families and working people the opportunities to move ahead. His policies and priorities have allowed the wealthy to prosper while everyone else is hurting. I believe we have to make the smart investments in priorities such as education and the transportation infrastructure. These will provide immediate and long-term benefits by creating jobs, fueling economic growth and giving students the skills they need for good-paying jobs and creating a workforce for the modern economy. Former Gov. Kean used this formula and it succeeded, but this governor has not.”
—New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney

“I think that during his first four years in office, most people found him amusing. There was a likability about him. However, we’re over the amusement. More and more, I find his behavior insulting and distasteful. When he told someone at a press conference to ‘shut up,’ he lost my respect. The person who he told to ‘sit down and shut up,’ was affected by [Hurricane] Sandy. That person was questioning the governor about the slow progress of rebuilding after the storm. The question was valid and justified. As of today, there are still many displaced families living in alternate housing.”
—Lisa Bien, Mount Laurel

SJM: How do you think he’s done from a business owner’s standpoint?

“Under Gov. Christie’s leadership, New Jersey’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times by three different rating agencies, which creates a challenging environment for small businesses to thrive and attract top talent.”
—Tricia Pilone, President, Insurance Services, CPI Companies

“Fair. New Jersey is still the roughest state in America to do business in.”
—Manny Nowak, business coach, President of Nowak Associates, Inc.

“As an entrepreneur who cultivates the community of entrepreneurs in South Jersey, I look forward to building a stronger relationship with Gov. Christie’s administration. It is my understanding that his appointed Lt. Governor was tasked with focusing on economic growth. I would be interested in sharing the vibrant community of entrepreneurs and startup culture at Kings Hall with the state in order to build more sustainable co-working and business incubators throughout the suburban corridors. Gov. Christie’s support of downtown Haddonfield and other vibrant main streets in our great state will only be enhanced by him taking the next step. He is a strong leader and has the power to affect growth and change in the state of New Jersey and our country.”
—Devon Perry, owner and member of Kings Hall, co-working campus in Haddonfield

SJM: How do you think he’s done from an education standpoint?

“Terrible. He has continued to lie and to bully teachers and others in the educational system that have challenged him. He does not support the teachers. Instead, it seems as if his goal has been to dismantle the system without regard to what many educators attempt to do daily in order to support their students on many levels.”
—anonymous teacher in the Washington Township Public School District

“Christie has tackled some very controversial education issues, and in doing so has taken on a very powerful teacher’s union, proving that he is not afraid of a challenge or reforming long-standing practices and institutions (like chipping away at NJ’s 100-year-old tenure system).”
—Danielle Gougon, PhD, Professor, Department of Political Science and Economics, Rowan University

SJM: What are your thoughts on PARCC and Christie’s role in the testing?

“Tests don’t teach. The PARCC marathon of testing takes a lot of time away from instruction. PARCC also does not allow for students with different learning styles to demonstrate their strengths. PARCC is a tool that Gov. Christie is using to destroy public education. PARCC is being used to show that public education is failing; meanwhile he is endorsing corporations to take over the educational system. These corporations have not kept their promises made to charter schools that have been promised funding. Class sizes have increased because corporations don’t want to spend the money to support them. Instead a company like Pearson has a monopoly on many new ‘products’ being used throughout the state of New Jersey. The No. 1 top seller is the PARCC test! Schools should not be run like factories. Our students deserve better.”
—anonymous South Jersey teacher

SJM: How do you think Christie has done from an elected official’s standpoint?

“Through the 2 percent cap on property taxes, Gov. Christie has given local elected leaders the tools necessary to hold the line on what had been an endless stream of annual property tax increases. Gov. Christie has also funded New Jersey schools at record levels in each of his five budgets, as well as signing into law the School Choice legislation.”
—Tom Booth, Chairman, Camden County Republican Committee

“From an elected official’s standpoint, you cannot ask for a better leader. He truly represents what it means to transcend political parties. Time and time again he has shown that it takes working with both parties to accomplish what needs to get done in Trenton. Gov. Christie has proven that he understands what it takes to govern effectively.”
—Burlington County Republican Committee Chairman William F. Layton

SJM: What could he do better?

“Right now, Christie has a PR crisis. Recent polls reveal that the public is losing confidence in him and the direction of the state. This is not good news for him, especially if he plans to point to his record as governor in a presidential bid.”
—Danielle Gougon, PhD, Professor, Department of Political Science and Economics, Rowan University

“Obviously, the George Washington Bridge issue has been a black eye on an otherwise stellar job. … Gov. Christie has also been criticized in some circles, especially in South Jersey, for not doing all that he could be doing to build the Republican Party in New Jersey and expand the base, so as to ensure the GOP is in the best possible position to continue Gov. Christie’s good work when he leaves office.”
—Tom Booth, Chairman, Camden County Republican Committee

“I do understand that Gov. Christie needs to cut costs for the state, but I disagree with the budget cuts to Family Planning and Planned Parenthood Clinics. These are services to underserved women and they provide health care to women, not just family planning services. Yes, with Obamacare, more women have insurance, but the insurance they are receiving is usually a Medicaid brand and most private OB/GYN offices do not accept that insurance. The clinics do accept that insurance. If a woman qualifies for a brand insurance through Obamacare, it usually has a high deductible. We need to make health care and family planning services accessible for women.”
—Diane Hargis-Reynolds, CNM, Washington Township

SJM: What has he done well?

“In a number of instances, Christie has shown the ability to do what he feels is best for the citizens of New Jersey regardless of partisan interest. His willingness to accept help from the federal government and appear with President Obama post-Hurricane Sandy is a resounding example of this. Too often, politicians today are so worried about partisan optics that they lose sight of the public good, which is to all of our [detriment].”
—Anne C. Pluta, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rowan University

“He has a passion for New Jersey and its economic growth and sustainability; he is willing to make bold decisions despite the criticisms if it appears to be ultimately in the best interest of the people/community, [such as] consolidating Camden’s police department; he has repeatedly looked for other methods to cut costs and save money rather than implementing the ‘let’s raise taxes again’ attitude which has plagued our society for decades.”
—Dr. Monica J. Scott, owner of Doctor Physical Therapy in Woodbury

SJM: What do you think about his potential run for president?

“Christie running for president would be great for our state—only two presidents, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, have been from New Jersey, and residents would love to see a third. However, he’s always been blunt and outspoken and he’d have to better manage his style to not drive away the voters because of it. He has to rebuild the trust of the New Jersey voters and still has to appease his supporters.”
—Ren Cicalese, Managing Shareholder at Alloy Silverstein in Cherry Hill and Medford resident

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 1 (April, 2015).
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Author: Rachel Morgan; Photo by Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock.com

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