(Changes headline; Adds details from Quinnipiac poll, response
from state Democrat)
By Victoria Cavaliere
TRENTON, N.J. Jan 21 New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie turned to themes of small but compassionate government
and bipartisan cooperation in his second inaugural address on
Tuesday, making no direct mention of the abuse of power charges
facing his administration.
A charismatic and tough-talking fiscal conservative,
Christie is widely seen as a Republican contender for the White
House in 2016.
Although he cruised to re-election in November, Christie has
gone on the defensive in recent weeks amid allegations that his
top aides orchestrated massive traffic snarls to exact political
revenge and that his administration withheld Superstorm Sandy
relief money to pressure a local mayor into approving a
In his address in the state capital of Trenton after he was
sworn into his second term, Christie returned to the themes that
have been hallmarks of his political brand and 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
Christie also returned to a subject common to his speeches:
the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together.
"We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, DC ...
The attitude that puts political victories ahead of policy
agreements. The belief that compromise is a dirty word," said
Christie. "As your governor, I will always be willing to listen,
as long as that listening ends in decisive action for the people
who are counting on us to do our job."
State Senate President Steve Sweeney, a top Democrat, said
the speech was "long on rhetoric and short on solutions" and
called for Christie's support for an earned income tax credit
and higher taxes for the state's top earners.
"The governor delivered a nice speech today, but the working
families of New Jersey deserve real results," Sweeney said in a
A POLITICAL TEMPEST
Christie's second term begins amid a tempest -- an area
snowstorm forced the cancellation of his inaugural party Tuesday
evening on Ellis Island -- as well as a political storm that
began this month over a traffic-related scandal.
Emails released just weeks ago seemed to show that aides
deliberately snarled traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by closing
access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, which links New
Jersey and New York.
The lane closures appeared to be retribution against Fort
Lee's Democratic mayor, who declined to endorse Christie for
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.
In a sign the scandal is taking a toll on Christie's image,
a Quinnipiac University poll found that just 35 percent of
registered voters said he would make a good president, compared
to almost half who voiced that opinion two months ago.
"New Jersey Governor Christopher Christie's 2016
presidential drive is stuck in traffic," said Tim Malloy,
assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling
Three-quarters of the voters surveyed had heard of the
traffic scandal, and half said it would damage Christie's 2016
White House hopes. The poll of 1,933 registered voters was
conducted from Jan. 15 to Jan. 19, with a margin of error of
plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.
The scandal broke two months after Christie, who has built a
political reputation on his blunt-spoken manner and his success
in getting his agenda through a heavily Democratic state, easily
Democrats have since raised other 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 Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno warned her
that Christie would withhold 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 over the weekend dismissed the Hoboken
mayor's claims as false, as did Guadagno.
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
(Writing by Edith Honan; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Amanda