While Trenton Democrats are planning their aggressive “lame -duck” agenda with an eye on making Governor Chris Christie’s 2016 prospects more difficult, New Jersey’s two most popular Republicans, Christie and former Governor Tom Kean, are letting hurt feelings over the attempted ouster of Tom Kean, JR as Senate Minority Leader dominate the news on the Republican side of the aisle.
In case you missed it or didn’t care, on the heels of his landslide reelection with no coattails, Christie made it known that he wanted Senator Kevin O’Toole to replace Kean, JR as the Republican leader in the upper house of the legislature. Junior got wind of the coup attempt and rallied the majority of the caucus to stick with him. The day after the election, Christie publicly expressed his commitment to continue working with Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney and declined to comment on who the leader of the Republican minority in the Senate should be. Junior released a letter signed by 11 of the 16 Republican Senators that expressed their support of him. The following morning, prior to the Republican caucus meeting to elect their leader, Christie summoned Junior and Republican Senators to his Statehouse office, in view of the press corps, to lobby for O’Toole taking over the minority leadership.
Junior fought back and 9 other Republican Senators stuck with him, giving him a 10-6 victory over O’Toole and giving Christie the first act of defiance from Republicans in four years.
Why did Christie want to oust Junior? He’s not saying. Speculation centers on two reasons; 1) Christie was doing Sweeney’s bidding in the Senate President’s ongoing feud with Junior for having the gall to try and win his seat in the Senate and 2) Christie wanted Junior to take the fall for Republicans not picking up any seats in the legislature.
After Junior retained his leadership post, he and O’Toole emerged together from the caucus meeting and put on happy faces to the press, pledging unity and to get to work on the people’s business. That should have been the end of it.
But then Kean, SR started talking to reporters, expressing his frustration and disappointment with his mentee, Christie. Kean SR’s comments were “tinged with bitterness” toward Christie, The Record’s Charles Stile wrote on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Kean, SR kept his disappointment with Christie in the news by granting an interview to The Star Ledger’s Matt Friedman wherein he placed the blame for the Democrats retaining the legislature squarely with the Governor.
“You assume that if the governor wins by 20 points or more you’d have coattails,” Kean said. “No governor I know in any state has won by 20 points and not had coattails.”
By Friday, the Kean-Christie story had seemed to blow over. But it had not.
Yesterday, The Associated Press’s Angela Delli Santi posted a story quoting Kean SR as being “as surprised as I’ve ever been in my life in politics,” and how disappointed he is that Christie has yet to call him or Junior, to mend fences.
None of this reflects well on Christie, the Keans or the NJ GOP.
And none of it will help Republicans, Christie and members of the legislature, continue to “turn Trenton upside down.”