Partisan gridlock isn’t exclusive to Washington, D.C., as Connecticut Republicans are learning from presumptive ally and surrogate Chris Christie.
Eager to align itself in the past with the New Jersey governor, whose services many party elders expected to enlist for the 2014 campaign against Christie’s Democratic rival from Connecticut, Dannel P. Malloy, the state GOP appears to be tempering its praise for the Republican presidential contender in the wake of “bridgegate.”
Accused of ordering lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to cause gridlock in Fort Lee, N.J., where the mayor opposed Christie’s landslide re-election in the fall, Christie was confronted this week with a series of damaging emails between a senior member of his administration and a Port Authority executive. Christie fired his deputy chief of staff Thursday, claiming he had no knowledge that she wrote, “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Connecticut’s top Republican, who was photographed with Christie last summer at a national party conclave in Boston, sidestepped questions on whether the governor is still welcome on the campaign trail in Connecticut.
Christie is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which is expected to target Malloy in his bid for a second term. Since 2010, he has campaigned on behalf of multiple GOP candidates in Connecticut, including Tom Foley, who is eying a rematch with Malloy.
“I know the RGA is taking a strong interest in the opportunity we have to flip Connecticut to red in 2014,” state GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers Thursday. “As part of this we expect to be coordinating with Governor Christie and the RGA staff towards this end.”
Daylight between Christie and Connecticut GOP isn’t enough for Democrats here, however.
“I am calling on the CT GOP and GOP candidates for governor to repudiate the dangerous actions taken by Governor Christie’s top staff involving the George Washington Bridge,” said Nancy DiNardo, the state Democratic chairwoman. “Such petty and reckless behavior not only impacted people’s daily lives, but it put many people’s lives at risk.”
Malloy, a former prosecutor who has feuded with Christie on the airwaves over taxes and the economy, had an even stronger response to the scandal.
“Malloy on NJ bridge flap: ‘There is no doubt a crime has been committed,’ ” the Connecticut Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas Tweeted Thursday afternoon.
Whether Christie crosses the Hudson remains to be seen.
If he doesn’t, GOP leaders could always blame traffic.