5 Things You Should Know About Chris Christie
This post has been updated to reflect Christie officially getting in the race for president.
A lot has changed since New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie first thought about running for president in 2011. The Republican was seen as the biggest threat to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the party's eventual 2012 nominee. Despite entreaties from top GOP donors and activists, he declared, "Now is not my time."
He drew scorn from many Republicans for his public embrace of President Obama days before the 2012 election in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. But his handling of the crisis helped his standing back home, leading to a landslide re-election. The broad win in the left-leaning state was supposed to be a critical part of Christie's case for president this time around.
But just months later, the governor would be badly damaged in the "Bridgegate" scandal — a lane closures scheme affecting commuters onto the highly trafficked George Washington Bridge. It was allegedly orchestrated by some of Christie's top allies to exact political revenge on the mayor of Fort Lee, who had refused to endorse the governor's re-election bid. Two top aides have been indicted, while another has pleaded guilty.
Christie has maintained his innocence and has tried to rehabilitate his political image by returning to the town-hall settings where he shines with his straightforward, often brash, style. But he still trails badly in most polls, including in New Hampshire, where his brand of Republicanism should play well. Because of his standing, he may not even make it onto the early national debate stage.
Christie tried to begin anew with his official presidential announcement on Tuesday at his high school alma mater. As he hopes to reset his national political ambitions, here are five things you need to know about Christie:
1. Christie has already been president — class president
It's no accident Christie is heading back to his teenage stomping grounds to launch his presidential bid. The New Jersey native was class president three years there and was captain of his baseball team, where he played catcher. When another top catcher was transferring in from another school, his family considered legal action to stop him. Christie urged his parents not to sue, since it could have hurt the entire team, and he instead sat on the bench.
Christie — who was the first in his family to graduate from college — would go on to be class president at the University of Delaware, too. His now-wife, Mary Pat, was his successor.
2. His wife gave up a top Wall Street job ahead of his 2016 bid
Mary Pat Christie is accomplished in her own right as a financial adviser. But in April, in anticipation of her husband's presidential campaign, she left her $500,000-a-year job as a managing director at Angelo, Gordon & Co., a hedge fund and investment management company. Chris Christie, in comparison, makes $175,000 as governor. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's wife, Heidi, also took a leave from her job at Goldman Sachs earlier this year.
Christie talked of a more harrowing moment in his wife's career earlier this month at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference — how Mary Pat was working just blocks from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and for several hours he couldn't reach her.
3. Christie underwent lap-band weight loss surgery in 2013
The governor has long struggled with his weight. In 2013, he took a step in trying to control his health by undergoing lap-band weight loss surgery. Christie began shedding pounds, reportedly telling donors at a Koch donor event that he had dropped 85 pounds. "It's the best thing that I've ever done for my health. And I look back on it now and wish I'd done it years ago," Christie told NBC's Matt Lauer in an interview after his surgery.
4. Christie was a George W. Bush "Pioneer"
After graduating from Seton Hall law school, Christie started his law career in New Jersey. His first foray into elective office was successful — winning a seat on the Morris County Board of Freeholders in 1994. His next, however, was not. He lost a race for the state Legislature the next year, and his political career seemed stalled.
It was his association with the then-Texas governor that may have changed the trajectory of his political career. He became a top bundler for the 2000 GOP presidential candidate, known as a "Bush Pioneer," who would use his connections to wrangle over $100,000 for the president. Bush would go on to appoint him as a U.S. attorney, which was his launching pad for his gubernatorial run. Despite the appearance of being appointed because of his fundraising, Christie went on to make a name for himself cracking down on corrupt public officials, getting guilty pleas or convictions of 130 officials from both parties.
5. He's been to more than 130 Bruce Springsteen concerts. (He's also a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, despite being from New Jersey.)
Two of Christie's greatest loves have caused him some political heartache. As a proud Jersey boy, Christie is a huge fan of "The Boss" and has reportedly been to more than 130 of his concerts. But for Springsteen, the feeling wasn't mutual, and he declined to play at Christie's first inaugural. The relationship between the two has since softened. President Obama facilitated a call between them as they toured damage after Sandy, where Springsteen praised the governor's recovery efforts. After the Bridgegate scandal, though, Springsteen would duet with Jimmy Fallon on a song mocking the governor.
Another of Christie's loves is the Dallas Cowboys — despite the fact that the home-state favorites New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles are the franchise's rivals. The Giants and the New York Jets also both play in New Jersey. Christie was famously caught on video hugging Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after the team's win over the Detroit Lions last year in his "lucky" orange sweater. Christie defended his fandom, saying he's rooted for the team since he was little. But he came under fire when it was revealed that it was Jones who paid for that trip and ticket. At the next game, Christie paid his own way.
Christie does root for at least one local team — the New York Mets. He even invoked them once during a budget standoff with the Democratic-led Legislature. He said if there was a government shutdown, he wasn't moving a cot into the governor's office the way his predecessor did. Instead, he said he would go back up to the governor's residence, and, "I'm going to order a pizza, I'm going to open a beer, and I'm going to watch the Mets."
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