‘I’m at my residence’ — Christie defends lounging at closed beach during shutdown
TRENTON — In June's edition of Ask the Governor Governor, Chris Christie said he, his family and their guests would "visible" spending the Fourth of July weekend at the gubernatorial beach house near Island Beach State Park.
Less than a week later, and with the government shutdown in effect, pictures emerged of the governor on the beach with nobody else in sight — as the park itself had been closed by the shutdown.
The pictures came after a plane hired by NJ.com flew over the governor's beach house and got pictures of him and his family having some fun in the sun. When he was originally asked whether he had been able to enjoy the nice weather, Christie said no.
"I didn't get any sun today," he told reporters on Sunday.
The governor also defended bring his family going to the beach while the shutdown continues.
"There's no one at Island Beach State Park," he said. "There are no lifeguards, there's no one to pick up the garbage, there's no one providing any services at Island Beach State Park."
Christie spokesman Brian Murray confirmed to NJ.com that it was the governor pictured on the beach. "Yes, the governor was on the beach briefly today talking to his wife and family before heading into the office," he said.
Rather than risk getting stuck in holiday weekend traffic getting between the shore house and the statehouse, Christie said, he's using the state helicopter to cut down on his travel time.
"I traveled there and I traveled back and I'll travel back again by helicopter," he said on Sunday. "That's where my family is sleeping so that's where I'll sleep tonight. When I have a choice between sleeping with my family and sleeping alone I generally like to sleep where my family is."
Making the media rounds on Monday morning, the governor continued to field questions about his time at the beach. Christie continued to reinforce that he had declared his intentions for the weekend plans for almost a week.
"The governor has two residences — one at the beach at Island Beach State Park and one at Drumthwacket, which is also in Princeton and is a park where people come and tour and visit as well," he said on Fox 5's Good Day New York. "The governor is allowed to go to his residences. I'm at my residence."
The governor also took the opportunity to chide the press for the aerial coverage of his time there.
"They actually caught a politician being where he said he was going to be with the people he said he was going to be with," Christie said.
When asked what his response was to people complaining that he was at a state beach while they were closed to the public, Christie said, "My response is if the legislature would pass a budget then the park would be open, because I said I would sign the budget."
On Fox 29's Good Day Philadelphia, Christie answered the same question, adding, "I'm sorry they're not the governor. This is a residence. We have a residence in Princeton as well. That place is a place where people can go and tour, but they can't if the government is closed. Am I supposed to move out and stay in a hotel?"
Like other state parks, Island Beach State Park will stay closed for as long as the government shutdown lasts. Christie told the Philadelphia show that when it reopens is not up to him.
"The fact is that the reason the park is closed is one simple reason. I didn't close it," he said. "The legislature did not pass a budget to me for me to sign so that we'd have the money to keep it open. I told the legislature all week last week, and I told them again yesterday, pass me any budget. I will sign any budget that you give me. They can't."
Christie also said the issues with the shutdown are not about him.
"The fight is not between me and the legislature. The fight is between the Democrats and the legislature. The Senate wants one thing done led by the Democrats, the Assembly wants something different done, and until they agree, they can't agree on sending me a budget."
Christie has been looking for the legislature to send him a bill changing how Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield is managed in New Jersey, part of his larger effort to use the insurer's surplus for opioid addiction programs. While Senate Democrats and some Assembly Democrats support the idea — and many are willing to pass the measure for fear Christie will slash budgeted programs they value with his line-item veto power — Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto has refused.
While Island Beach State Park is closed, Christie said, there are plenty of other options for people coming to the shore for the rest of the long holiday weekend.
"New Jersey has beaches for 120 miles," he said. "There's lots of beaches for people to go to today. I welcome them to come to any of New Jersey's beaches. All of them but one are open."
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com