WASHINGTON -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was sworn in for his second term Tuesday, amid what has become the biggest controversy of his political career and one that could shadow a possible run for president in 2016.
When he took the podium in Trenton for his inaugural address, he called for cooperation with the state legislature and stressed the need for bipartisanship.
"We have to be willing to play outside the red and blue boxes the media and pundits put us in; we have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us; we have to be willing to personally reach out a helping hand to a neighbor suffering from drug addiction, depression or the dignity stripping loss of a job," Christie said.
For the past few weeks, Christie's administration has been rocked by the "Bridgegate" scandal, which caused major traffic jams in Fort Lee, N.J., for four days in September. The governor has maintained that he had no knowledge that his aides deliberately closed down access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, causing the delays, in what appears to be a political retribution scheme against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who did not endorse Christie's reelection bid.
Christie did not directly address the controversy Tuesday, and he appeared intent on moving beyond the issue.
"I have had no greater honor in my life than having twice been elected by my fellow citizens to be the governor of the state where I was born and raised," he said. "With that honor comes solemn obligations -- to make the hard decisions, to raise the uncomfortable topics, to require responsibility and accountability, to be willing to stand hard when principles are being violated and to be willing to compromise to find common ground with all of our people."
In contrast, at his State of the State address last week, Christie opened his speech by discussing the scandal.
"The last week has certainly tested this administration," he said. "Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better."
The New Jersey state legislature is continuing to investigate the scandal, and last week it issued more subpoenas to Christie aides. The inspector general at the Port Authority and the U.S. attorney's office are also looking into the matter, and Christie is facing a separate review by the inspector general at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over how he used relief dollars after Hurricane Sandy.
Christie's favorability ratings have taken a hit in the wake of the scandal. A recent Pew Research Center-USA Today poll put the governor's unfavorability rating at 34 percent, double his rating at this time last year.
In his speech, Christie called for the spirit of cooperation felt across New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. He won praise for his job performance after the storm, though some conservatives were upset with him for working so closely with President Barack Obama.
"We have survived the worst natural disaster in our state’s history and worked together to restore, renew and rebuild the state we love," Christie said Tuesday. "Each one of these challenges has been met by a new, unified force in public life - a New Jersey setting the tone for an entire nation. A tough New Jersey. A resilient New Jersey. A Proud New Jersey."
Christie had to cancel his inauguration party on Ellis Island, scheduled for after the speech, due to snow. The food prepared for the event is being donated to food pantries in the Jersey City area.
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