Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich will attend the State of the Union as a guest of Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), the Bergen Record reported Monday.
Sokolich, a Democrat, is at the center of the controversy surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. Earlier this month, emails revealed that top Christie aides were directly involved in closing the lanes as means of political retribution against Sokolich, who had refused to endorse Christie in his reelection bid. The so-called "Bridgegate" controversy is currently the subject of a federal investigation.
Pascrell told the Record that he did not intend to make a statement on the scandal by inviting Sokolich. Rather, he said, he wanted to invite a representative from Bergen County, after inviting someone from Passaic County last year. Pascrell's district includes portions of both counties.
"He did exhibit a standup attitude [on the bridge issue] which I've grown to like and I can't say I kept that out of my mind because that's not the truth, but it's not the reason he was selected," Pascrell said.
President Barack Obama will deliver the State of the Union address Tuesday evening. A number of lawmakers are using their extra ticket to the event to make political statements. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), for instance, is bringing conservative radio and TV host Sean Hannity, while five members of the Illinois congressional delegation are bringing immigrants, including some undocumented youths (known as Dreamers).
Christie went in person to apologize to Sokolich after news broke on his aides' involvement in the scandal, later describing the encounter as a "a very warm and productive meeting between me and the mayor."
Sokolich later told CNN that the governor was "gracious" during their meeting, but "by no uncertain terms" did the get-together heal all wounds.
"We're concerned that there's more stuff and more issues to deal with. ... But we are appreciative here in Fort Lee that the governor came up to apologize," Sokolich said. "By no uncertain terms is it closure. By no uncertain terms is it the end of this issue, though it is the beginning of what we're hopeful is a trusting relationship without fear of retribution in the future."