By Steve Terrell, Santa Fe New Mexican
Gov. Susana Martinez expressed confidence Thursday in a beleaguered Republican governor with whom she has been strongly associated: Chris Christie of New Jersey.
Christie, at a nationally televised news conference Thursday, announced he had fired one of his top aides who, emails indicate, was behind a move to purposely cause a massive traffic jam to punish a mayor who refused to support Christie’s re-election.
“Gov. Martinez is not familiar with the details of the situation, but understands Gov. Christie took strong action today, which is what she would expect from him,” said Danny Diaz, a spokesman for Martinez’s re-election campaign, in a written statement. “She considers Chris Christie a colleague and friend, and is confident he will handle this matter appropriately.”
Two months ago, Martinez traveled to New Jersey for a short campaign tour for her New Jersey counterpart. The joint appearances got national attention and even stirred chatter from national pundits about a possible Christie/Martinez Republican ticket in 2016.
When asked by a television reporter in New Jersey during that campaign trip about whether she’d back Christie for president, Martinez said, “I would support Gov. Christie in anything that he did.”
In a news release Thursday, state Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman said, “Does Gov. Martinez still support ‘anything Chris Christie does in life’? Will she invite Governor Christie to campaign with her here in New Mexico?” The he joked, “Hopefully, Gov. Martinez will not do anything to cross Gov. Christie. Otherwise, if he were to become President he might shut down I-40 and I-25.”
Christie was riding high after his landslide re-election in November. Some political pundits declared him the front-runner in the next presidential contest, while polls showed him running a close race with Democrat Hillary Clinton. But the scandal involving the traffic snarl at George Washington Bridge has raised questions about whether a Christie presidential run has been damaged. And a federal prosecutor in New Jersey is looking to see whether any laws were broken.
Christie previously had assured the public that his staff had nothing to do with the lane closings in September that caused major backups at the bridge that connects New Jersey to New York. The closings delayed emergency vehicles, school buses and commuters over four days.
Emails and text messages published Wednesday suggested Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly arranged the traffic jams to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for not endorsing Christie’s re-election. Christie fired Kelly, saying “she lied to me.” Christie said he demanded weeks ago that anyone on his staff who knew anything about the bridge situation come forward.
Two other top Christie appointees have resigned in the past few weeks. Christie said Thursday he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the scandal and apologized to the people of his state and anyone affected by the gridlock on the bridge. But he insisted he knew nothing about the intentional traffic jam.