Christie begins second term under cloud of controversy

Chris ChristieNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will take his oath of office midday Tuesday for a second term, amid a scandal over traffic jams on a busy bridge and controversies over Superstorm Sandy aid.

In excerpts of Christie’s inaugural address provided by his office, the Republican who is considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate makes no mention of the allegations of abuse of power that are challenging his administration.

Instead, Christie touches on themes of income inequality, the role of limited government and divisions that threaten progress in the Garden State.

“One of the lessons that I have learned most acutely over the last four years is that New Jersey can really be one state. This election has taught us that the ways we divide each other — by race, by class, by ethnicity, by wealth, by political party is neither permanent nor necessary,” Christie will say. “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.”

Christie will also vow once again that New Jersey will not become like Washington, where partisanship and bickering have come to define Congress. It is a message the governor sounded repeatedly in the wake of deadly Superstorm Sandy and trumpeted in his re-election bid.

“We will fight to continue to change government so that we value our differences and honor the strength of our diversity,” Christie plans to say. “We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C. The attitude that says I am always right and you are always wrong. The attitude that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements. The belief that compromise is a dirty word.”

Christie easily won a second term in November by defeating Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono, in part by racking up huge margins with women and minorities — two groups that the GOP has struggled to win over.

But the governor and his administration are being put to their toughest political test since Christie first took office in 2010.

Copies of e-mails released earlier this month show Christie aides and appointees apparently participated in a scheme to close access lanes on the George Washington Bridge as a way to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who declined to endorse the governor’s re-election bid. Christie denied he had knowledge of the plot, and fired a top aide and cut ties with a political strategist whose e-mails detailed their involvement.

Ads to promote tourism after Superstorm Sandy, featuring Christie and paid for with federal dollars, are being scrutinized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno pushed back Monday on allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat, that Hoboken was denied Sandy recovery money because Zimmer didn’t support a real estate development favored by Christie.

Christie’s second inauguration begins Tuesday morning with a prayer service in Newark, followed by the swearing-in activities and his speech in Trenton. Christie also plans to celebrate with an evening party on Ellis Island, but forecasts of a snowstorm and cold weather could force a change.

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