Chris Christie is the Republican Governor of the traditionally blue state of New Jersey. He is known for his combative personality, to which many attribute his success in getting legislation through the Democratic-controlled state legislature. As a New Jersey Republican, Christie was a center-right figure for much of his career. The first political office he held was freeholder of Morris County, where he was a pro-choice Republican known for his brash tactics—including a campaign ad that alleged (untruthfully) his opponent was under criminal investigation. A year later, Christie was defeated in an election to the New Jersey Assembly.
Christie then became involved in the fundraising efforts of George W. Bush’s presidential campaign. Upon Bush’s election, he was appointed United States Attorney for the district of New Jersey, where he spearheaded 130 different trials against corrupt New Jersey officials, all resulting in convictions. (His presidential campaign has highlighted his experience as US Attorney during the post-9/11 years, specifically his prosecution of terrorists and invocations of the Patriot Act.) In 2009, Christie ran for Governor, defeating his more conservative Republican opponents in the primary and ultimately beating incumbent Democrat Jon Corzine, who had been accused of widespread corruption.
As Governor, Christie kept up his confrontational political tactics in making aggressive budget cuts to balance the state’s debt-ridden budget and leading a fight against the state’s teachers’ unions when reforming the K-12 school system. He expanded school choice, increased merit-based pay, and lessened the impact of tenure on school employment decisions. However, he governed as a middle-ground compromiser on issues of gun control, abortion, and gay marriage. Instead of vetoing a statewide legalization of gay marriage, which he opposed, he left the decision up to voters in a referendum. Such bold tactics based on conservative principles combined with middle-ground stances on issues important to Democratic voters won Christie the support of the state’s independents and Democrats, who aided his landslide reelection victory in 2013.
In early 2014, Christie became embroiled in controversy over the September 2013 closure of lanes on the Fort Lee entrance to the New Jersey-New York George Washington Bridge, resulting in days of traffic delays. Senior aides to Christie were implicated in the event and accused of closing the lanes in retribution for Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor Mark Sokolich’s failure to endorse Christie in the gubernatorial election. Though two Christie aides have recently been indicted, no investigation has found any evidence of Christie’s involvement.
As a presidential candidate, Christie has been forced to the right on many stances he took as Governor, such as his support for Planned Parenthood, the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court, and gun control measures. Christie is heavily critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy and advocates for a stronger U.S. posture in Syria and Iraq, and with Russia and Iran. In recent debates, he has called President Obama a “feckless weakling” on Russia’s involvement in Syria and a “petulant child” on the issue of gun control.