MOUNTAIN LAKES, N.J.–New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addressed the ongoing lanes closure scandal at a fundraiser Thursday evening for his one-time rival Steve Lonegan, and attendees said the embattled governor seemed unfazed by the controversy.
Lonegan, a former candidate for Senate now running for a House seat, said Christie “calmly” told the Republican donors gathered, “We will get through this.”
“It’s unfortunate, it was a mistake, it was obviously upsetting,” Lonegan recounted Christie saying at the event in Mountain Lakes, N.J. “He said we have 1,400 days in this administration and lots of challenges for the governing of this state and we will continue to move ahead and those successes over time will overshadow all this negativity.”
Christie spent about 30 minutes at the fundraiser, where he addressed between 75 and 100 people, according to Lonegan and another host of the event, Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J.
Lonegan is running for Congress in South Jersey’s 3rd District, but the $1,000 a head fundraiser Thursday evening was to relieve his debt from his Senate campaign. He ran for the Senate in the special Senate election to fill Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s seat, but lost to former Newark Mayor Cory Booker in October.
“I think everybody came out of this event feeling really good and also feeling that the governor is confident that he will make his way through this little blip on the screen, this scandal, so-called scandal and we think that the Democrats will be yelling and screaming long after the public has stood up for the governor and recognized he is right,” Lonegan said.
Lonegan added that Christie seemed “unruffled over the issues that are taking place today” and Lance agreed, saying he was “positive and optimistic about the future.”
This was Christie’s first fundraiser since the scandal broke last week. Reporters were not allowed inside but were able to speak to attendees leaving the party.
Lonegan said Christie spoke of his “successful administration,” while acknowledging “there are still challenges ahead.”
“And over all when you look at this the success of governing it has been terrific and it’s going to continue to be terrific because he has 1,400 days to go in this administration and this is only going to be a few days in these 1,400 days,” said Lonegan.
Lonegan ran against Christie for the 2009 GOP gubernatorial nomination. He said he believed the event will most likely retire his campaign debt and he called the controversy known as “bridgegate” nothing more than “partisan politics at its worse.”
“It’s just theatrics,” Lonegan said. “This governor is confident, you can tell from his demeanor. He was saddened by having to let key people go, but he didn’t know about this and it was one of these unfortunate instances, but it will be behind us and every day it’s going to fade and fade. They can have all their bogus investigations and their hearings, but it is all political theatrics.”
Tom Considine, a former Christie administration cabinet member, also attended the fundraiser and said the New Jersey governor “didn’t shy away that it has been a turbulent week for the administration, but the commitment of the administration and the governor personally to remain dedicated to the work that he and the administration are committed to for the people of New Jersey are paramount.”
Considine, who is now the chief operating officer of a health care company, said he “cannot imagine that he did have knowledge” of the political motivations of aides who shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge, causing a four-day traffic snarl, noting that Christie is “not a micro-manager at all.”
Considine said he knows the two top aides implicated in the scandal, former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly and former campaign manager Bill Stepien, saying he is “surprised” by what happened.
“I am surprised and I am disappointed,” Considine said, adding he couldn’t speculate on their possible motivations.
The event was held at the home of the other hosts of the evening, Jacobs Levy equity management firm co-founder Kenneth Levy and his wife Frayda, a director of the conservative Koch Brothers’ group, Americans for Prosperity, where Lonegan also used to work.
Christie will continue fundraising this weekend, heading to Florida for events to raise money for Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Governors Association, where he serves as chairman.