Rick Merkt, the Republican Assemblyman, is staying in the race.
Merkt failed to generate enough contributions to qualify for state matching funds and he is excluded from the May 12 NJN debate featuring Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan.
When asked whether or not he was ever offered an incentive to drop out of the race, Merkt said he received a call from John Inglesino on behalf of Christie who offered him a top job should Christie win.
Coupla things here…first off, this was before Christie had even announced. Second, Christie and Inglesino have both denied this ever happened, and third Inglesino works for the law firm that received a lucrative federal monitoring contract from Christie’s office. It was a deferred prosecution agreement between the US Attorney’s office and UMDNJ.
Christie has already denied awarding contracts to John Ashcroft the former United States AG, and a former federal NY prosecutor who declined to bring charges against Christie’s brother in an insider trading kerfuffle. So, it’s unlilely he would want to face a new accusation about awarding a contract to a friend, especially someone who might have been working on a campaign that did not exist since it was illegal for Christie to plan for a run for Governor while still US Attorney.
Does this story have legs? Probably not since, as christie pointed out, Merkt is sagging in the polls and thus might have an incentive to sling some juicy but ultimately false allegations. On the other hand, it puts the subject of federal monitorships back in the news, which I sincerely doubt Christie likes.
In a completely seperate development. The democratic Governor’s Association will be sinking some money into the gubernatorial race on behalf of Corzine. But here is the surprise: It will be to help Lonegan defeat Christie in the Republican primary(!)
I guess the Dems feel Lonegan will be an easier opponent to face in the Fall. One insider said polls show Lonegan and Christie neck and neck, and now is the time to knock Christie down.