On Monday, Chris Christie’s public comments on the behind-the-scenes battle over last minute appointments and nominations were muted. By Thursday, distinctly less so.
Here is what we know…several meetings a week have been taking place behind closed doors between the Christie team and the Corzine group. Apparently those meetings have been cordial if not productive.
So, let’s go back. On November 12, Christie and Corzine met face to face for the first time since the election. They were joined by the ArchBishop of Newark, because the meeting took place after the blue mass. There, they discussed transition and according to Corzine some appointments the Governor was hoping to make in the coming weeks before leaving office.
Was there an actual agreement? hard to say. But if there was at least a gentlemen’s agreement, at some point it deteriorated. Perhaps it was the sheer number of nominations and appointments Corzine asked for: 180. The Christie people feel that this is an attempt to jam through unpopular appointments at the 11th hour. Or perhaps it was the nomination of Chief of Staff Ed McBride to a judgeship. Here is where this gets tricky. The Corzine camp says it was made clear as early that Newark meeting that McBride was one of the appointments he’d like to make. They think for Christie’s people to object now is disingenuous.
On the flip side, Christie’s people say they are not actually opposing McBride or any judgeships necessarily. They declined to give their version of what was said during what they emphasized was that private meeting.
So let’s move beyond McBride for a moment. This week, Republican Senator Phil Haines withdrew his name from consideration. He had been nominated to the bench, a position he has sought for years. So clearly the message is out. Christie doesn’t want these appointments to be made under this cloud. Whether he sent a directive to Senators asking for them to block certain nominations is unclear. The Christie camp says no. But either way the message has been sent.
And that brings me to Phil Alagia. Christie appears to have an alliance with Steve Adubato Sr. Alagia is a Joe DiVincenzo and Adubato guy. But he also served Corzine on the campaign. Corzine has rewarded him with a seat on the Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield Board of Directors ( which by the way pays an annual stipend of $37,500 plus a bonus of $1,500 for each meeting you attend ).
Initially, the thought was that a Senatorial courtesy block on Alagia might come from within the Dem party either by Codey or Rice. Codey has his own ax to grind with Adubato which goes back to the leadership fight in the state Senate ( see earlier posts ). But the word is that Codey’s objection may be thawing. That would put the onus on Republican Senator Kevin O’Toole of Essex County, who seems to be taking a wait and see approach. O’Toole is also an opponent of Codey and closer to the Adubato crowd.
So, where does that leave us? Not sure I can even keep track. I suppose the Governor could just go around Christie and appoint people from Hudson or Middlesex counties where there is no Republican Senator to block them. that has been referred to as the “nuclear option.” Or, everyone can play ball and work out a deal. I was told that conditions are “ripe” for an arrangement to be reached. Of course, that doesn’t mean it will.