New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced this week that he would hold his second inauguration party on Ellis Island. The island is a unique landmark, but it is also part of the state of New York–and makes for great national media buzz for a politician seemingly poised to run nationally in 2016.
Governor Christie will be sworn in at noon on January 21 in Trenton, then travel for this celebration on Ellis Island, according to The Star-Ledger. “It’s a place that a lot of New Jerseyans connect with and see their family lineage linked with,” said adviser Bill Palatucci, citing the governor’s Irish and Italian heritage. Ellis Island is shared by New Jersey and New York, though most nationally consider it more of a New York landmark because of its proximity to Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. This is true of some New Jersey residents as well, who told local media the decision sounded strange.
“I kind of think it’s weird,” one Edison resident told local station News 12 NJ, noting that “I consider it part of New York.” Another Jerseyan remarked that Christie seemed to need the “national” attention, rather than making it about “just New Jersey.” Whether Jersey residents want him to seek that national attention remains to be seen–some polls seem to indicate they do, but Christie is often the target of scrutiny when he overtly courts national attention.
Then there’s the policy logic potentially behind choosing Ellis Island as a venue. Ellis Island was for many years the first place in America immigrants saw upon arriving to the United States. As Christie faces pressures from the left to sign a state version of the DREAM Act–as he promised while campaigning-observers suspect the use of the venue could help underscore his commitment to winning the Latino vote.
Christie won New Jersey’s Latino vote last month, in part because of campaigning in heavily Latino areas like Hudson and Essex Counties. He promised state tuition reform, but disillusioned some of this vote by rejecting the latest version of the bill and asking for more moderate funding. Setting his inauguration party at a venue known as a beacon for immigrants worldwide could serve as a wink in the direction of pro-immigration reform parties that may turn on him as many on the right already have for courting them. It also requires no policy reform on Christie’s part, only leaving his state to send his message.
What Christie will say at this party–and whether a backlash from New Jersey residents already feeling the heat of the national spotlight–remains to be seen. Whether he will be standing on the New Jersey or New York sides of the island does, too.