Former Chris Christie Mentor Tom Kean, Sr. Scolds Governor for Bridge Scandal

Former Chris Christie Mentor Tom Kean, Sr. Scolds Governor for Bridge Scandal

The storm has not yet cleared for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who continues to face the fallout of “bridgegate.” Among the biggest headlines are the continued backhanded attacks from former NJ Governor Tom Kean, Sr., Christie’s one-time mentor who insists something is rotten in Christie’s administration.

Kean, Sr. spoke to PolitickerNJ Wednesday and continued to pile on after questioning how such a vindictive atmosphere “could be allowed to exist” in Christie’s office and warning that such a culture is “dangerous” to voters. Kean, Sr. asserted that he did not think “it would have happened under my administration,” referring to the George Washington Bridge scandal, generally, and specifically having staffers lie to him, as Christie claims his Deputy Chief of Staff did to him. 

“I knew so well the people who were under me… that was a tenor that went through the administration, and there was never even a whiff of any problem whatsoever,” he explained, adding that a governor needs to develop an atmosphere in which staffers know “that you will not tolerate any fooling around.” He did note that, with the damage now done, Christie “has done everything he could” while the investigation into the bridge lane closings continues and handled the damage control well.

Kean, Sr. was not all negativity towards the governor. He noted that “almost everything” in Christie’s State of the State address was composed of substantive reforms that he as governor would have supported. He did note that some of the proposals, particularly Christie’s call for longer school days and school years, would be difficult to enact. “School reformers have been after longer school days and school years for 20 years,” he noted.

Kean, Sr.’s resurgence in the state public eye is somewhat unexpected, though it is attributable to his role in helping Christie enter politics. Christie worked on Kean, Sr.’s campaign in 1977, when he worked alongside former senior aide David Wildstein, the orchestrator of the George Washington Bridge closings according to almost all the evidence that has surfaced. The two long enjoyed a warm relationship until last year, when Christie chose to challenge the former governor’s son, New Jersey Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., and endorse state Sen. Kevin O’Toole for the position. Christie’s attempt to destroy Kean, Jr.’s career failed, as Republicans stood behind their leader in an unprecedented vote.

Also notable is Kean, Jr.’s comments on Christie’s scandal. Unlike his father (and with much more incentive not to), Kean, Jr. has been extremely supportive of Governor Christie. The State Senate Minority Leader praised Christie for acting “swiftly and professionally” in reaction to the current scandal.