In a bit of a shift from what he said last week, the New Jersey mayor at the center of the George Washington Bridge scandal now says he does remember someone close to Gov. Chris Christie (R) reaching out for an endorsement.
Fort Lee, N.J. Mayor Mark Sokolich told the New York Times that Christie sought support from Democratic leaders throughout the state because he wanted a historic landslide:
One day last spring, though, he was the person asked to give. A member of Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election campaign staff came calling to see if Mr. Sokolich, a Democrat, would endorse the governor, a Republican. There was scant doubt that Mr. Christie would win. But his ambition was to win big. He joked that he wanted to eclipse the landslide record held by his mentor, former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, who prevailed by 40 points in 1985. His advisers hoped to demonstrate such broad support that Mr. Christie would become his party’s logical presidential candidate in 2016. The campaign vigorously courted Democratic officials and notified reporters of fresh conquests.
Mr. Sokolich, however, was noncommittal. “I said, ‘Yes, I’ll consider it, because I’ll consider anything,’ ” he recalled.
Sokolich ultimately decided to endorse Christie’s Democratic challenger, Barbara Buono, but he said he never reached out to the governor’s office to give his final answer.
The mayor did not tell the Times the name of the official who reached out. According to the Wall Street Journal, it was Matt Mowers, the Christie campaign’s regional political director, who made the request to Sokolich.
Speculation has been rife that Sokolich’s decision to endorse his fellow Democrat motivated Christie officials to order lane closures on the bridge last year, causing a massive traffic jam.
Documents obtained by TPM last week showed a top Christie aide calling for “some traffic problems in Fort Lee” in an email sent last August.
Sokolich himself may have had to jog his memory about the chain of events. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last week, the mayor said he didn’t “recall a specific request to endorse.”
In denying any knowledge of the lane closures during his nearly two-hour press conference last week, Christie latched onto Sokolich’s remark.
“But the thing that — the other part of this that just shocks me is as I’ve said to you all many times before, Mayor Sokolich was never on my radar screen. He was never mentioned to me as somebody whose endorsement we were even pursuing,” Christie said.
“And in fact, I think he said on CNN last night that he doesn’t recall ever being asked for his endorsement. So part of this is I never saw this as political retribution because I didn’t think he did anything to us.”