What hurts Christie, and makes Zimmer’s charge credible, is that this is such a clear echo of Bridgegate. His people swaggering across the state, using public resources to strong-arm local officials into submission.
And in both cases, innocent citizens were the fodder. The people stuck in Fort Lee traffic didn’t do anything wrong, and neither did the flood victims in Hoboken, which was 80 percent submerged after Sandy.
"It’s exactly the same pattern," says Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), the first to ring alarms over Bridgegate. "The governor at his press conference on Bridgegate said he wanted to know what he did wrong to make his people lie to him. The question should be ‘What did I do wrong to make all the people around me think it’s okay to behave like this?’
The Bridgegate inquiry is led by Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), who says he will now expand it to include Hoboken-gate. His committee has broad authority to follow allegations of official misconduct wherever they find them.
"We could issue subpoenas on this tomorrow if we wanted to," he says.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman is also investigating Bridgegate, so it’s hard to imagine that he won’t cast his gaze toward Hoboken now, as well.
As bad as all this is for the governor, it will probably get worse soon. Because now that his crew’s thuggish behavior has been exposed in Bridgegate, others who have been bullied are going to be emboldened.
The Bergen Record went back to Christie's first political career - as president of the student government at the University of Delaware - and found embryonic forms of the cronyism and backroom dealing that has characterized his adult political career:
Christie was repeatedly praised in the student newspaper.
And when his party put together a slate for the spring elections, party secretary Mary Pat Foster, Christie’s future wife, was picked as the candidate to succeed him. She faced no opposition, which was interpreted as recognition of his party’s success.
“We’re not having an election, we’re having a coronation,” Christie told the student newspaper.
But Abbott, the campus Republican club leader who had warned about Christie “cronyism,” said he saw the victory as an ominous sign. Christie’s push to put allies in seats on key committees had muffled debate, discouraged participation and caused as many as five student leaders to quit, said Abbott, now a lawyer in Delaware.
He said he felt Christie’s approach helped depress turnout.
“We tried to come up with some ideas … but nothing seemed to go from the bottom up,” Abbott said.
In other words, their input was not valued. Christie and his crew called the shots, a style he took to Trenton with great success more than a quarter century later — at least until now.
This political style - thuggery, cronyism, and backroom dealing - has been the recipe for success for Christie up until now.
Now it is becoming his undoing.
As many have noted, including Moran in the Star-Ledger, the fear Christie inspired is dissipating and people are going to come out of the woodwork to tell stories about Christie thuggery, bullying and cronyism.
This is going to get a lot worse for Christie.
Barring some unforeseen event on the horizon that changes the trajectory of these scandals, Chris Christie can put his presidential ambitions away for good.