A Thawing Christie, Sweeney Friendship?
In Gov. Chris Christie's first term, he and state Sen. President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) were allies on controversial issues and policies. In a one-on-one interview in his State House office Sweeney recently told Townsquare Media Media that he and the governor were, "not on the same page," when it comes to transportation funding and Sweeney also would not commit to having a good relationship with Christie these days.
Asked directly if he still has a good relationship with the governor, Sweeney's four-word response spoke volumes.
"It's still a relationship," Sweeney said.
In 2011, Christie and Sweeney partnered on pension reform legislation and a 2 percent cap on property tax increases. At the time, the senate president said the governor had an open door policy as far as he was concerned. Does that policy still exist?
"When's he's here," Sweeney said. "Look, everyone knows he's running for president so he's not here as much. It's that simple. We still communicate. A lot of times it's easier to do it face-to-face, but we're going to continue to do our jobs the best we can under the circumstances we have."
He still considers Christie a personal friend, but Sweeney said he's never agreed with a lot of the governor's policies. A thawing in the relationship between Sweeney and the governor was expected, but it still could impact the ability for things to get done in New Jersey, according to Rider University Political Science Professor Ben Dworkin.
"Lame duck governors in their second term will almost always have a deteriorating relationship with the legislature including members of their own party," Dworkin said. "This is exacerbated by the fact that people like Steve Sweeney envision themselves as becoming governor next."
Sweeney has to angle himself so as to draw a contrast between himself and Christie while also distinguishing himself among other potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Dworkin said.
"Obviously, when you have a Democratic majority in the Assembly and Senate and a Republican governor, anything you want to do will require both sides to work together," Dworkin said.
It is not clear if Sweeney can interfere with Christie's agenda, Dworkin said, because it's also not clear what the governor's agenda is yet.