Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced that former Attorney General John J. Degnan as new chairman of the New York-New Jersey Port Authority at a Statehouse press conference

Governor Chris Christie announces the nomination of John Degnan to serve as the new Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

Degnan, a Democrat, replaces David Samson as chairman and must be approved by the state Senate.  Degnan served from 1978-81 under Govenor Brendan Byrne and was one of the youngest to serve in that role.

Christie said he wanted someone with "unquestioned credentials" as chairman "at a time when there are significant challenges at the Port Authority both to its mission and to the purpose that it serves for the people of the region, I wanted someone with unquestioned credentials, both politically from a partisan perspective and from most importantly the issue of integrity. When I considered those factors I was thrilled that John was willing to step forward and serve one more time in a very high profile public role.”

Degnan in accepting the nomination said, "There is a lot of work ahead of us and we have an obligation to work together to serve the best interests of the people of the region. I’m eager to get started and I’ll do all I can to cooperate fully with the confirmation process as it moves forward.

Samson, who resigned, was also the focus of questions about a $1-a-year lease extension for a park-and-ride lot operated by New Jersey Transit, a client of Samson's law firm. The Port Authority said Samson recused himself, but his vote was recorded incorrectly. This month, executive director Pat Foye said the agency had rescinded the contract and would seek to renegotiate it. In addition, the mayor of Hoboken has accused the Christie administration of pressuring her to approve a development project with ties to Samson's law firm in exchange for the city receiving Superstorm Sandy aid.

Govenor Christie and Port Authority Chairman nominee John Degnan (Kevin McArdle, Townsquare Media NJ)

Christie said Tuesday that he was confident Samson had conducted business appropriately while at the agency. He deflected other questions about the scandal.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) in a statement said he welcomes Degnan's nomination. "Mr. Degnan also brings with him the strong resume and experience that makes me hopeful he will be a an independent partner for reform," wrote the co-chariman of the legislative committee investigating Bridgegate. "We need major reform at the Port Authority...I look forward to hearing from Mr. Degnan on how he exactly intends to accomplish this goal.”

The West Orange native is currently vice chairman and chief operating officer of the Chubb Corpooration.  Degnan is a member of Christie's Judicial Advisory Panel and serves on the Board of Trustees of Saint Barnabas Medical Center and Barnabas Health System. He is a 1969 Harvard Law graduate


Kevin McArdle and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video courtesy NJTV