Republican governor re-elected by landslide in New Jersey
Chris Christie propelled into favourite position for 2016 presidential candidacy
New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie was re-elected by a landslide in a traditionally Democratic state, propelling him as a favourite for the Republican presidential candidacy in 2016.
In the two other key battles of the off-year elections, Bill de Blasio won emphatically to become the first Democratic mayor of New York to be elected since 1989, while Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a veteran Democratic fundraiser for the Clintons, was elected governor of Virginia, a swing state, in an unexpectedly close race.
The New Jersey and Virginia elections were closely watched as indicators for the future direction of the Republican Party after last month’s government shutdown was blamed on the party and revealed sharp divisions between the party’s traditional support among businesses and the far-right Tea Party faction.
Mr Christie, a moderate conservative relative to the hardline Republicans, defeated little-known Democratic candidate Barbara Buono with more than 60 per cent of the vote, making strong gains among women and Hispanic voters in a state where Democrats outrank Republicans by more than 700,000 voters.
The size of his re-election victory in a Democratic-leaning state strengthens the hand of moderate conservative Republicans against the more hard-core elements within the party and makes Mr Christie a compelling candidate if the Republicans are to attract wider support to regain the White House.
The governor, whose popularity soared over his hands-on response to the devastation caused to Jersey coastline by Superstorm Sandy last year, used his victory speech to present himself as a unifying force who can find common ground between opponents when US national party politics is so deeply polarised.
After the bitter fight between Democrats and Republicans in the aftermath of the government shutdown and the internal divisions within the Republican Party, Mr Christie spoke about “bringing people around the table” and “showing respect” for rivals to find compromise.
“Leadership is much less about talking than it is about listening,” he said.
Speaking to supporters at the Asbury Park Convention Hall on the Jersey Shore, Mr Christie said that if opponents could be brought together in New Jersey, maybe Washington DC could follow suit.
“I know that if we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe the folks in Washington should tune into their TV sets,” he said.
“I know tonight, a dispirited America angry with their dysfunctional government in Washington will look to New Jersey and say: ‘Is what I think is happening really happening? Are people coming together.’”
During his speech he invoked the “spirit of Sandy” which brought political rivals and people of different colour together, saying that he would not let “any political party, any government entity” get between him and his mission to rebuild New Jersey after the storm.
While opposed to his views on same-sex marriage, abortion rights and the minimum wage, New Jersey voters were attracted to Mr Christie’s bipartisan negotiating skills and decisive leadership style.