Contrite Christie?

Christie spoke at a town hall meeting in Mount Laurel earlier this month. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff photographer)

He's not exactly known as a guy who admits mistakes or shows regret. But Christie, as I reported today, is acknowledging problems in managing $300 million in federal foreclosure money. 

This is the fourth time, by my count, that Christie has indicated some kind of a mistake in office.

This month he told Esquire that he shouldn't have called a Navy SEAL an "idiot" at a town hall meeting.

Earlier this year, he apologized after civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis criticized him for a statement in support of a ballot referendum on gay marriage. The gov had said that leaders in the South in the 1960s would have loved to have a referendum on civil rights instead of "fighting and dying in the streets."

And at his two-year mark in office, he spoke of being kindler and gentler going forward, saying that if he had to do it all over again he wouldn't have asked reporters "to take the bat out" on a 76-year-old senator. (It should be noted that 48 hours later he went after protesters at a Romney rally.)

This time, Christie is acknowledging a governance mistake -- not a rhetorical one. He says the state didn't handle the free federal foreclosure money as efficiently and expediently as possible.

But the administration claims the problem has been fixed. I first reported about this last month; here's my story from today's paper:

TRENTON - The Christie administration Wednesday acknowledged failure in managing $300 million in federal money to help struggling homeowners but declared that the problems had been fixed and an increasing number of homeowners were being saved from foreclosure.

"Listen, it's indefensible; the program was not being run well," said Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable III, who inherited the issues after he assumed his post in January. "We did a disservice to the folks that we were supposed to serve."

But Democrats, who called a joint hearing of two Assembly committees to ask Constable about the problems with the program, framed the issue as reflective of Republican Gov. Christie's continued disregard for struggling homeowners.

Christie is "not understanding the severity of the foreclosure crisis in the state," said Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D., Newark). Democrats and housing advocates listed a range of concerns, from the governor's vetoes of foreclosure-related legislation to the pace at which he's spending money to help homeowners.

New Jersey has the third-highest percentage of foreclosures and overdue mortgage loans in the country, according to Lender Processing Services, a supplier of foreclosure data.

The state suffered from the collapse of the housing industry more than most, and the $300 million from the Obama administration's 2010 Hardest Hit Fund was supposed to rectify that. But a report from a U.S. special inspector general earlier this year found that New Jersey had drawn down the lowest percentage of federal money among 18 states in the fund.

The findings were initially reported by The Inquirer in September, but they drew wider attention three weeks later - and prompted a call for hearings by Democrats - when Christie snapped at a TV reporter who asked about the issue.

Read the rest of the story, here.