“That’s just the way it goes.”
That was Gov. Chris Chrstie’s response to reporters on Saturday when asked why it was okay for his family to vacation at Island Beach State Park over the Fourth of July weekend — while everyone else was locked out of the popular destination because of the government shutdown Christie ordered, leaving state parks, beaches and other facilities closed.
“The governor has a residence at Island Beach. Others don’t,” Christie said. “Run for governor and you can have the residence.”
New Jersey owns a residence at the beach the governor can use. Christie’s office confirmed Saturday evening that Christie would be spending the holiday weekend with his family at the beach house in the park. Christie returned to the statehouse on Sunday, where he called lawmakers back in a failed effort to resolve the budget stalemate.
During a press conference with reporters on Sunday, Christie said he is planning on returning to Island Beach State Park by helicopter tonight.
“That’s where my family is sleeping, so that’s where I’ll sleep tonight,” Christie said. “When I have a choice between sleeping with my family and sleeping alone, I generally like to sleep where my family is.”
Recap: -Shutdown continues
-CC returning by helicopter to Island Beach St Park tonight
-Sweeney demanding mtg w/ Horizon
— Andrew Seidman (@AndrewSeidman) July 2, 2017
Meanwhile, police were turning away cars, bicyclists and joggers attempting to enter the popular park.
“I’m confused about it,” said Ronah Harris, who traveled from Princeton to spend the holiday weekend at Island Beach. “For Fourth of July weekend? It’s unfortunate. It’s ironic.”
“Gov. Christie, get the h— off the beach!” Larry Manno of Ridgefield, Connecticut, told the Asbury Park Press, mocking what Christie told residents leading up to Superstorm Sandy.
Henry Walker, a local fisherman, was so angry that Christie and his family were staying at the beach he let loose some colorful language the New York Times described as “a stream of unprintable invective.”
Even Trentonian columnist Jeff Edelstein, who has often defended Christie throughout his two terms as governor, called his decision to stay on Island Beach State Park over the holiday weekend “ridiculous.”
“You’d think Christie would realize that staying at the shore house would be the textbook example of “bad optics.” You’d think he’d care in the slightest bit,” Edelstein wrote. “You’d think wrong.”
New Jersey’s government is shut down for the first time since 2006 because of the budget impasse that hinges on Christie’s proposal to restructure Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.
As my colleagues Maddie Hanna and Andrew Seidman reported, Christie wants a bill requiring Horizon to develop a plan for allocating its “excess” surplus to help pay for drug treatment and other care of the poor and uninsured.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D., Hudson) calls that a “Christie tax” on Horizon’s 3.8 million policyholders.
This isn’t the first time Christie has been criticized for his vacation plans. Back in 2010, Christie declined to cancel a trip to Disney World during a blizzard that slammed parts of New Jersey with more than two feet of snow. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno was also on vacation at the time in Mexico, forcing State senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, to serve as acting governor.
“Yes, this was a big snow, but we are a northeastern state, and we get plenty of snow, including heavy hits like this,” Christie’s spokesman at the time Michael Drewniak, adding that criticism of the governor was “overblown.”