By Eric Scott Campbell
Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno celebrated their first six months in office Monday night with a rally in the Republican stronghold of Ocean County.
"I think we've done pretty well so far for six months," Christie told supporters in a half-hour speech after entering to the soundtrack of "Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen. "There's a storm right now in Trenton. They didn't know what to expect down there. We don't mince words, we don't fool around. We take no prisoners. We govern the way New Jersey is: straight ahead, tough and no B.S."
The pair addressed an overflow crowd at Community Hall in the township's Forked River section. Ocean County Republican Party Chairman George Gilmore estimated 600 people flocked to a building that can comfortably hold half that many, so hundreds stood outside, most unable to hear.
Christie highlighted the landmarks of his term so far, including initiatives to reform pensions and benefits for state workers, capping property-tax increases and lobbying for voters to reject school budgets in which teacher unions would not accept a salary freeze. Christie cut state aid to schools dramatically, then saw more than half of the state's school budgets defeated, including Lacey Township's. Township teachers then opted for a one-year pay freeze as an alternative to certain layoffs.
"We fixed at least part of the awful mess Jon Corzine left us, and we're not done yet," Christie said.
Christie's wife and three youngest children attended, as did his father and stepmother, who live in Ocean Township.
The governor described a good relationship with Guadagno, saying the played gin the morning that legislators voted on the state budget. Earlier, Guadagno recalled sitting in a Dunkin' Donuts one year ago to the day and receiving a phone call from Christie inviting her to join the ticket.
"We've kept the campaign promise to you that tomorrow would be better than today," Guadagno said. "What did you expect if you sent two former federal corruption prosecutors to turn Trenton upside down? We did it!"
Christie and Guadagno both urged supporters to back the two congressional challengers in the crowd: Jon Runyan in the 3rd District, against Democratic Rep. John Adler, and Anna Little in the 6th District, against Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone.
"We can't be self-satisfied," Christie said of the party's recent electoral gains. He joked that he loved standing next to the imposing ex-lineman Runyan: "It's the only time people say, "Who's the little guy?'"
In attendance werer Republican officials from throughout the area, including Lacey Township's entire governing body, Ocean County state legislators and freeholders and party leaders from Atlantic and Cape May counties.
Most of the crowd appeared to be supporters, although the event was open to the public. One man outside Community Hall wore a sign urging Christie to oppose a Route 9 bypass along railroad right of way in Lacey, a project Republican leaders there have pursued for years.
The only time Christie was interrupted, an audience member shouted, "Hannity said you should run for president," referring to Fox News television personality Sean Hannity.
"Hannity should talk to Mrs. Christie," the governor replied with a smile.