The Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly had some choice words for Chris Christie the other day. Here he responds.
Trenton had one question on its mind Thursday: What was really said between Gov. Chris Christie and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver?Expect a coup before long. Oliver doesn't come off looking too stable.
Christie said Oliver asked him for Republican support if Democrats launched a coup to remove her as speaker and stop cuts to public worker benefits in June. She called the story a "blatant lie." Neither backed down Thursday.
But it’s clear the episode has hardened displeasure with Oliver among unhappy members of her caucus. Several Democrats, still raw from this summer’s divisive political battles, said Christie’s story reinforces their belief that Oliver (D-Essex) worked too closely with the Republican governor to pass benefit cuts despite objections from the majority of her party.
In an arena where perception can quickly become reality, these Democrats, who requested anonymity to discuss internal issues, say the episode highlights their concerns that Oliver is not the right leader for their caucus. Around the state, party members say they are discussing who could replace her, although they admit there is no clear frontrunner. Oliver’s two-year term as speaker, one of the most powerful positions in state government, ends in January, and she has not said publicly whether she wants another term.
The controversy erupted on Wednesday when Mother Jones magazine released audio of Christie’s June 26 speech at a Colorado retreat hosted by the Koch brothers, two wealthy conservative businessmen.
Christie made a brief, and undisclosed, trip to the retreat three days after the Assembly approved cuts to public worker benefits, and the governor regaled an adoring audience with the bill’s backstory. During the speech, Christie said Oliver was worried about a possible coup and asked him for Republican support. The governor then went to his party’s caucus and asked them to vote for the speaker if her control of the Assembly was challenged. A coup never materialized.
After the recording was posted online, Oliver unleashed on Christie, suggesting he is "mentally deranged" and lying about their conversations. She denied ever asking for his help or discussing Assembly leadership issues with him. Several Democrats have also doubted Christie’s account.
Christie didn’t respond to Oliver’s remarks Thursday, calling it "beneath the office I hold." But he stood by his account. "I know what happened," he said. "I said honestly what happened."