Christie: ‘I’m the Governor’ — Stinking Basement History

Photograph by Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg

Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, speaks to reporters at the Statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey.

New Jersey’s 200-year-old-plus statehouse has its charms.

The basement is not one of them.

Gov. Chris Christie, after one snootful too many of an occasional stench that evokes wet dog mixed with low tide by way of waterproof epoxy paint, told his security staff that he’d had enough of the super-secret spy route to his office.

“You’d go up this ramp,” Christie, 50, a Republican running for reelection in November, told members of the New Jersey chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association in Edison this morning.

“Then you go behind these — it looks like ‘Get Smart,’ you know, for those who are old enough to remember ‘Get Smart.’ Big steel doors open, and then you go into another door, and then there’s this incredibly smelly basement that you have to walk through, and then up these rickety old stairs, and then through two people’s offices, and then you get into the outer office of the governor’s office.”

“For two-and-a-half years, I hated it. Every day I went through this smelly basement. Finally, nine months ago, I said to myself: What the hell am I doing? I get to go anywhere I want. I’m the governor.”

It took a few days for his security staff to adjust, he said, and now he comes through the front door and past the grand rotunda, with its tribute to President-elect Abraham Lincoln, who addressed both branches of the New Jersey Legislature on Feb. 21, 1861. Farther along is an oil portrait of George B. McClellan, the Civil War general and Democratic presidential nominee defeated by Lincoln, then later voted New Jersey’s 30th governor. Near that is the bust of Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic president from 1913 to 1921, after stints as Princeton University president and New Jersey governor, the only president with a PhD.

Finally, the glass entrance to Christie’s office.

“It makes me understand what an extraordinary privilege this is — what a great honor it is to have your name on that door,” Christie said. “To call that building your home for however long the people of this state allow you to have it.”

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