Christie’s Inaugural Snow Check: SRO Yields to Empty Seats

Photograph by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is sworn in by Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court Stuart Rabner for his second term on Jan. 21, 2014 at the War Memorial in Trenton.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s day-long inaugural fiesta didn’t work out quite the way he wanted.

Snow forced him to cancel his gala today on Ellis Island, and his address in Trenton  featured empty seats in a balcony seating area initially billed as standing room only.

This wasn’t the plan for the 51-year-old, whose 22-percentage point victory in November was the largest plurality won by a New Jersey governor in three decades. The Democratic-controlled Legislature and U.S. Attorney’s Office are examining his administration’s ties to politically motivated traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge.

Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for the inaugural gala, didn’t immediately return a telephone call or e-mail seeking comment.

About a third of the 1,851-seat War Memorial Theater  was empty as Christie delivered his 19-minute address, which stuck to themes of bipartisanship and fiscal restraint yet skipped mention of the current scandal. A fast-moving snow storm was sitting over New Jersey’s capital city and was expected to dump 8 to 12 inches on it, the National Weather Service said.

The day started off with high drama — National Guardsmen readied ceremonial howitzers outside the theater that were fired after the governor’s speech, in which he blasted Washington, partisan “games” and skipped mention of the bridge scandal.

Meanwhile, as the crowd trickled in, Democrats were across the snow-covered Capitol complex announcing they’d merged the Senate and Assembly committees investigating Christie and widened the probe to “misconduct” by anyone within the governor’s office.

Dawn Zimmer, mayor of Hoboken, opened a new front when she said this weekend she’d met with U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman for two hours to discuss allegations that Christie’s lieutenant governor approached her and said Hurricane Sandy recovery money was contingent on her support for a development project. She said she’s turned over journal entries and is willing to testify under oath in the matter.

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