Gov. Chris Christie’s return to the campaign trail just one day after a major winter storm struck New Jersey has miffed some people across the state — particularly in Cape May County.
On Monday morning, Christie made an appearance on MSNBC to discuss his campaign and the storm. When asked about the criticisms to his storm response, Christie responded by saying that he had not heard any criticisms and that there was no residual damage from the flooding.
“There is no residual damage, there is no residual flooding damage,” Christie said. “All the flooding receded yesterday morning. And there was no other damage. People were driving around the streets yesterday morning in New Jersey.”
Later in the interview, Christie said he thought the storm was handled well and noted that NJ Transit was back running at noon Sunday.
Residents from Cape May County immediately took to social media to criticize Christie by posting pictures and videos of the flooding and the damage it caused in the area.
Monday’s comments, for some, compounded concern that arose Saturday when Christie said it would be irresponsible to compare winter storm Jonas to Hurricane Sandy. During this storm, parts of Cape May County saw higher tides and more flooding than it did during the hurricane three years ago.
“I think the governor called it wrong,” said Jason Pellegrini, 44, a Sea Isle City resident and the owner of Steakout restaurant. “I saw him on TV saying it was minor flooding. That’s why it took me off-guard. It wasn’t minor. It was some of the most horrific flooding I’ve ever seen.”
Pellegrini’s restaurant in the 4000 block of Landis Avenue had about 3 feet of water surrounding it Saturday morning, which damaged his electrical and plumbing systems beneath the sub-flooring.
When he returned to the campaign trail Sunday, Christie used a different tone when responding to remarks by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio, who, while campaigning in New Hampshire, joked that the storm was the best thing to happen to the country in a while because it would temporarily slow down new regulations from the federal government and President Barack Obama from signing executive orders.
“That’s a difference between a United States senator who has never been responsible for anything and a governor who is responsible for everything that goes on in your state,” Christie said during an appearance on CNN on Sunday. “Fourteen people died across the country, and that shows a real immaturity from Senator Rubio to be joking as families were freezing in the cold, losing power and some of them losing their loved ones.”
On Monday afternoon, Christie aide Brian Murray tried via email to clarify some of the remarks the governor made on MSNBC. Murray wrote that Christie knew of no criticisms against him for returning to New Hampshire on Sunday. He also stated that there was significant flooding in Cape May and Atlantic counties as forecasted and that the state will continue to provide assistance to those areas.
He also reiterated that any comparison to Sandy is out of context because Cape May County was not directly hit by that storm and did not experience the type of flooding on Saturday that northern parts of the state did during the hurricane.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, in Stone Harbor with Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, said the state’s response to the damage suffered by Cape May County occurred “in a reasonable amount of time.”
“We’re here today,” she said in answer to criticisms from residents in the southernmost part of the state that Christie minimized the impact of the storm during his televised press conferences. “We’re here within 24 hours.”
Staff Writer Cindy Nevitt contributed to this report.