WASHINGTON — Democratic New Jersey mayors who bucked their party to support Republican Gov. Chris Christie's reelection bid last year are denying their endorsements were coerced and defending Christie against critics in the wake of revelations over the George Washington Bridge lane closures.
"I still stand with Gov. Christie. You can hire people, you have good intentions and you think highly of these people, and people get fired every day," said Michael Blunt, the Democratic mayor of Chesilhurst, N.J. "It's not just Gov. Christie, any organization or business where you're hiring people, people get fired because they do things they're not supposed to do. So I believe him in what he said about what happened. I still support him."
Blunt said he faced no political pressure to back Christie and said he never heard of Christie's team applying pressure to others.
"My endorsement is based on the things that he's done for my community and how he's handled himself in the state of New Jersey," he said. "There was no coercion," he added.
The Christie campaign touted the backing of Democratic mayors and other officials to burnish the Republican incumbent's bipartisan credibility ahead of an expected 2016 run for the White House. So far there's no sign he'll lose that Democratic mayoral support as he struggles to get his second term on track after firing some of his closest aides in reaction to what Democrats are calling Bridgegate.
"I can assure you I did not feel pressured at all," Palmyra Mayor Karen Scheffler told the AP Wednesday. Scheffler did not immediately respond to questions left on her cellphone voicemail Thursday.
Other Democratic mayors are also sticking with Christie.
"Whatever happened up there, I still think (Christie) is a good guy," said Burlington City, N.J. Mayor, James Fazzone, to the AP.
Raymond McDonough, mayor of Harrison, N.J. not only didn't back away from his endorsement for Christie Thursday — he said he'd double down if he could.
"I'd endorse Christie again," he told BuzzFeed.
Brian Stack, a state senator who also endorsed Christie in the re-election campaign, echoed McDonough.
"I would do it again," he said.
"I went to the governor and offered to endorse him," Stack said. "He never once came to me and said 'Brian, I want you to endorse me.'"
"Chris Christie has probably been the best thing that's happened to New Jersey," Stack said.
Rosie Gray contributed reporting.
This post has been updated with comments from New Jersey State Senator Brian Stack. (4:13 p.m.)