New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie faced the same natural disaster three months ago, and will face the same re-election scrutiny in ensuing years, yet their respective State of the State addresses couldn’t have been more different.
Christie spoke a day earlier than Cuomo and focused on addressing Superstorm Sandy. “[H]e focused so much on Sandy – almost to the point that he should have worn a fleece,” Alfred Doblin of The Record told MetroFocus host Rafael Pi Roman in an episode to be broadcast on NJTV on January 22, WLIW on January 23, and WNET/ Thirteen on January 24.
“I think the impact in New Jersey has been a little different […] the state is so much smaller that it has felt a little more personal.”
Christie said in his January 8, 2013 address: “We are working together, not just as a people digging out from Sandy and rebuilding our economy. But we’re working together here in Trenton, in this chamber….[W]e have established a governing model for America that shows that, even with heartfelt beliefs, bipartisan compromise is possible. Achievement is the result and progress for our people is the payoff.”
Doblin pointed out in his conversation with Pi Roman that despite Christie’s rhetoric, struggles between Republicans and Democrats have dominated political discourse in the state. “[Christie] didn’t get into any of the real problems that this state has had,” Doblin said. “[T]here’s bipartisanship on Sandy but he couldn’t get his Supreme Court nominees through in a really horrible, nasty, partisan fight.”
In contrast to Christie’s storm-centric State of the State address, Cuomo touched on dozens of progressive issues in his speech, from women’s rights to guns. He spoke one day after Christie, on January 9.
According to Nick Confessore, political correspondent for The New York Times, the difference is rooted in 2016 politics. “The speech that Cuomo gave…you see a Democratic governor in a Democratic state who spent the first 2 years of his term on fiscal policy, cutting spending, cutting pensions, capping property taxes,” Confessore said. “[T]his was his pivot into gun control, raising the minimum wage and abortion rights– the traditional laundry list of a democratic and liberal agenda items.”
Cuomo’s proposal on guns already raced through the New York legislature and was signed into law. “And I say to you, forget extremists,” Cuomo stated in his address. “It’s simple– no one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs ten bullets to kill a deer and too many innocent people have died already. End the madness now.”
Christie ticked off the statistics of the storm damage and recounted heartwarming stories, but stayed away from current hot-button issues, like gun control. In fact, Christie did not mention the word “gun” even once in the speech. A week later, however, he held a press conference on gun violence.