Criminal justice reform is becoming a hot issue on the right, as some Republican governors, particularly in the South, have been earning praise for successfully implementing programs that encourage drug rehabilitation and cut prison costs. Since many likely 2016 candidates – including Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, and Rick Perry – have been speaking up about the issue lately, Chris Christie is trying to highlight his own accomplishments in New Jersey. On Thursday, Governor Christie signed a bill that would improve drug treatment programs in New Jersey correctional facilities, then swung by a conference in Jersey City on helping drug offenders re-enter society. “I’m pro-life and I believe strongly in the sanctity of life as do many of my conservative, fellow conservative governors,” Christie said. “And I say to them, you know, it’s great to be pro-life but you need to be pro-life after they get out of the womb too.”
The conference also gave Christie yet another opportunity to tout his bipartisanship. “I know as many drug-addicted Republicans as I know drug-addicted Democrats. It just is what it is,” he said. “Because alcohol, prescription drugs, heroin, cocaine, they don’t ask you for your party registration card when the drug dealer is selling it to you.”
Christie made the remarks during a talk moderated by former Democratic New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey. The two men were once political adversaries, but had nothing but praise for each other at the event. Christie said he decided to come because he wants McGreevey, who runs Jersey City’s Employment & Training Program, to “continue to be a leader in this state on issues that he’s passionate about.” The former governor, who resigned in 2004 over an affair with a staffer, said, “Obviously I’ve had my own challenges in life, and there are few people who have been as decent and kind and compassionate and good as Chris Christie.”
Others who attended the event aren’t such big Christie fans. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who claims Christie’s campaign retaliated against him for not endorsing the governor, hosted the conference, and U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, who is investigating the Bridgegate scandal, spoke earlier in the day. Somehow, the three men managed to avoid any awkward scenes. Fulop said he and Christie exchanged pleasantries when they ran into each other behind the scenes, and Fishman decided it was best to leave the event before the governor arrived.