Gov. Chris Christie came to Atlantic City Wednesday, not to meet with its embattled mayor, but to denounce him as “a liar” who has “zero idea” what he’s doing.
The governor used his harshest language yet to criticize Mayor Don Guardian, a fellow Republican, as the seaside gambling resort draws closer to going broke. He used a press conference with Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson to take repeated shots at Guardian in the harshest and most personal language he has used against him to date, reminiscent of the invective he frequently hurled at Guardian’s Democratic predecessor, Lorenzo Langford.
Asked about complaints by Guardian that he has not met with the governor in months as his city inches closer to bankruptcy, Christie replied, “Because there’s no purpose in meeting with a liar.”
Christie accused Guardian of agreeing to a state takeover in a Statehouse news conference with leaders of the state Senate and Assembly, then changing his mind. Guardian said lawmakers promised to make changes to protect the city’s interest but failed to make good on them.
“He has no idea what he’s talking about,” Christie said. “Zero idea what he’s talking about.”
Christie also seemed to insult Guardian’s intelligence as well as his competency.
“The mayor’s math and his understanding match his management ability,” Christie said.
At his news conference afterward, Guardian disputed many of Christie’s criticisms and laid much of the blame for his city’s fiscal crisis on the doorstep of the state, which has appointed monitors to oversee the city and school system.
“I’m sorry the governor has to use name-calling,” Guardian said. “He should be a diplomat like we’re trying to be a diplomat, and he should be working to move the city forward. I learned to be a politician and I realize that’s how politicians talk. I’m disappointed, and I can say, like every urban mayor in the state of New Jersey, that we wait until Jan. 14, 2018 when we have a new governor.”
The back-and-forth came as the city continued to sink deeper into a fiscal crisis. It would run out of money if a measure the city council is to consider Wednesday night is not adopted. That measure would change the city’s payroll schedule to give the city some breathing room through the end of May.