5 July, 2017, 12:00 am
ATLANTIC CITY – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie brushed off criticism on Monday after he was caught on camera taking a break from dealing with a government shutdown to lounge on a state beach that was closed to the public during the July Fourth holiday weekend.
When a TV show host said he could understand why people were upset by photos taken by a local newspaper that showed Mr Christie and his family sunbathing on an empty beach, Mr Christie responded: “Well, I’m sorry, they’re not the governor,” referring to the governor’s residence at Island Beach State Park.
The saga, dubbed “beachgate” by some media outlets, threw a spotlight on stalled budget negotiations that have caused partial government shutdowns in New Jersey and in Maine, and led to the suspension of many nonessential services.
That included New Jersey’s state parks, which closed on Saturday, forcing many to alter their holiday weekend plans. More than 30,000 state workers were on furlough on Monday. The Republican was already the least popular governor in modern New Jersey history, and the publication of the photos triggered mockery from critics online, some who posted spoof images of Mr Christie kicking back in a beach chair in a wide range of locations, including the Oval Office.
In Maine, the state police, parks and offices responsible for collecting revenue all planned to work through the shutdown, the state’s first since 1991. Members of Maine’s State Employees Association rallied outside the State House on Monday to demand a budget deal from lawmakers and Republican Governor Paul LePage.
A spokesman for Mr Christie, a former Republican presidential candidate who was in the last year of his second and final term, said Mr Christie was on the beach in front of the governor’s residence for only 45 minutes.
“Governor LePage won’t answer his door – we want to work!” organizers posted on Twitter, with photos and videos of dozens of the association’s members holding placards and chanting.
“Everybody knows that Governor Christie is always at work,” the spokesman, Brian Murray, told MSNBC.