In 2009, the country witnessed Chris Christie, who at the time was relatively unknown outside of New Jersey, defeat Democrat incumbent Jon Corzine for the governorship. Then it watched Christie declare a “state of fiscal emergency.” Then it watched him propose major spending cuts and give the proverbial middle finger to teachers’ unions.
Now, Christie’s playbook has become standard reading for many of the Republican governors that were elected in 2010.
In Wisconsin last week, Gov. Scott Walker upset state public sector unions so much that Democratic lawmakers fled the state to avoid a vote on his budget, and teachers joined in solidarity by effectively going on strike.
In Ohio, Republican Gov. John Kasich vowed to take on public sector unions even before taking office. And now, the state’s legislature is considering a bill that would restrict collective bargaining rights and implement a merit pay system for teachers.
In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam has presented plans to make it harder for public school teachers to achieve tenure. Almost immediately, teachers’ unions pegged the plan as being ‘anti-teacher.”
But the Christie effect isn’t just rippling through states where Republicans made major gains in the 2010 midterm elections.
An unlikely face of union reform and fiscal hawkishness can be found in recently-elected Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. Cuomo, the son of a Democratic icon, has even vowed to take a hard look at state employee pensions.
The proposed reforms have union members seething in fury, but no state has been immune to budget difficulties. By taking on union contracts as a way to balance the budget, governors like Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Bill Haslam are following in the footsteps of Chris Christie.
So did Christie start a trend?
“I think Christie is certainly helping,” Seton Motley, founder and president of Less Government, told The Daily Caller.
“But Walker would have done this even if Christie hadn’t,” Motley added. “Same with Kasich.”
Motley also pointed out that Christie emerged as a natural leader because of the oddness of New Jersey’s 2009 election date.
“But it certainly helps that Christie is out there,” he said. “Everyone has their own style. I don’t see Walker being as vocally pyrotechnic as Christie, but that’s fine.”
Steven Lonnegan, who ran against Christie in the Republican primary for governor, is less optimistic about his former rival’s influence on a national trend.
“What Christie’s doing in New Jersey is not anything near what Scott Walker is doing,” Lonnegan told TheDC. “What Walker is doing is historic. New Jersey hasn’t seen anything remotely near this.”
“Now you’re seeing Scott Walker, Kasich … doing real change, which is what we really need,” he added.
While Christie’s confrontations with New Jersey unions may not have garnered protests as fierce as what Scott Walker is seeing in Wisconsin, he is considered a trailblazer for the governors elected last November.
“I don’t think they [Republican governors] need air cover” from Christie, said Motley. “But the more the merrier!”