Photographs on NJ.com are making big news on the Jersey shore and around the U.S. while making New Jersey Governor Chris Christie into an Independence Day laughingstock. The photo spread shows the corpulent governor stretched out on a beach that is closed to the public because Christie’s state government is shut down.
The stand-off began when Christie suggested that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield assist the state in its efforts to combat opioid addiction to the tune of $300 million. With his approval ratings falling, the New Jersey legislature is unwilling to accommodate Christie very far or to link the Horizon demand with the state budget. Christie has responded by saying he will use his line-item veto to cut Democrat-bred programs from the budget. The impasse shows no signs of an imminent conclusion.
According to Andrew Mills, who shot the photos of Christie from an airplane, “In my 23 years as a photo journalist, I’ve been on enough stakeouts to know when I’ve been made, and Gov. Chris Christie looked right at me as I pointed the long-range lens at him from a small plane about a thousand feet above Island Beach State Park in Berkeley Township on Sunday.”
New Jersey is not the only state that did not meet its July 1 budget deadline but the eight others do not have such a high-profile governor. Under the New Jersey Constitution, the government must cease spending on everything except public safety and emergency services — which does not include parks or beaches, which closed on Saturday. Government offices have not opened on Monday and thousands of government workers are on leave — with Christie telling them that they should not anticipate being compensated for days lost when the budget debacle is solved.
Christie’s photo shoot might be the defining moment of this political squabble. As photographer Mills explains, “In one photo, Christie looks me dead in the eye. He has to know what’s happening. Why else would a plane make two passes over his private beach party when there’s no one else around?”
“Did we know he would be sunbathing on a closed beach? No, but we took a shot and it paid off.”