Unity trumps politics in the face of adversity.
That was the salient message imparted by the Democratic mayor of a town devastated by Hurricane Sandy as she endorsed Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s reelection bid.
Christie — criticized by a contingent of Republicans for his support and recognition of Democratic President Obama in the face of Sandy — stood alongside Sea Bright Mayor Dina Long at Woody’s Ocean Grille on Thursday as the Democratic mayor voiced her support of the New Jersey governor. The governor reiterated "his politics be damned, this is about rebuilding in the wake of disaster" credo and praised Long for her post-Sandy leadership.
Long clarified that her support of Christie did not have anything to do with state Sen. Barbara Buono, who is running against the governor on the Democratic slate. She also said it was no affrontery to Congressman Frank Pallone, who she said was disappointed. And, perhaps to the dismay of the Monmouth County Democratic Party, she said the endorsement does not mean that she has switched parties. She is still a Democrat.
But, Long said, “For me, this is not about being a Democrat and it’s not about being a woman and it’s not even about politics. For me it’s about humanity. There’s no doubt in my mind that [Christie] has shown extraordinary leadership in the most difficult of times that we can ever imagine in the state of New Jersey. He’s shown us time and again that he’s willing to work across party lines to get things done for New Jersey. And because of this he’s earned my respect.”
Christie said what residents expect in Sandy’s aftermath is for officials to come together in a spirit of bipartisanship.
“Today is so incredibly gratifying to me because it shows that there are other people in public life who feel the same way,” Christie said.
In response to Long's endorsement of the Republican governor, Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal issued a statement criticizing the Sea Bright mayor for "aligning herself with Republicans when it's convenient."
He noted that the Monmouth County Democratic Executive Committee will take steps to restructure the Sea Bright Democratic Party.
"Since the Monmouth County Democrats reorganized in Summer 2012, Mayor Long has neglected to attend a single Democratic event or meeting, calling us to question her commitment to the party far in advance of this latest news," Gopal said in the statement.
In light of her Christie endorsement, Gopal had asked for Long's resignation, she said. That, Long said, "makes me very sad right now. Call me a traitor. Call me whatever you want. But, don't attack me personally," the mayor said, pointing to comments Gopal had made publicly about her choice. "For me, it's only about Sea Bright. People have said I've used this disaster to advance my political career. Well, if that's the case, then I supposed I just ruined my political career.
"This is not political. I'm just going with my gut and doing what I think is right and being honest and open about it. I don't want to be two-faced and come out in support of him six months from now. The governor has been there for Sea Bright from day one. That's what matters. Getting through this and having that kind of support is what matters."