Chris Christie Can't Shake Race to the Top Fiasco
By David Harrison, Staff Writer
What began as a simple clerical error on a grant application has turned into a political debacle in New Jersey. A botched application cost the state $400 million in Race to the Top education money from the federal government last month, a mistake that led Gov. Chris Christie to fire education chief Bret Schundler, claiming he had been lied to, a claim Schundler denies.
Now Democrats in the state Assembly are holding hearings to determine what went wrong with New Jersey's application, a move that will keep the scandal in the spotlight a while longer. But Schundler declined an invitation to appear at the hearings, as did Christie's staff, according to The Star-Ledger.
This is the first major misstep for Christie, a Republican who came way to power last year by dispatching Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine, and who has displayed a pugnacious style that has won him victories over legislative Democrats and raised his national profile, according to The New York Times.
"The Race to the Top episode emboldened Democrats to challenge Mr. Christie more than they had since he took office, and briefly put him on the defensive for the first time as his office spent a few days trying to clarify what had happened. There is a saying in politics. If you're explaining, you're losing," the paper wrote.
Meanwhile, the governor has been working hard to put the episode behind him. He traveled the state to talk up proposed reforms to ethics laws and public pension programs and limits on the number of public salaries an individual worker can earn, according to The Star-Ledger . He is also scheduled to travel out of New Jersey to campaign for Republican candidates in battleground states, Politico reports.