Vote in New Jersey on election day? There are of course more than a few critical – and high-profile – races. You choose to stay with the same governor or go another route. The seats in the Senate and the State Assembly are up for grabs.
You have a few voting questions to consider. And you have the Bergen County clerk.
He is not quite the head of state. And this is not a position of the state. It can be easy for some to ignore the post of county clerk, which involves the administration of a wide range of services such as filing and registering documents, processing passports, election monitoring, and more. But if you look at your ballot, you won’t forget the name.
Yes it is this Bridget Kelly – from the infamy “Bridgegate” of 2013 during her time in the former administration of Chris Christie. The 49-year-old mother of four and former deputy chief of staff to then-Republican Gov. Chris Christie said in 2019 that she was the scapegoat for the George Washington Bridge scandal and still wanted to serve.
See the Bergen County clerk as his first step towards an ambitious political resurrection.
Kelly announced his intention to run for the elected post at the end of January. She handily won the Bergen County Clerk’s Republican primary in June, even winning 40% more than the party’s gubernatorial candidate, NorthJersey.com reported.
She faces outgoing President John Hogan, a Democrat seeking his third term who announced his re-election campaign in March with the George Washington Bridge as a backdrop. (Follow the election results live here after the polls close at 8 p.m.)
A year and a half ago, the United States Supreme Court dismissed Kelly’s conviction for conspiring to create a blockade to punish a mayor who did not support his boss. She was weeks away from reporting to federal prison when this happened.
Christie has never been charged in this case. And Kelly said she’s not afraid to talk about the scandal now.
“I have nothing to hide from ‘Bridgegate’. I’m happy to discuss this at length, ”Kelly said in a July interview about her candidacy. “I also think people are fed up. And I think people, if I talk to them, they kind of start to like me and they know I’m as genuine as you are going to be.
His campaign to become the county clerk, an official tasked with handling the mundane but important transactions of daily life – liens, mortgages, passports, photo cards for veterans, naturalization records – could test the adage that he there is no bad publicity.
“She has to have near-universal name recognition, which is an asset that cannot be overstated in a low-key race like this,” said Micah Rasmussen, director of the non-partisan Rebovich Institute for New York politics. Jersey at Rider University.
“The key question is whether the county’s electorate, which is strongly Democratic, is ready to do what she asks them to do: look beyond the only thing they know about her,” said he added.
Kelly has lived most of her life in Bergen County, which is also home to Fort Lee.
Former Assistant Governor Bridget Kelly answers questions and reacts when she sees former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the Supreme Court heard arguments over the Bridgegate scandal in 2013.
Her rebranding as a career public servant who found herself embroiled in something she didn’t fully understand is at odds with the narrative presented by prosecutors: a willful conspirator who was in the project from the start and has reacted with apparent glee when the stalemate ensued.
Unsurprisingly, his supporters choose the first version.
“She was thrown under the bus,” Mahwah resident Cary Grobstein said during a June fundraiser for Kelly. “She got up off the mat, got up and started to swing, after what she went through. Everyone deserves a second chance. “
This shot does not suit Democrat Mark Sokolich, who is still the mayor of Fort Lee.
“I have forgiven her and I hope she continues with her life,” Sokolich said. “But you are not closing the busiest bridge in the world, endangering the safety of tens of thousands of people, and as a result, gain some recognition and use that name recognition to run for constitutional office in the county scale. “
Hogan, meanwhile, has served at multiple levels of local government and comes from a family whose involvement in politics dates back over 80 years. He argues that Kelly’s past conduct should be disqualifying.
“If I were a voter, I wouldn’t even consider her for a spot after what happened with the bridge,” Hogan said.
For Kelly, it’s just about moving on.
“If I was trying to hide anything and really wanted to run away from ‘Bridgegate’ I don’t know if I would introduce myself to the public again,” she said this summer. “He will never leave me. Never. He will always be there. But it’s time for me to take charge of my life.
In the closing hours of the campaign for governor of New Jersey, incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy is traveling the state to tout the progressive achievements of his first term and Republican Jack Ciattarelli is also on tour to protest high property taxes and mask mandates in schools. NBC New York’s Anjali Hemphill reports.