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Just call N.J.'s Christie 'Governor Blue Hen'
Garden State’s new chief executive a die-hard UD football fan.
Since he won the election to be New Jersey’s next governor, Chris Christie has gotten a lot of attention for being an avid fan of fellow Garden State native Bruce Springsteen.
Christie, who’s been to more than 120 Springsteen shows, also has a passion in the First State. The 1984 University of Delaware grad and former UD student council president loves Blue Hens football games as much as the Boss, his close friends say.
The 47-year-old Republican has had season tickets to Delaware Stadium for about 20 years, although the grind of this year’s campaign caused him to miss all of this season’s home games, something that had never happened before. Christie normally makes most of the home games.
Now that he’s won the governor’s seat by beating incumbent Jon Corzine, Christie expects to return to the games next year.
“I’ll absolutely be back,” Christie said last week. “I still plan to keep hanging out with my friends since college on Saturday afternoons.”
Christie and his UD buddies used to have only one box of seats. But they had to buy a second set once they began getting married and having kids, all of whom now attend the games. One of his friends, Rich Mroz of Cherry Hill, N.J., said Christie is clearly an extrovert and is no different at the games.
“He definitely gives the other team as much razzing as anybody in the student body,” Mroz said.
Christie acknowledged his exuberance and said he won’t change.
“We’re not wallflowers,” he said. “I might have to dial it down a notch or two now that I’m governor. But this is my alma mater, so if I tone it down, it will only be a little – but not much.”
Another member of Christie’s tailgating crew, Bob Teeven of Newark, said it just about killed Christie to miss the games this year. Christie and Teeven traveled to Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2003 to watch UD win the national championship against Colgate.
“He made me text him the scores after every quarter this year,” Teeven said.
Christie should have no problem being a weekend football fan as governor, said Larry Ceisler, a Philadelphia-based political consultant. After all, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell moonlights on Sundays as an Eagles analyst on TV.
“Look, when you win, you can do anything you want,” Ceisler said. “Christie comes off as an everyman, sort of like [Vice President] Joe Biden. The only thing to watch for is whether [Delaware Gov.] Jack Markell will give him a police escort from the New Jersey border so he gets to the games on time.”
Christie, the former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, is the latest politician with UD ties to make waves. Last year was a big Blue Hen year, as Biden and his wife, Jill, are UD graduates. President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, David Plouffe, and John McCain’s political strategist, Steve Schmidt, both attended the school.
Christie’s election can only help Delaware and the university, Ceisler said.
“It’s always good to have a high-profile booster in another state,” he said.
Ceisler said Christie recently attended a fundraiser for Pennsylvania Republican congressional candidate Pat Meehan and thinks GOP hopefuls in Delaware can probably look forward to the same kind of help.
Christie’s wife, Mary Pat, also is a UD graduate. Each is a donor to the school. Christie was an honorary captain of the football team a few years ago, the school’s sports information director, Scott Selheimer, said. He was the recipient of the UD Presidential Citation for Outstanding Achievement in 2003 and spoke at the school’s winter commencement the following year.
Christie has been involved in politics since junior high school in New Jersey, where he was class president and ran the student government. He lost a bid for a New Jersey state Senate seat in 1993, then was elected to the Morris County Board of Freeholders in New Jersey the next year.
UD political science professor James Magee said he’s not surprised by Christie’s political success. Magee said Christie was one of the best students to ever take his class on civil rights and civil liberties.
“He was a conservative student who stood up for his principles in a very thoughtful sort of way,” Magee said. “I respected him quite a lot in that way. He wasn’t just a yeller or a screamer.”
Through an intermediary, Magee reminded Christie of that collegiate trait midway through the recent election, when things were neck and neck with Corzine.
“I got the message to him that he needed to be a real guy and not just a tough prosecutor,” Magee said. “Then he started smiling in his ads and showed himself with his family and his approval ratings started going up.”
Apparently it worked. Christie beat Corzine by four percentage points.
Now Christie is taking a break and trying to figure out how to convince Springsteen, an unabashed liberal, to play at his inaugural. And pretty soon, he’ll probably be planning his next trip to UD.
“I loved every minute that I was a student there,” he said. “I met my wife there. It’s a special place and a great place to go to school. It’s always great to go back.”
Just call N.J.’s Christie ‘Governor Blue Hen’
BY ADAM TAYLOR, the Delaware News Journal