Christie has made habit of appointing high school friends to state positions

Published 9:25 am Monday, July 27, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie launched his campaign for president in his high school gymnasium, surrounded by old friends.

“Everything started here for me: the confidence, the education, the friends, the family and the love that I’ve always felt for and from this community,” he told the crowd at Livingston High school.

Christie has remained especially close to his high school friends. He checks in by phone and attends reunions. But he’s also made a habit of appointing and nominating his former classmates to plum state positions, including judgeships. An Associated Press review of his senior class yearbook, state payroll records, agency websites and state press releases found that a handful of Christie’s former high school classmates have ended up in state positions since he took office. That number increases to nearly a dozen if Christie’s former classmates from Seton Hall law school are counted.

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The hires include a name that haunts Christie. David Wildstein is a former ally and top staffer at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He pleaded guilty to orchestrating the traffic jam scandal that has badly tarnished the governor’s reputation. Christie has said the two barely knew each other at Livingston, although Wildstein was the statistician on the school’s baseball team — Christie played catcher — and the two volunteered together on Tom Kean’s gubernatorial campaign.

The pattern also provides insight into how the governor, whose is known for his fierce loyalty to his staffers, might approach hiring if wins his longshot bid for the Republican nomination and makes it to the White House.