When then-city councilman Cory Booker challenged Newark Mayor Sharpe James in 2002, the U.S. Attorney at the time, Chris Christie, insinuated himself into the campaign by sending federal prosecutors in to monitor the May 12 election – and holding an election day press conference to brief reporters on how it was going.
Here’s the story from my old website, PoliticsNJ:
Peter W. Rodino Federal Building (3:45 PM) -The federal prosecutor monitoring the Newark municipal elections say that there have been no major irregularities so far. U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie, at an afternoon news conference, said that so far “this has been a very fair election.”
“Our hotline has received about 100 calls as of 3:15,” said Christie, “and our monitors have covered 75% of the districts multiple times.”
Christie reported on two incidents at polling places today:
At Weequahic High School in the South Ward, Christie said that “tensions have been running high, with both camps getting into yelling matches.”
“We have responded to multiple calls there throughout the day and expect that we will respond to more as the day gets later and more people vote,” said Christie.
And at George Washington Carver High School, Christie said that federal monitors responded to three reports that Newark police officers were attempting “to influence people to vote a certain way.”
“The minute we got that call we called the AG’s office and told them what we heard, they dispatched state police to the scene, we dispatched our monitors to that scene. When we got there four or five minutes later, the state police had already arrived and our people did not observe any more of that activity going on…We wanted to be there since it was potentially criminal activity.”
Christie said that he has not found any evidence of street money being used to influence the election, nor “is it one of our concerns.”
Christie also downplayed claims made by the Booker campaign concerning “hundreds” of election violations.
“I’ve received a few calls that have seemed unbelievable, and suspect that both campaigns are trying to portray themselves in the best light possible,” said Christie. “As some of you may have read, I used to be politically-active, and I know how this can work.”
“You have to remember,” he said, “we could have a runoff in this race, and a campaign might also be trying to lay groundwork for a post-election move.”
Christie acknowledged that although the presence of federal monitors in Newark was heralded in news outlets across the country, “both candidates welcomed this.”
“I sat down with both Cory and Mayor James face-to-face and Sharpe said it was a first for Newark, but he welcomed it, and voters have come up to our monitors and thanked them personally,” Christie said. “Two things influenced my decision to dispatch monitors here: the violence leading up to the election, and the overheated rhetoric coming from both campaigns.”