Political experts think former First Lady Mary Pat Christie would make for a strong congressional candidate, but that’s only the case if she actually wants to run.
“Mary Pat would make a heck of a candidate. She clearly is an incredibly smart person. She’s also straightforward, or at least that’s the way she’s perceived. She would be a sort of non-nonsense kind of candidate,” Seton Hall political science professor Matt Hale said. “That being said, what we also know about her is that it seems like elective office is farthest thing that she would ever want to do in her entire life.”
Former Gov. Chris Christie floated his wife as a potential challenger to Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) at an event at Rutgers University Tuesday evening, indicating that he was trying to convince her to run for the district.
The two have lived in Mendham for more than 25 years.
Hale said he thought the former first lady could tap into the same energy that swelled for Christie during his runs for governor.
“She strikes me as someone who recognizes the absurdity of politics and would speak to that,” Hale same. “At his best, that’s what Chris Christie did as well, and I think she could make that argument.”
Still, there hasn’t been any indication that Christie’s entreaties will convince his wife to run for public office.
While Mary Pat Christie was all-in on her husband’s bid for the presidency, it is less certain that she would attracted to spending four days a week in Washington.
“She did not seem to have a great deal of interest in public life in that way,” Montclair University political science professor Brigid Harrison said. “It’s not to say she wasn’t effective as first lady — I think that she was — but she never seemed to be like some political spouses who are, in and of themselves, political.”
Should she choose to run, Mary Pat Christie wouldn’t have an easy time of it, no matter how strong a candidate she proves.
In 2018, Sherrill flipped a seat that Republicans had held for 34 years by 47,362 votes, a 57%-42% margin. The former federal prosecutor won majorities in all but one of the district’s four counties.
She was named chair of the House Science Committee’s Investigations and Oversight Committee, a rare honor for a first-term representative and managed to out-raise most Democratic candidates in the country during her 2018 campaign.
Some New Jersey Democrats have floated her as a potential U.S. Senate candidate down the line.
“Right now, Mikie Sherrill is the rock star,” Hale said. “She has the resume you can’t beat, and she’s got the discipline on the stump, and she is clearly an up-and-comer. In the next two years, she has to produce something. If she doesn’t, there’s an opening.”
The flip side, Hale said, is that Sherrill’s re-election is all but assured if there’s any movement on issues like the Gateway Tunnel.
It’s more than possible the former first lady and Sherrill won’t ever meet on the campaign trail. Christie, Harrison said, might have an ulterior motive for launching a trial balloon with his wife’s name on it at a book-signing event.
“This is something that was mentioned as he’s trying to sell copies of his book,” Harrison said. “What we’ve seen for the past two weeks or so is that it seems that the former governor is willing to say almost anything to make headlines so that people think he is politically relevant and continue to talk about him and perhaps buy his book.”