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Will the Bridgegate Scandal Change the Way Christie Governs?

Castro added that the experience may lead Christie to strike a different tone in health policy debates. "It will be interesting to see now that he's more vulnerable, is he going to be as outspoken on issues like national health reform?"

Jeanne Otersen, a lobbyist for nurses union the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, reinforced Castro's point.

"I think we've had a very closed, tight circle within the governor's office setting policy, instead of more open and collaborative and inclusive policy development," Otersen said, adding that she hopes the state becomes more open in making hospital information publicly available.

"I think (the scandal) would have implications for policy if they really take this to heart," she said.

Senate President Steve Sweeney in an interview tried to dispel any notion that much will slow down in the wake of the scandal, saying he and the Democratic majority have their own priorities that they plan to pursue. Of course, Sweeney is one of the names most mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate to succeed Christie.

“Regardless of what is going on here, we have business we have to do for the people of New Jersey,” Sweeney said after the Senate’s brief and overshadowed session yesterday. “We will look for compromise, and we will look to get things done. We don’t stop and shut everything down.”

“Clearly there are investigations going on, and Assemblyman [John] Wisniewski and Sen. [Loretta] Weinberg have done a very good job in bringing this to light, but that doesn’t mean you stop everything and wait,” he said.

When asked whether the politics change in either his party or the Republican minority in terms of support for or against initiatives, Sweeney acknowledged Christie still holds plenty of sway in a governor’s seat that is among the most powerful in the country.

“He needs us to get things done, and we need him to get things done,” Sweeney said. “We need each other to get things done.”

Republicans were still standing behind the governor, at least publicly. State Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. (R-Union), the Senate minority leader, has been in a public and sometimes-nasty spat with Christie over Kean’s leadership role, but yesterday he was supportive of the governor.

“The second that he found out there were individuals who were not factual with him, he took quick action,” Kean said. “Now he is able to go on . . . His response has reinforced his very strong, responsible profile.”

When asked whether he and his party are still united behind the governor, Kean said: “Of course.”

Privately, others weren’t so certain, but they also said it was a matter of how long the scandal will last. One lobbyist said the impact of the scandal won’t be so much on how Christie reacts but how the Legislature reacts.

“The question is whether he will still enjoy the same loyalty,” said the lobbyist, who asked to remain unidentified. “It will largely depend on how they perceive the impact on his ability to govern.”

The lobbyist and others have said Christie has been adept in his first term in shifting the discussion, in finding new issues and topics to grab the headlines. This will prove a new test of that skill, they said.

“But I have never counted him out,” the lobbyist said.

Tom Johnson and Andrew Kitchenman contributed to this story.

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