Chris Christie ‘Feels Great’ About Taxpayer-Funded $85,000 Portrait of Former New Jersey Governor

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s new official state portrait cost taxpayers $85,000 and he feels “great” about it.

The painting features Christie standing behind a wooden lectern that he often used to talk to members of the media while in the governor’s office. He said he chose the pose because he thought “that’s the way I’ll be remembered” and that being behind the podium is when he felt “most in command.” Etched into the side of the lectern are the letters “STTS,” which stands for “stronger than the storm.”

The finished product was unveiled on Monday evening at the Morven Museum and Garden in Princeton, New Jersey, where the Republican lawmaker gathered with over 100 friends, officials and former employees. Christie’s successor, Governor Phil Murphy, had a previous engagement and could not attend.

“It feels great,” Christie said of the portrait’s unveiling, according to a report by New Jersey Advance Media. The painting, created by an award-winning Australian artist Paul Newton, will be displayed at the statehouse in Trenton.

The portrait made headlines earlier this year after it was reported that it would cost approximately $85,000. That is more than New Jersey taxpayers paid for the portraits of Christie’s last three predecessors combined. Democratic governors Jon Corzine, Richard Codey and Jim McGreevy spent a total of $74,500 for their official portraits, though none of those governors served for two terms.

The money to pay for the portraits comes from a taxpayer-funded account of $250,000 that goes toward every exiting governor to pay for office space, staff and other services, including the creation of state portraits.

Christie stepped down in January after spending eight years as the governor of New Jersey. During his tenure in office, Christie cut the state’s enormous deficit, managed relief after Hurricane Sandy and lowered unemployment. At one point he was one of the most popular Republicans in the country and party officials trying to convince him to run for president in 2012.

Then, in 2013, Christie’s staffers closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge to get back at a local mayor who did not endorse him. The closures led to massive delays and caused chaos. The incident is now referred to as “bridgegate” and the scandal has been seen as causing a dramatic political downfall. In 2016 Christie ran for president but quickly lost any chance at the Republican Party’s nomination, instead choosing to endorse Donald Trump.

chris christie Chris Christie speaks onstage at Politicon 2018 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, on October 20. Christie’s official state portrait has been unveiled, and it was estimated to have cost taxpayers $85,000. Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Politicon

It was rumored that Christie would receive a cabinet-level role in Trump’s administration and with the departure of Jeff Sessions this month it was speculated that the New Jersey Republican would assume the office of attorney general. But earlier this month Christie told ABC that he had not been asked about the position.

In an interview with the New York Times shortly before leaving office in January, Christie said that if it weren’t for “bridgegate” he would have been the Republican presidential nominee in 2016. Even still, he said he has been one of the best people to serve as governor in New Jersey’s history.

“I feel like I’ve done the job as well or better than anybody who’s ever had it,” Christie said. “Would there be little things I would do differently? Sure. But over the sweep of eight years, I think when I leave, people are going to see just how hard this stuff is. This is a tough state to govern.”

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