Christie tries end-around on scandal

N.J. governor returns to playbook that worked before

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TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is holding town hall meetings in Republican-controlled areas, renewing attacks on public employees and avoiding settings where reporters could ask about scandals that have hobbled the start of his second term and question his viability to run for president.

Christie's new game plan comes as federal and legislative investigations threaten to drag on for months. Authorities are looking into twin scandals — an alleged plot to manufacture traffic jams as political retribution by Christie loyalists and alleged threats by two members of his Cabinet to hold up a riverfront city's storm recovery funds unless its mayor approved a favored redevelopment project.

"He's trying to go back to the old game plan, the game plan that established him as the national figure that he is," said Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat who many say hopes to succeed Christie as governor. "It doesn't surprise me — it worked once."

Christie, 51, who may run for president in 2016, has not answered reporters' questions since a marathon Jan. 9 press conference that was all about the unfolding plot to back up traffic at the George Washington Bridge, perhaps to punish a Democratic adversary.

Since then, there have been allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that members of Christie's administration sought to trade Superstorm Sandy recovery money for approval of a mixed-use development, suggestions that the administration leveraged other storm allocations, and accusations that Christie's chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, real estate lawyer David Samson, used his public position to benefit private clients.

Christie and Samson, through spokespeople, have denied the allegations. Since Christie resumed holding town hall meetings two weeks ago, the scandals have not been raised by anyone in the audience.