- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The Democrat-led Legislature failed again this week to override a veto by Gov. Chris Christie, who has survived more attempts than any of his predecessors during at least the last five decades.

Office of Legislative Services data shows the Democrat-controlled Legislature has attempted 52 times to override Christie; that’s more than any governor going back to Democratic Gov. Robert Meyner in 1960. The veto attempts against Christie are the most since Republican Gov. Tom Kean Sr. faced 33, including one successful vote, between 1982 and 1990.

It’s a record that gives Christie a potent campaign-trail talking point as he runs for president and also testifies to Republicans’ unwillingness to buck Christie, political experts say. Christie himself brought up his override record during the last presidential debate in Simi Valley, California.

“It sends a message that he’s a strong leader, that not only does he stand up to the Democrats that control both houses of the Legislature but that he is able to unify the party,” said Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University.

The most recent instance came Thursday when Senate Democrats fell two votes short of the 27 needed to overcome Christie’s conditional veto of a bill requiring law enforcement to be notified when potential gun buyers seeks to expunge a mental health record. The bill passed with unanimous support earlier in the year and all but two Republicans voted against the measure on Thursday. Another Republican was absent.



Christie may tout his sterling override record, but Democrats also seem to find a political upside.

Senate President Steve Sweeney called the failure of Republicans to stand by their earlier positions “remarkable” and said he would bring up the law enforcement notification bill for another vote later this year, possibly as soon as next month.

“Politically as a Democrat I guess it’s a great opportunity,” Sweeney said. “But for the people of this state? Jesus. … This really shouldn’t have happened.”

It comes down to the power of the pack, political experts say. Republicans are just more influential when they operate as a group.

“Whether you’re the leader of the Republicans or a backbencher, you recognize that you are more powerful sticking together as a bloc than not. If you allow Democrats even for a cause you’re sympathetic to divide you, it weakens everyone’s bargaining power in the bloc,” said Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor Peter Woolley.

Thursday’s override attempt was not the only time Democrats came close to overriding Christie. In the summer, Democrats came close to overriding his veto of a bill that would end a policy requiring those with developmental disabilities living in out-of-state facilities to return to New Jersey. At the last minute, the vote was suspended and Christie and lawmakers worked out a compromise that the Senate passed in August.

None of Christie’s immediate predecessors faced veto override attempts, according to Office of Legislative Services data. The last governor to have a veto overridden was Christine Todd Whitman, who confronted three attempts. She was overridden once.

The Office of Legislative Services data also shows that governors of one party with legislatures of another party faced override votes more than when the parties were the same. Democrat James Florio was overridden 13 times while Republicans controlled the Legislature. Kean had a Democratic-controlled Legislature when he was in office.

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