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Grapevine

GRAPEVINE: Christie's presidential ambitions have current impact on policy, politics

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It was, at one time, the worst-kept secret in all of New Jersey.

Now, it’s not really one at all. Gov. Chris Christie is seriously considering a bid for the White House in 2016.

Don’t take it from us. He’s said it publicly himself.

Furthermore, one popular notion is that if he does choose to run, he may resign some time next year in order to become a full-time candidate.

While that’s speculative, of course, it still has an impact on what happens in Trenton in the next six months or so, one source says.

The source said the administration may be looking at the time Christie has left in the state and choosing its battles and policy debates, specifically looking for issues that can resonate “beyond the borders of New Jersey.”

“I think they’re basing a lot of things on ‘If we do this, how will this issue transcend nationally?’” the source said.

Take the ongoing saga over pensions and benefits for example. The source said that Christie has positioned himself on the issue in a way that will allow him to go to a national audience and say, “Look at the tough conversations I’ve had on pension and benefit reforms.”

If he decides to run, Christie won’t be the only one seeking higher office either. With the potential for an open gubernatorial race in 2017, eyes are already on legislative leadership and the alliances currently being made, the source said.

“It’s all politics,” the source added.

Weighing the locations of North Jersey casinos

As Atlantic City copes with the loss of three more casinos, the calls to allow slots and table games in North Jersey have only gotten louder.

Meadowlands business leaders first reignited the debate, unveiling an updated vision plan for the region on Aug. 19 that called for casino gaming at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. But local lawmakers rejoined the chorus last week — and they focused not just on East Rutherford, but also Jersey City.

How those legislators felt about Jersey City seemed to vary among those who spoke at an Aug. 26 breakfast forum.

State Sen. Paul Sarlo, a Wood-Ridge Democrat, made the most direct reference to such a project. Referring to the constitutional amendment needed to expand casino gaming beyond Atlantic City, he said Trenton lawmakers “need to go to the voters and create, in my opinion, two gaming facilities in North Jersey — one in Jersey City, perhaps on the waterfront, and right here at the Meadowlands.”

One of his colleagues, Assemblyman Gary Schaer of Passaic, seemed less enthusiastic about the idea, though he didn’t elaborate beyond a few words.

“The inclusion of Jersey City is a whole other discussion in terms of a potential casino,” Schaer said. “But I think that our focus needs clearly to be on the Meadowlands, not to take anything away from any other area, but to recognize that the Meadowlands is so obvious in so many ways.”

How that discussion will continue in Trenton remains to be seen. But it’s worth noting that, in July, Sarlo and state Sen. Raymond Lesniak proposed legislation to seek voter approval for two North Jersey casino licenses, via a constitutional amendment, not long after news surfaced that former Reebok CEO Paul Fireman proposed building a 95-story casino in Jersey City.

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