Gov. Chris Christie is defending tourism ads the state is running in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
During a Tuesday morning appearance on the North Wildwood boardwalk, Christie said the ads were never meant to imply that the state has fully recovered from the Oct. 29 storm. But he said the shore has made remarkable progress since then.
Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono, Christie's opponent in the November gubernatorial election, is airing an online campaign ad featuring storm victims telling how their lives have still not gotten back to normal.
Christie acknowledges there is plenty of work to do to help people who still cannot return to their homes. But he says no one expected the state to recover fully in less than a year.
When a reporter asked about critics of the "Stronger Than The Storm" tourism ads, Christie shot back, "What would they have us do: go into the fetal position? I've never said everything's all right."
When the reporter persisted, noting that the email announcing the day's event was titled, "'Cause down the shore everything's all right," Christie said he was riffing on the lyrics to "Jersey Girl," a Tom Waits song made famous by his idol Bruce Springsteen.
"Do you really think what we meant is 'Everything is all right everywhere?'" he asked. "We don't think everything's all right. It's a lot better than it was in November and a lot better than people thought it would be.
"I do think things down here are all right," Christie said of the Wildwoods and the southern Jersey shore region, which suffered much less damage from Sandy than did Ocean and Monmouth counties to the north. "They're not perfect."
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Buono's web ad features Lee Ann Newland and her husband, John Lambert, whose Neptune home was heavily damaged. They take issue with Christie's appearance in the "Stronger than the Storm" ads, echoing statements Lee Ann made at a public hearing before a joint state Senate and Assembly panel on Sandy recovery earlier this month in Atlantic City.
"When I see Christie in the ad it completely reiterates my thought that they haven't take care of the people here," Newland says. "The picture that's painted is we're good to go, we're fine, everything's taken care of, and that's not the case."
Christie has said his ads were crucial to convincing potential vacationers making their summer plans that the entire Jersey shore was not destroyed, and that a fun family vacation could still be had here. Tourism, he said, is a nearly $40 billion industry in New Jersey, and the ads were necessary to help preserve the industry.
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