Bridget Anne Kelly, former assistant to former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, whose conviction in the Bridgegate scandal was overturned by the US Supreme Court, is running for office.
Kelly announced in a television appearance on Monday that she was seeking the Republican nomination for Bergen County clerk.
Kelly became well known for her role as Bridgegate, when several local driveways to the George Washington Bridge were closed for three days in September 2013. The lane closures at Fort Lee were an act of political retaliation against the mayor of the city, Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who refused to endorse Christie, a Republican, for re-election.
It was Kelly who sent the now infamous “Fort Lee Traffic Trouble Time” e-mail that triggered the lane closures.
“I had a life before Bridgegate and the life before Bridgegate included 20 years of public service in state government,” Kelly said in an interview with POLITICO. “The people who tried to destroy me did not destroy my love for public service.”
Bridgegate: Kelly has always maintained that she was unaware that the lane closures were part of a larger political revenge plan. Rather, she said, she believed they were part of a legitimate trafficking study – a study she said Christie personally approved.
Christie also denied knowing about the scheme.
Bill Baroni, who was Christie’s deputy executive director at the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, and Kelly, who was Christie’s deputy chief of staff, were convicted in 2016 for their roles in the plot. They worked with a third conspirator – David Wildstein, a former port authority official who pleaded guilty and testified against them – to orchestrate the scheme.
The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last year quashed convictions by Kelly and Baroni. The court ruled unanimously that neither had defrauded the government of its “property” by closing the access roads.
The court agreed to hear the appeal after Baroni had already shown up to federal prison and Kelly was preparing to do so.
Kelly acknowledged to POLITICO that the “elephant in the room” during his campaign for the county clerk will be Bridgegate, but said his goal is to move beyond that.
“I don’t want this campaign to be about Bridgegate. I don’t want it to be about Chris Christie. I don’t want it to be the last seven years, ”she said. “I want to talk about the effectiveness of [county clerk’s] office, what needs to be improved and what needs to be improved. ”
But in a previous interview on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York”, Kelly said that Bridgegate “isn’t something I’m afraid to talk about. I testified for four or five days in a federal trial. I was not afraid of the US attorney’s office. I’m not afraid of it.
Bergen County Race: Kelly said she spoke with her four children – who she said had been through hell and back “- before deciding to run for office. All four, she said, supported her decision.
Kelly said she was approached by Republican Bergen County President Jack Zisa, who asked her to run for county clerk. Bergen County, where the Bridgegate incident occurred, is the largest county in New Jersey with over 930,000 residents. He is dominated by Democrats, but Kelly said she believes she can take over that post for her party.
If she wins the GOP nomination, she will face incumbent Democrat John Hogan, who has served as county clerk for the past decade.
“I think it’s time for a change and I believe I can be a source of energy for Republicans,” she said.
County clerks are responsible for a variety of tasks, including registering, filing, and maintaining many public records, among others. They also help organize elections.
And after: Kelly said her goal was to win over each voter individually through her campaign.
“I love talking to people,” she says. “And I’m happy to speak to them and convince them of anything, to show them who I am.