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Christie vows to heed voters’ voice

N.J. lawmakers combine abuse of power inquiries

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey (center), who was reelected by a 22-point margin, was sworn in on Tuesday.

Mel Evans/Associated Press

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey (center), who was reelected by a 22-point margin, was sworn in on Tuesday.

TRENTON, N.J. — Governor Chris Christie sought to turn back the clock as he was sworn into a second term Tuesday, saying New Jersey voters gave him a mandate in November to ‘‘stay the course’’ and put aside partisan differences, even as Democrats ramped up an investigation into whether his administration abused its power.

Christie, considered a probable Republican presidential candidate in 2016, was inaugurated amid a snowstorm that forced him to cancel an evening celebration on Ellis Island, and then gave an 18-minute address that dwelled on his 22-point election victory in the fall. He did not mention the investigations that have already led to the firing or departure of four top aides or associates.

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The people making up a broad coalition that returned him to office, he said, ‘‘have demanded that we stay the course they have helped set.’’

‘‘It was the largest and loudest voice of affirmation that the people of our state have given to any direction in three decades,’’ Christie said, noting priorities including the economy, education, and improving access to jobs for recovering drug addicts. ‘‘We have no moral option but to heed the voice of the voters, and that is exactly what I intend to do.’’

His speech came less than an hour after Democratic lawmakers announced they were consolidating twin investigations into allegations that aides engineered traffic jams in September in the community of Fort Lee as political retribution, apparently against the town’s mayor for not endorsing his reelection bid.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, who was on the podium during the inaugural address, said the merger of Assembly and Senate committees was the ‘‘optimal approach to ensuring the people of New Jersey get the answers they need to these questions about the abuse of government power.’’

Lawmakers have not decided whether the inquiry will be extended to allegations raised over the weekend by Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken. The Democratic mayor said Christie’s underlings tied the delivery of Hurricane Sandy aid to support for a prime real estate project.

Zimmer said she was told by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno that the ultimatum came directly from Christie. Guadagno, who was also sworn in Tuesday to a second term, has strongly denied those allegations.

Zimmer met with investigators from the US attorney’s office for several hours Sunday and gave them journal entries she said were made at the time of the conversation at a supermarket opening in May.

The US attorney’s office is also looking into the traffic jams, which happened when lanes leading to the busy George Washington Bridge to New York City were closed.

Christie has apologized, denied any involvement with or knowledge of the plot, fired a deputy chief of staff at the center of the controversy, and banished one of his top campaign advisers. Two officials Christie had a role in getting hired to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the bridge, resigned.

David Samson, a former state attorney general who is chairman of the Port Authority, was at the inauguration. His law firm was involved in the development project that Zimmer said administration officials wanted her to support.

Christie has built a national following as a blunt-talking and often funny politician who has striven to show that he could find common ground with Democrats on some key issues, including overhauling the state’s public-worker pension program and making it easier to fire underperforming teachers.

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