Updated at 4:35 p.m. with response, bottom, from Sweeney, who says Christie politicized Sandy with his appearance on Saturday Night Live.
Gov. Christie pounced this afternoon immediately after Democratic Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said this in a news conference intended to highlight the governor's failed economic agenda: "We gave the governor a jobs package. We gave him one. He vetoed it. And his job package is a hurricane. I guess he prayed a lot and got lucky a storm came. I shouldn't say that...I apologize for saying it."
Sweeney's remarks at the Statehouse were apparently in reference to Christie's claim that the economy would be stimulated by rebuilding in the wake of Sandy, with new jobs and tax revenue coming in (that's what Christie had told me in my Sunday story).
Despite Sweeney's rapid apology, Christie wasted no time in responding. From Michael Drewniak, the gov's spokesman: "It was shocking to hear Senator Sweeney reduce Hurricane Sandy and its devastation to a heartless partisan attack. Ask the thousands of New Jerseyans whose homes or businesses were destroyed or damaged if they view Hurricane Sandy as a partisan political issue, or if this is what they want to hear from their leaders at this time of recovery as we fight for disaster aid in Washington. No one 'prayed' for what New Jersey has endured. This is politics at its worst and Senator Sweeney's next press release should be to all residents of New Jersey saying he is ashamed of what he said today."
The gov's office also sent an email blast listing Sweeney's "definition[s]" of 'lucky," including: 346,000 homes and housing units damaged or destroyed; over 2.7 million households and businesses without power, as well as over 1000 schools; over 116,000 people under mandatory evacuation order and displaced at the height of the storm; etc.
Republican legislators also piled on, blasting Sweeney for insensitivity.
Meanwhile, Sweeney confirmed at the news conference that Democrats are considering him as a potential challenger to Christie in November. Only one major Democrat has so far declared, Sen. Barbara Buono (D., Middlesex), but Democrats are scrambling to find someone they think will be a stronger contender.
At 4:35 p.m., Sweeney released this statement:
"It's unfortunate that the governor has found time to exploit my misstatement, which I apologized for immediately. The truth of the matter is the chief politicizer of Sandy has been none other than Chris Christie. There is no better example of this than his appearance on Saturday Night Live. I stand with every member of the Legislature and elected official in this state to help victims of Sandy to recover to a better place than before. But I will not stand by and allow this governor to turn a blind eye to the problems he has created or ignored during his three years in office.
"The fact of the matter is that the governor is using the storm to paper over his failure to lead on issues like job creation, economic growth, women's issues, healthcare and housing. He has already said that the storm 'erased the blackboard,' meaning he is going to use it as an excuse to ignore every other issue in New Jersey. The hundreds of thousands of people out of work because this governor has failed to act don't think the storm 'erased the blackboard.' The governor does not get to erase the blackboard. This is not his etch-a-sketch moment."