New Jersey Governor Chris Christie turned to themes of small but compassionate government and bipartisan cooperation in his second inaugural address on Tuesday, making no mention of the abuse of power charges swirling through his administration.
A charismatic and tough-talking fiscal conservative, Christie is widely seen as a Republican contender for the White House in 2016.
Although he cruised to re-election in November, Christie has gone on the defensive in recent weeks amid allegations that his top aides orchestrated massive traffic snarls to exact political revenge and that his administration withheld Superstorm Sandy relief money to pressure a local mayor into approving a development deal.
In his address in the state capital of Trenton after he was sworn into his second term, Christie returned to the themes that have been hallmarks of his political brand and criticized the idea that an "almighty government" can "fix any problem."
"I do not believe that New Jerseyans want a bigger, more expensive government that penalizes success and then gives the pittance left to a few in the name of income equity," Christie said.
In an apparent dig at New York City's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, Christie offered a message to neighboring New Yorkers who face a "redistribution of wealth and higher taxes": "Come to New Jersey. You will be welcome here."
De Blasio is an unabashed liberal who has pledged to fight economic inequality and has called for a tax hike on top earners.
Christie also returned to another subject common to his speeches: the need for Republicans and Democrats to work together.
"We cannot fall victim to the attitude of Washington, D.C. ... that puts political wins ahead of policy agreements," he said.
A POLITICAL TEMPEST
Christie's second term begins amid a tempest -- an area snowstorm forced the cancellation of his inaugural party Tuesday evening on Ellis Island -- as well as a political storm that began this month over a traffic-related scandal.
Emails released just weeks ago seemed to show that aides deliberately snarled traffic in Fort Lee, New Jersey, by closing access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, which links New Jersey and New York.
The lane closures appeared to be retribution against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor, who declined to endorse Christie for re-election.
Christie has said he did not know of his aides' plans, and he fired and cut ties with them after their roles were revealed. Federal prosecutors and both chambers of the state legislature are investigating the lane closings, which occurred without notice for four days in September.
The scandal broke two months after Christie, who has built a political reputation on his blunt-spoken manner and his success in getting his agenda through a heavily Democratic state, easily won re-election.
Democrats have since raised other accusations. Last week, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a Democrat and frequent Christie ally, claimed the governor's administration had linked the release of Superstorm Sandy relief funds to approval of a Hoboken development project.
Zimmer has said Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno warned her that Christie would withhold recovery funding if Zimmer did not support a bid by the New York-based Rockefeller Group to build on several blocks in the city.
Christie's spokesman over the weekend dismissed the Hoboken mayor's claims as false, as did Guadagno.
Federal officials are also reviewing Christie's use of about $2 million in storm relief funds for a tourism campaign that features him and his family. New Jersey Democratic Representative Frank Pallone requested the probe, saying he was concerned about the bidding process for the marketing campaign.
A spokesman for Christie said there was nothing improper about the campaign and suggested Pallone's inquiry was politically motivated.