TRENTON, N.J. — Former Gov. Dick Codey said Thursday a feud with Gov. Chris Christie over judicial nominees is demeaning to the office of the governor and needs to stop, and he called on Christie to end the escalating attacks.
The comments by Codey, now a Democratic state senator from Essex County, to The Associated Press were his first since the Republican governor fired two Codey allies from their government jobs and canceled his security detail this week.
"There is no need" for the fight to continue, Codey told the AP.
"This whole thing is demeaning to the office," he said. "I hope it would stop."
Codey, who served 14 months as governor after Jim McGreevey resigned late in 2004, has been mentioned by some political observers as a possible challenger to Christie in 2013. Codey wouldn't comment about the prospect of running for governor.
Christie's actions, first reported by The Star-Ledger, came after Codey called the governor a liar for saying that he was blocking Christie's court nominees in Essex County.
On Wednesday, Christie attacked Codey at a news conference in Pennsauken, saying lawmakers like him care more about perks than about getting the job done.
Codey said the perks of the office he most enjoyed were being able to help the less fortunate, like the mentally ill.
"Is it possible to quote me looking disinterested?" Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak asked Thursday.
Pollster Patrick Murray, of Monmouth University, said there's "something that smells decidedly political" about the most recent attack.
"Dick Codey would be one of the toughest candidates that Governor Christie would have to face," Murray said. "It does seem like he's trying to tamp down a potential political challenger, trying to taint his reputation a bit."
Murray said Christie and Codey, who has served in the Senate since the early 1980s, are popular among voters. In a gubernatorial poll taken last February, Codey finished second to former Republican Gov. Tom Kean Sr. in the favorability rating; Christie was right behind Codey, finishing third.
Christie is angry at the Essex County Senate delegation for refusing to act on his choice for education commissioner. He has decided not to nominate any judges for the county, despite a shortage that has forced civil and matrimonial cases to be suspended, until Democrats break the logjam on acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf.
Codey said he signed off on Cerf a year ago. He would not say how he would vote on Christie's newest nomination from Essex, that of Attorney General Paula Dow for a Superior Court judgeship.
Codey said he hasn't discussed Dow's nomination with the administration.
Days after Codey called Christie a liar, the governor announced that he was moving Dow to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for a temporary assignment — replacing Codey's cousin Christopher Hartwyk, who held a $215,000-a-year job as the deputy counsel at the authority, according to The Star-Ledger.
Codey's former deputy chief of staff and longtime friend, Lawrence DeMarzo, reportedly was fired from his $107,406 job as deputy director at the Division of Consumer Affairs the same day.
Another Codey ally, Joe Fiordaliso, was reappointed this month to the Board of Public Utilities.
Christie declined to say Wednesday whether the firings or cancellation of the security detail were retaliatory.