A second New Jersey citizen-foil of Christie's makes a run for office

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One New Jersey legislative candidate has Gov. Chris Christie to thank for helping him raise his profile and helping launch his campaign -- by berating him.

Jim Keady is known to those who pay attention to the governor as the "sit-down-and-shut-up guy." And his story is reminiscent of an earlier foil-turned-candidate from one of Christie's previous confrontations.

Keady is one of scores of candidates who will be on primary ballots June 2, few of them contested. All 80 seats in the Assembly will be up this year, and through a quirk of the calendar, they will be at the top of the ballot.

Keady, a Democrat who lives in Spring Lake, had his collision with Christie in October 2014.

The former Asbury Park city council member showed up at a Christie event in Belmar marking the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. As Christie began speaking, Keady stood silently in front him holding a sign over his head imploring Christie to "finish the job" and rebuild the homes of people displaced by the 2012 storm.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Christie received national attention for pushing for the needs of his state, even if it meant on taking on Republican members of Congress who were hesitant to approve using federal taxpayer money for cleanup efforts. But the state's biggest federally funded aid program sputtered out of the gates.

The program, which pays up to $150,000 toward the cost of rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed in the storm, was the subject of deep complaints about lost paperwork, shifting rules, mixed messages and wrongful denials of grants. Eventually, the state fired the contractor that was administering the applications.

About 1,000 of the roughly 8,000 families in the program have been able to move into repaired homes so far.

Keady, who runs the tavern his family owns in Waretown and spends some of his time campaigning against labor practices at Nike, said he was getting into the push for getting more help for those families last fall.

He was going to be off work for jury duty the day of the Sandy anniversary, but he didn't get called, so he headed to Belmar to protest along with others in the New Jersey Organizing Project.

After Keady refused to sit down, Christie laid into him, telling him, "Somebody like you doesn't know a damn thing about what you're talking about except to stand up and show off when the cameras are here," he said.

After the initial exchange, Keady began talking back to Christie -- some might say heckling -- who finally implored, "sit down and shut up."

The image has become the center of Keady's longshot campaign, along with Democratic running mate Jimmy Esposito for the Assembly seats representing the shore-based 30th District. "They've got a choice between an independent Democrat who's not going to sit down and shut up, and two of Chris Christie's rubber-stamp Republicans," Keady said.

There are no other Democrats in the June 2 primary, so Keady and Esposito should face the incumbent Republicans Sean Kean and David Rible in a district where the two have dominated elections in recent years.

Political analysts expect that turnout will be low in most of the elections across the state, which gives them some unpredictability.

"The irony is that when nobody shows up to vote, a district that should not be competitive can become very competitive," said Ben Dworkin, a political scientist at Rider University.

One of Christie's best-known run-ins with a dissident also helped launch a political career.

Back in 2010, he told off teacher Marie Corfield, who rolled her eyes when he answered her question about public schools during one of his town hall meetings. "I stood here and very respectfully listened to you," he said. "If you want to put on a show and giggle every time I talk, I have no interest in answering your question."

The pro-Christie crowd cheered, but a year later, Corfield was on the ballot for the first of her three Assembly runs. She lost all of them, though a special election bid in 2012 was a squeaker.

Brigid Harrison, a Montclair State University political scientist, does not think it's a coincidence that two of Christie's foils have run for office. "The attention and notoriety brought to them may politicize them even more than they are politicized," she said. "Being part of a news cycle may drive them to further activism."