This year, Mr. Christie, the blunt-speaking suburban white Republican, and Mr. Booker, the Scripture-quoting urban black Democrat long rumored to want the governor’s job, have become the state’s political odd couple.
They talk or text each other perhaps a dozen times a week, and go out of their way to praise each other publicly. The two men went to a Giants game together a few weeks ago and have bonded over their mutual devotion to New Jersey’s bard (the governor has been to more than 100 Bruce Springsteen concerts, and the mayor often uses the Boss’s lyrics in Twitter messages he sends out).
Last week’s announcement regarding a planned overhaul of Newark’s schools vaulted their surprising partnership to new levels of significance and visibility, potentially binding the two men’s political futures, with opportunities and risks for both. After 15 years of state control of Newark’s troubled public schools, the governor put the mayor in charge of revamping the system, and together they announced a $100 million gift to the schools from Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”
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Their styles could hardly be more different — the direct, pugnacious Mr. Christie barreling through opposition, the eloquent Mr. Booker seeking consensus. That contrast was on display here Saturday, in one of a series of appearances with Mr. Zuckerberg, when they were asked if the teachers’ union might resist school reform. Irritation flashed across Mr. Christie’s face and he traded a few whispered words with his other half.
“The governor said, ‘Either you step up to the microphone or I’m going to grab it and go off,’ ” said Mr. Booker. “And he probably will, anyway.”