Swimmers and picnickers headed to New Jersey state beaches that reopened on Tuesday after a three-day government shutdown, even as Trenton insiders and beach-chair pundits began discussing the winners and losers in the budget standoff that ended with a deal late Monday night.
Richard J. Codey, a Democratic state senator who served as acting governor from 2004 to 2006, said Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, was a loser in the fight, because he had come across as a bully in the negotiations and then became a laughingstock when aerial photographs captured him sunbathing with his family on Sunday at one of the beaches he had ordered closed.
“You never want to put that image out there — that’s tone-deaf,” Mr. Codey said. “Then the ‘I didn’t get any sun.’” He was referring to a comment made by Mr. Christie on Sunday, which was quickly contradicted by the photographic evidence.
“Can you imagine the conversation where he says to his press secretary, ‘Tell them I had a hat on’?” Mr. Codey continued, referring to a Christie spokesman’s lawyerly explanation for the conflict. “It all came down on him the way it played out.”
Staff members at the Red Fox Beach Bar and Grill at Island Beach State Park — the beach where Mr. Christie lounged with his family and friends of his children on Sunday, in a private section attached to an official governor’s residence — blamed the governor for the shutdown that led the restaurant to close over the weekend and on Monday.
“I probably lost $1,000 just in tips alone,” said Gail Swayze, a bartender.
By Tuesday, she had come up with a way to celebrate the end of the shutdown, offering a $5 cocktail special called the Christie Crush, a blend of vodka, triple sec and orange slices.
What did the name mean, exactly?
“Crush him, like get him out of office,” said John Zaccara, the bar’s bouncer.
The budget had largely been held up by Mr. Christie’s demand that the state’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, hand over $300 million of its reserves to finance an opioid treatment program.
The Democratic president of the State Senate, Mr. Christie’s longtime ally Stephen M. Sweeney, had gone along with Mr. Christie, but the Assembly speaker, Vincent Prieto, also a Democrat, balked, saying among other reasons that raiding the reserves would lead to increased costs for Horizon policyholders.
Although the final deal was described as a compromise, Mr. Christie got little of what he wanted. Instead of having to hand over some of its reserves, Horizon accepted some new, relatively minor requirements, including submitting to annual independent audits. The deal also imposed a cap on Horizon’s reserves, after which Horizon would have to return money to policyholders, but the cap was above the current level of the reserves.
“That Horizon bill was a face-saver,” said Hetty Rosenstein, the state director for the Communications Workers of America, the union that represents 35,000 state workers who were affected by the shutdown.
It was clear on Tuesday that what was likely to linger in people’s minds was not the details of the budget debate, but the image of the governor and his family enjoying a perfect day at a beach, while the public was barred. (Most of the state’s beaches are managed by municipalities and therefore remained open through the budget standoff.)
Henry Walker, a building contractor whose Jeep bumper was covered in layers of season passes, said on Tuesday that he had been turned away from Island Beach State Park when he went there to fish over the weekend, only to see the governor’s daughter ushered through the blockade.
“He should have gone to the public beach and hung out with the blue-collar workers,” Mr. Walker said, referring to the municipal beach, which had been open over the weekend and packed. “He should have paid the seven bucks.”
Island Beach State Park was not as crowded on Tuesday as on typical holiday weekends, some beachgoers said. But some people said they had actually been drawn there by the whiff of political controversy.
“We decided to come and see what all the fuss was about, and if we’d see Christie out here,” Miguel Cervantes of Mount Laurel said with a laugh, as he played a game of paddle ball with his son, George, near the dunes. “It’s the beach of the week.”
Off the sand, political analysts chewed over the larger implications of the deal.
Modia Butler, a former chief of staff for United States Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, said the outcome reflected Mr. Christie’s diminished power in the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal and his unsuccessful presidential campaign; by law, Mr. Christie could not run for re-election this year.
“Four years ago, he would have gotten everything he wanted,” Mr. Butler said.
Ms. Rosenstein viewed Mr. Prieto, who had said he was willing to lose his position as speaker over the Horizon fight, as a winner in the fight.
Mr. Christie had tried to blame the speaker for the shutdown, decorating government buildings around the state with posters featuring Mr. Prieto, saying, “This Facility Is CLOSED Because of This Man.”
“I think they would have lost anyway, but I think that the governor-sitting-on-the-closed-beach thing made it so apparent whose fault this was,” Ms. Rosenstein said. “It was the guy on the beach.”