Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday appointed longtime friend and outgoing state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos to the board of directors of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey — the insurance company that has been the target of the governor’s verbal attacks for most of the year.
Kyrillos, who declined to seek reelection to an eighth term, would earn $77,000 a year as a part-time board member for Horizon, if the Senate approves the nomination. Christie also named one of his most trusted confidantes, Michelle Brown, the CEO of a pro-economic development group, to the board in June.
Christie tried to exert control over Horizon last winter by ridiculing the $12 billion nonprofit for greedily keeping $2.4 billion in reserve, hoping Horizon would donate $300 million to aid his efforts to combat opioid addiction.
Horizon resisted, and the administration publicly sparred with top executives that turn into a fight led to a budget impasse embroiling the Legislature and a three-day state government shutdown in July. The matter was settled by Christie signing a bill that added two Legislative-appointed board members to improve government oversight.
Christie did not comment on his nomination of Kyrillos, and Kyrillos could not be reached for comment. But the move is likely a nod to their decades-old friendship. Christie introduced Kyrillos to his future wife, Susan Doctorian; Kyrillos ran Christie’s campaign in 2009.
But strains in the Christie-Kyrillos relationship became apparent several years ago. When Kyrillos ran for U.S. Senate in 2012, Christie raised substantial sums but did little campaigning.
Kyrillos once took to the Senate floor to criticize the dysfunction at the Port Authority under Christie’s watch.
Kyrillos also backed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination over Christie. Kryillos had long been friendly with the Bush family, having worked for then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in his 1984 re-election campaign.
Kyrillos leaves the 40-member Senate in January. He will be replaced by Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, who won election Tuesday.