(NEW YORK) -- Hours before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was scheduled to give his state of the state address on Tuesday afternoon, a political opponent claimed the governor “prayed and got lucky” that Superstorm Sandy slammed into the Garden State and drove attention away from the New Jersey economy.
In a news conference on Monday, Democratic State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who has talked about taking Christie on in the 2013 gubernatorial race, referred to the state’s high unemployment rate and Christie’s jobs record while making the Sandy dig.
“His jobs package is a hurricane. I guess he prayed a lot and got lucky that a storm came,” said Sweeney, according to NJ.com.
Sweeney then immediately followed up the attack, saying, “I shouldn’t say that. I apologize for saying that.”
Christie’s office responded to Sweeney’s attack by saying, ”It was shocking to hear Sen. Sweeney reduce Hurricane Sandy and its devastation to a heartless partisan attack.”
“Ask the thousands of New Jerseyans whose homes or businesses were destroyed or damaged if they view Hurricane Sandy as a partisan political issue, or if this is what they want to hear from their leaders at this time of recovery as we fight for disaster aid in Washington,” Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said in a statement. “No one ‘prayed’ for what New Jersey has endured.”
Drewniak added that Sweeney’s comment was “politics at its worst,” and that Sweeney should be “ashamed” and apologize to the state.
Last week, Christie, who is considered a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, drew attention for blasting members of his own party for abandoning a $60 billion relief bill for Sandy victims.
Sweeney’s “prebuttal” to Christie’s address Tuesday afternoon immediately drew attacks from Republicans around the state and took away from the main focus of the news conference, which was to draw attention to the state’s 9.6 percent unemployment rate -- the fourth highest in the nation.
Sweeney said he has seriously considered jumping into the Democratic primary to challenge Christie. State Sen. Barbara Buono, who has been in state government for 20 years, has already announced her intention to run. There had been speculation that Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker would also jump into the race, but Booker announced a run for U.S. Senate instead.
Last week, Christie’s campaign announced it had hauled in more than $2 million in a 36-day period since the governor announced a run for re-election.
Sweeney did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
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