Bridget Anne Kelly is at the center of the Christie scandal, described as "despicable" by her former boss and widely blamed for the Bridgegate mess.
But she wasn’t known as an aggressive political animal two weeks ago, and those who know her hold her in the highest esteem and regard her as having the utmost integrity.
Fast forward two weeks and the former chief of staff for Chris Christie's reputation is in tatters after being fired from her $140,000-a-year position. Christie claims to feel ‘betrayed’ and lied to by someone he considered a friend as well as a colleague.
Those close to Kelly, however, say she has been set up and is taking the fall as the scapegoat. The loving mother of four is nowhere near the political pitbull image of her, friends claim. They are convinced she's the the fall guy or at the very least that she has been set up.
NorthJersey.com reported Kelly’s former colleague and ex-congressman Bill Pascrell as saying “The young lady did not just wake up one morning, when you see the emails, she didn’t just wake up one morning and decide let’s screw up the traffic in Fort Lee.”
Friends in Ramsey, NJ, where Kelly lives with her two daughters and two sons (ages 17, 14, 10 & 7) , came out in support of their neighbor, who is said to have come from a good family of "high morals and values."
In 2005, she wrote a letter to the editor of a local paper about her son, Conor, then 5, who had a heart defect.
According to NorthJersey.com, she wrote: 'I want parents to have hope for children with heart disease... it is not automatically a death sentence, and although it is extremely difficult to maintain a positive attitude during such tribulation, it is imperative for the children that parents remain hopeful and optimistic that we have access to the best medical care in the country.'
Her now deleted Twitter account further revealed a dedicated mother who took pleasure in her children's accomplishments and enjoyed family events such as Thanksgiving fun runs.
Although recently separated from her husband, professional golfer Patrick, the couple still lived close together.
Her father Richard Daul, a director of Veteran Services in the county, refused to comment on his daughter's situation, but those close to the family said they had strong values.
And what has shocked friends is the claim that she would endanger public safety by snarling up the traffic on the George Washington Bridge and delaying emergency vehicles – particularly as her brother is an EMT.
Kelly rose quickly through the ranks following her 1994 graduation from Mount St Mary's University with a political science degree.
One Bergen County Republican official who did not want to be named told Philly.com, "If someone talked to her funny or didn't give her the right amount of respect, she'd make a phone call and put the kibosh on it," referring to how she would block volunteers jostling for political jobs moving up
Kelly, Christie's now-former deputy chief of staff, was an apprentic to political insider Bill Stepien when they both worked on his 2012 re-election campaign, and she took orders directly from him, according to a long-time New Jersey political operative who spoke to the MailOnline.
The insider, who requested anonymity, told MailOnline that Kelly was the tie between Christie's administration and the state's Republican political machine.
Stepien's job, the source said, "was to keep the governor's fingerprints off of things," and Kelly's "was to put plans into action."
Facebook supporter, Patty Swanton Synder, was also in Kelly's corner.
"Bridget is a woman of honor, decorum and integrity. I am appalled that she is being made a scapegoat of all this," she said. "I fully support her."
This controversy exploded this week after the leaking of emails Kelly wrote to David Wildstein, a Port Authority director who resigned in December, encouraging lane closures approaching the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee. The resulting traffic jams were apparently meant as a slap to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich.
But Kelly's full role in the disaster remains unclear still. Whether she goes public with what she knows could decide Christie's future career.
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