Christie, back from campaign trail, reopens criticism of Democrats at town-hall meeting

Back from campaigning with Mitt Romney, Gov. Christie addresses the audience at Mount Laurel meeting. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff
Back from campaigning with Mitt Romney, Gov. Christie addresses the audience at Mount Laurel meeting. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff
Posted: October 13, 2012

State Sen. Diane Allen (R., Burlington) was backstage Thursday afternoon with Gov. Christie as he made his way into the gymnasium of the Mount Laurel YMCA for the 96th town hall of his term.

"She saw the dazed look in my eyes. She goes, 'Governor, it's Thursday, and you're in New Jersey,' " Christie recounted in his opening remarks on stage.

The Republican governor had just returned to the business of gritty New Jersey politics after a two-day swing through Ohio for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and six weeks of on-again, off-again campaigning for U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates in eight other states.

Before he got down to the task of making fun of Democrats and Supreme Court justices, he told the crowd of more than 600 people about his travels.

"Being on the bus in Ohio for two days with Mitt Romney convinced more and more I made the right decision not running for president," Christie said. "It's crazy out there! It's just absolutely crazy."

He expressed aw-shucks surprise at how Republicans around the country knew about the issues he pushes back home.

In Fargo, N.D., a man asked Christie to fly him to New Jersey for a town-hall meeting.

"I said, 'Sir, with all due respect, you need to get a life,' " the governor said.

The reason for the town halls' high profile isn't because of him, Christie claimed. "It's about the issues we talk about. It's about the things we're accomplishing," he told his largely supportive audience.

Christie hit many of those issues in Mount Laurel. He spoke of the need to close economically inefficient single-town libraries and end cash payments to public workers for unused sick time. He talked about the failure of the Legislature to enact his ethics measures for public officials, and he blamed the state's 9.9 unemployment rate, in part, on Democrats' refusal to pass an income tax cut.

And in the very municipality that spawned the lawsuit that led to a landmark constitutional decision prohibiting towns from excluding affordable housing, he said the "stupid case" had made New Jersey a more expensive place to live. The state constitution doesn't say New Jerseyans have a "right to affordable housing," he said.

"The Supreme Court just makes it up," Christie charged.

The governor soon will make two nominations to vacant seats on the court; Democrats have already blocked two nominees. Meanwhile, litigation regarding affordable-housing mandates is before the panel.

The town hall wasn't even over when Senate Democrats sent an e-mail to reporters titled "Town Hall Survival Guide."

The Democrats, who control the state Legislature, noted that Christie often talks about how much he loves his job, but "what he means" is that he loves the job because "it allows me to spend a lot of time out of New Jersey stumping for Republicans and raising my own name ID so I can run for president one day."

They also pounced when they learned that Christie had been less than factual Thursday when he said the state Assembly had been "on vacation" since June. In fact, the body had a floor session in July and has held committee hearings in the summer and fall.

"The governor must have missed the Assembly activity while he was cavorting across the country on behalf of anti-middle-class Republicans," Assembly Democratic spokesman Tom Hester said in an e-mail.

Christie also hammered one of his favorite targets, Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D., Camden), who he said had pushed a bill "to levy a municipal income tax and a municipal sales tax, and he promises you all that money will go to lower your property taxes."

"All of us normal human beings call raising taxes raising taxes," he said.

Greenwald has no such bill pending. In the last legislative session, the assemblyman did propose letting towns vote to impose local income and sales tax increases as long as the towns concurrently lowered property taxes. Under the plan, the state sales tax also would have gone down.

"The governor is lying, no doubt because he'd rather avoid talking about his vetoes of middle-class property-tax relief or his vetoes of bipartisan job-creation bills," Greenwald said in an e-mail.

Yes, the governor was back home. Trenton bickering was back on.

Next week, Christie will host another town hall. But he'll also be traveling, campaigning, and fund-raising for U.S. Senate candidates in Indiana and Wisconsin.


Contact Matt Katz at 609-217-8355, mkatz@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @mattkatz00. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at www.philly.com/christiechronicles.

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