Christie’s office responds to Paterson town hall controversy

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie’s comments at his most recent town hall fall in line with similar statements echoed by members of the African American community in recent years, the governor’s office says.

Responding for the first time Thursday to criticism from Democrats that the governor overstepped when speaking at a Paterson town hall, spokesman Michael Drewniak referred reporters to statements made in 2010 by then-Rev. Reginald Jackson, the executive director of the Black Ministers Council.

“We have heard this promise and witnessed this betrayal before,” Jackson was quoted saying about the Opportunity Scholarship Act when advocating for its passage.

Jackson, who has since been elected bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference, was a proponent of the scholarship act.

“The fate of this bill is in the hands of the Democratic majority in the New Jersey Legislature, especially Speaker Sheila Oliver,” Jackson said. “African Americans are the most loyal base of the Democratic Party and our children are the ones primarily trapped in failing schools. The Democratic Party must stop taking us for granted and failing to act for our children.”

Drewniak directed reporters to the statement just hours after the pastor of the church Christie spoke at earlier this week said the governor should apologize to Oliver and Paterson residents for his comments.

“Today, 1,009 days since the Opportunity Scholarship Act was introduced, Governor Christie wholeheartedly agrees with Bishop Jackson,” Drewniak said.

But despite Drewniak’s comment and his connection to remarks made by Jackson, Assembly Democrats say the administration fails to fully grasp the harmful affects of Christie’s statements.

“The governor’s office continues to struggle mightily to make any sense of Gov. Christie’s polarizing comments,” said Assembly Democratic spokesman Tom Hester.

"I’m an undertaker by trade, so when I bury somebody, they don’t come back."
—Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato