March 18th, 2014
02:06 PM ET
9 years ago

Christie faces pushback; defends conservative credentials

South River, New Jersey (CNN) – Gov. Chris Christie ignored a loud ensemble of hecklers at a town hall Tuesday, but didn't hold back when a health care insurance advocate confronted the New Jersey Republican and accused him of not doing enough to get coverage for Garden State residents.

At his 114th town hall since becoming governor in 2009, Christie was also asked if he perceives himself as a moderate or a conservative–a poignant question that Christie will inevitably face if he decides to run for president in 2016.

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'New Jersey deserves better!'

After facing a handful of protesters at last week's town hall, Christie warned the audience at the top of the event in South River, New Jersey that they may see another round of heckling Tuesday.

He named Communication Workers of America, the state workers union, as the group behind what he called a "new and recent phenomenon" of shouting at the governor when an audience member tries to ask a question.

Christie normally lays out four rules for the audience before each town hall, but added Tuesday an "addendum," saying if a person is interrupted by a heckler, that person should wait to ask his or her question until the protester is escorted out.

Sure enough, after Christie answered about four queries, more than a dozen people stood up and used the familiar Occupy Wall Street "mic check" tactic that involves chanting and repetition.

"We are here to demand that you stop your corrupt uses of Hurricane Sandy money," they shouted. "There are still families without homes who have received no aide."

As police escorted them out without incident, they repeated: "New Jersey deserves better!"

A few people continued to stand, wearing white t-shirts with anti-Christie slogans.

Christie stayed silent as the scene unfolded. After the protesters left, he weighed in: "Well congratulations you have now seen the latest gift given to you by the public sector unions in the state of New Jersey."

"Told you it was going to happen," he jokingly added. "I am a soothsayer."

A heated confrontation

Later on at the town hall, a woman who said she represented the New Jersey for Health Care Coalition petitioned the governor to work with her organization to connect more people to health care insurance. The attempts she's made so far have only been met with "silence" from his administration," she said.

The governor, talking about his decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, fired back: "Is that silence?"

As she continued to lay out her concerns, he repeatedly accused her of being wrong, and they talked over each other as the argument escalated into a four-minute battle.

He argued that the administration is spending more money on Medicaid than it ever has, but he was not in favor of adopting other measures from the Affordable Care Act.

She fired back: "We need to do other things–it's not a cure-all." She said the administration needs to increase its staff and resources to better advertise health care insurance options.

Christie was one of a handful of Republican governors who accepted the optional Medicaid expansion, which allows more people to qualify for the program, but his administration did not accept a $7.6 million grant from the government to help with consumer outreach on the federal health care program.

"I'm sorry that you favor Obamacare, and I do not," an agitated Christie said. "I'm sorry that's just the way it goes."

While the confrontation clearly got under Christie's skin, his reaction was a departure from the past, when Christie would have cut someone like her off much sooner and told her to sit down.

However, he got close.

"I don't know how many times you can stand up there and give a speech and be wrong and continue to keep the microphone in your hands," he told her.

A human Rorschach test?

Emery Spirko of South River, New Jersey, had a different question on his mind. He wanted to know whether the Republican governor considers himself moderate or conservative.

"That's the beauty of me," Christie responded. "Everybody looks at me and sees something different."

He added that he considers himself a "common sense conservative," saying he believes in smaller government and lower taxes. "To me, that's a conservative. But everybody perceives 'conservative' as something different these days."

As Christie bolsters his national reputation and potentially prepares for a presidential bid, he's found himself at odds with some in his party-in particular libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul-over government spending and national security.

The GOP family feud has been a major story line since the emergence of the tea party after the 2008 presidential election and one that Christie will have to navigate if he decides to court voters in the Republican presidential primaries.

In what appeared to be a swipe against some tea party-backed lawmakers, Christie said he's not the kind of conservative who is "unwilling to compromise," arguing that the GOP ideological divide in Washington prevents people from working together.

Because he works with Democrats and has to compromise at times, he said he's labeled a moderate by some people.

"Whatever you see me as, most of the time, is OK with me. I know who I am," he said. "I'm a conservative that believes in a smaller, smarter, less expensive government...Some people call that conservative, some people call it moderate–I don't know. And quite frankly, I got to tell you the truth, I don't care."

"In the end, what matters most to me is: Am I effective or am I not?"

Spirko, the man who asked the question, later told CNN he didn't expect Christie to respond but he was satisfied with the answer.

"I was happy with it," he said. "There are times I look at him as a conservative and there are times I look at him as a moderate. "

Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Silence DoGood

    "Some people call that conservative, some people call it moderate–I don't know. "
    He better watch his words! The Tea Fools have very strict purity tests and holy laws that must be obeyed to get the nod from them. And he says he might compromise???? Heretic!!

    March 18, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  2. Al-NY,NY

    Poor tubby the gov.....can't handle a few hecklers? And a preemptive strike on "not respecting the speaker" comments by the righties....remember the health care meetings/campaign events that Democrats had? Your ilk did exactly the same thing but you won't let that get in your way of defending this RINO to the end

    March 18, 2014 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Bridgegate or no Bridgegate, after Superstorm Sandy, there's just no way that Christie will ever win the GOTP nomination.

    March 18, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  4. wise guy

    "That's the beauty of me", excuse me while I vomit. What an arrogant p.o.s., he's learned nothing from all this, its a good thing we did!

    March 18, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. wise guy

    She had a valid question, why not use the federal funds allocated to help the citizens like it was supposed to. Because you don't believe in obamacare, the people get left to fend for themselves, not everyone can do it alone. This guy is s first class azzhole.

    March 18, 2014 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  6. Tampa Tim

    Republicans and billionaires don't want Krispy, but he won't go away. You tea baggers do know he took federal money to expand Medicaid, don't you? He hugged Obama and called Boehner the worst speaker ever. The only thing he has going for him is a lot of republicans like corruption.

    March 18, 2014 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  7. Randy, San Francisco

    Gov Christie is in trouble because too many people perceive him as either a bully or RINO moderate.

    March 18, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  8. S.B. Stein

    He is an ideologue in his thinking because he refuses to accept any thought of raising taxes. My question is why is not thinking and looking at the full and complete picture. Without looking at both sides of the ledger, there can not be any full understanding of what is the problem and possible solutions.

    March 18, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  9. Tampa Tim

    Krispy needs to get a pair of man pants. Anyone who disagrees with him is escorted out of his love fest. Wadda whinner.

    March 18, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. Bill from GA

    Christie, and most republican governors, don't believe in Obamacare.

    The solution is simple. As more people realize the benefits of Obamacare (assuming the Dems can successfully get the message out), the people will quit electing governors who refuse to work for the voters.

    Our governor in Georgia imposed a healthcare plan on state workers, including schoolteachers and retirees, that limits their choice of doctors, and raises their premiums and co-pays. I guess those campaign funds from Blue Cross/Blue Shield paid off.

    He has a fight on his hands in the state legislature, as it is an election year. But the majority of Georgia's voters (those who show up) will vote for whoever is the repub. Buncha idiots.

    Oh, and doesn't Georgia's healthcare plan sound like what repubs SAY about Obamacare??

    March 18, 2014 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  11. wise guy

    S.B.,he's not interested in solutions, only money and power, in the gop, you can achieve that without solving anything

    March 18, 2014 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  12. wise guy

    He is just too combative, you can't have good relationships with that style of governing, won't work onthe global stage, so many gop are not ready for that exposure.

    March 18, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  13. wise guy

    Look at Romneys overseas trip during election cycle, he insulted every country he visited.

    March 18, 2014 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  14. Wake up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Aww stop picking on wittle Crispy, the poor thing can't handle it.

    Dude, you better toughen up if you want to run for POTUS. You can't take a few hecklers? Imagine being the POTUS and the opposite party that hates you goes on every news channel they can and says the nastiest things about you.

    Oh my bad, you won't have to worry about anything. You look like them. Plus or minus a pound or two.

    March 18, 2014 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  15. bcrunner

    Soo, he accepted the Medicare part so he can look better to progressives, but will not help to enroll his citizens to get insurance... He is fooling some people that he is a moderate but not most of us...

    March 18, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Another Republican unwilling to own up to their credentials but very willing to talk out of both sides of his mouth and then pout when misunderstood; or should I have said understood? Trying to pin down republicans on issues is all very sticky. Take Rand Paul for example. He's running on the republican ticket while trying to shadow a libertarian persona. What does this make him? A republican supporting republican causes and the republican platform. There is nothing libertarian about that unless you happen to be a hypocrite.

    March 18, 2014 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  17. Bob

    Biggest thug, ever.

    March 18, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  18. sonnie3

    He would be 5 times better than obama, but Christie has a long row to hoe.

    March 18, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  19. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    He's failing, and doing so in a manner not seen since the early nineties. Remember the speech made by Ross's choice for V.P..

    March 18, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |