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Christie finds allies among Hispanic leaders

Superstorm Sandy Christie
His administration gripped by scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has found unlikely allies among the nation's Hispanic community.

In New Jersey and beyond, some minority leaders usually aligned with Democrats are giving the Republican governor the benefit of the doubt regarding controversies that have enveloped his office, in part because of Christie's aggressive courtship of minority voters throughout his first four years in office. Just days before an apparent case of political retribution by his office was exposed this month, Christie signed a new law granting in-state college tuition rates to New Jersey immigrants in the country illegally, winning national praise from Hispanic officials.

The gesture may alienate some conservatives in the next presidential election should he seek the White House, but it helped cement Christie's status as one of the Hispanic community's more popular Republicans.

"I think everybody needs to take a deep breath," said the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, who delivered an invocation at the last Democratic National Convention. "We don't want to judge anything before all the facts are out. Gov. Christie has said he did not know about it. Right now, there's no evidence to the contrary."

Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, suggested that Democrats are pushing new allegations against Christie because they're afraid of his strength as a prospective 2016 presidential candidate.

"I just don't see the huge scandal," Aguilar said, describing Christie's popularity among Hispanics as a potential "game changer" for the Republican Party.

Christie has apologized and fired senior aides for his administration's role in traffic jams apparently engineered last fall to punish a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse his re-election campaign. The Democratic-led state Legislature is investigating the incident. Another Democratic mayor said over the weekend that the Christie administration balked on delivering Superstorm Sandy aid unless she supported a prime real estate project.

The Hispanic community is by no means unified behind Christie. And even those pleased with his minority outreach suggest their views could change should new evidence surface in the abuse-of-power allegations. But their early support highlights Christie's popularity with Hispanic voters compared with Republicans elsewhere ahead of the 2016 presidential contest.

The GOP's last presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, won just 27 percent of the national Hispanic vote. A year later, Christie captured roughly half of Hispanic voters in an overwhelming New Jersey re-election victory that served as the opening argument for a potential presidential bid. Republican strategists concede that the party must improve its standing among the growing demographic if it hopes to take back the White House.

"This election has taught us that the ways we divide each other - by race, by class, by ethnicity, by wealth, by political party - is neither permanent nor necessary," Christie declared Tuesday shortly after taking the oath of office to begin his second term.

He scheduled his inaugural celebration for New York's Ellis Island, the nation's storied entry point for millions of immigrants. The Tuesday night event was canceled because of weather concerns, however.

But in a speech that ignored the swirling controversy, Christie cited the passage of New Jersey's student tuition bill as an example of putting "the future of our state ahead of the partisans who would rather demonize than compromise."

"We have to be willing to reach out to others who look or speak differently than us," he said.

Christie has refused to say whether he supports federal legislation outlining a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the country illegally. But in New Jersey, minority leaders report that he began reaching out almost immediately after taking office. The Christie administration focused, in particular, on helping minority business owners cut through government red tape.

"He's always been very popular with the Hispanic community," said Carlos Medina, chairman of the New Jersey statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Medina described the allegations against the Christie administration as "so out of character." "Even now, we want to give him the benefit of the doubt," he said. "It's innocent until proven guilty."

Others aren't as forgiving.

Frank Argote-Freyre, president of the New Jersey-based Latino Action Network, is grateful that Christie supported the law granting in-state college tuition rates to New Jersey immigrants in the country illegally. But he says that the governor has consistently cut funding from minority groups, was slow to resolve problems on a Sandy-related Spanish-language website and directed a disproportionate level of Sandy aid to homeowners instead of rental units typically occupied by minorities.

"From the perspective of our organization, and I'd venture to guess most Latinos, he's a disaster for our community," Argote-Freyre said. In the weeks since the scandal erupted, "his reputation has suffered in all segments of the community."

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Eileen January 22 2014 at 1:43 PM

I totally agree. Why is everybody so fast to condem somebody.

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1 reply
moudsie Eileen January 22 2014 at 2:00 PM

Because he's a known bully and a known micro-manager -- and his staff was with him the entire day of the first day of the bridge mess--so either he's lying (which I believe) or he's really, really stupid--and never noticed there was a mess for FOUR DAYS. How gullible are some of you anyway? It was on the news and people were calling his office--yet he says he knew nothing. OMG!

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richyalf January 22 2014 at 11:03 AM

Maybe they can all write in his name during the 2016 election.

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ffa1234 January 22 2014 at 12:38 PM

Of course his Hispanic support is from conservative and Conservative leaders!

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orlandorosario19 January 22 2014 at 12:45 PM

Really?!

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allan1486 January 22 2014 at 10:51 AM

Wait... if I [from Pa.] want to go to college in NJ I would have to pay out of state tuition [double in state costs] but if I was an illegal alien [illegally in the country] I could pay in state rates. THIS MAKES NO SENSE!

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2 replies
pdbliz allan1486 January 22 2014 at 10:57 AM

SAME WAY OBAMA IS DOING ALSO.........LOOKS LIKE CHRISTIE AND OBAMA FROM SAME MOLD..

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mago336170 allan1486 January 22 2014 at 11:26 AM

This absolutely makes no sense!!! I totally agree with you. How dare these politicians put illegals ahead of us. They are selling us down the river without a paddle - all for the hispanic vote. Its the same senario with the job sitation, many employers ask that you speak spanish. I thought they were supposed to learn the english language for the dream act, oh I forgot, our politicians are making a path so that they do not have to be citizens to enjoy the fruits of this nation. They are illigal yet, they can drive, work, entitled to in-state tuition, and a host of other benefits without legal status. They are laughing all the way to the bank and we the American public is allowing this to happen. We have to communicate with our politicians to let them know how we feel. It seems as though people are afaid to speak out!!! for fear of being labeled racist. These people are here illegally, they have broken our laws and yet we reward them because thry want to have a better life. Well so do we, but we know that we have to follow the rule of law in this country. I for one am sick of this. When they sneak over here, go to the hospital to have a baby , the American pubilic picks up the tab, the child is now a citizen, does not speak english goes into the public school system where we have to have a special program for them. All of that adds to our deficit. As it is said "The imates are running the asylum"

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b740g January 22 2014 at 8:47 AM

While I am not overly excited about Christies Conservative Creds.....Nothing has been proven.

He has done all he can do (far more than Obama) to address the problem. He fired people and held them accountable. The people of New Jersey still support him at 63%. He has 3 years to recover if he wants to run for President.

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kimcrdr January 22 2014 at 12:57 PM

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE AT THIS POINT....its not like 4 American soldiers died and that they asked for HELP and never got it!!!..............oh wait this was a bridge that had its lanes closed for a little bit, nevermind,SMH what some people consider "scandalous"

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Gordie January 22 2014 at 1:35 PM

New Jersy is lucky to have Christie. The could have Como.

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4 replies
jktejas January 22 2014 at 10:40 AM

I'm a registered Democrat who voted for Christie......and then he gave illegals state tuition rights. Big disappointment! It's not about US citizens dividing along ethnic lines as he suggested.....it's about him courting the Hispanic bloc by permitting them and theirs to ignore our laws and screaming their demands. It's time to scream back.

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3 replies
hdexchef January 22 2014 at 2:24 PM

love this looking forward 2016

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