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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."

Join the discussion

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jediop1 January 22 2014 at 7:52 AM

Have Your Say...There has been more coverage on this non-story than all the Obama scandals X10 by our pathetic so called news media.

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1 reply
jrb359 jediop1 January 22 2014 at 8:02 AM

When he proves he was telling the truth, maybe Hillary and Obama will want to do the same!

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ginaladybug January 22 2014 at 11:59 AM

Most politicians are liars. That's the bottom line

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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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dhartson January 22 2014 at 1:48 PM

Just more Media CRAP !!!! Instead of reporting real fraud like the miss use of tax payers money, they do this. The bridge this wasn't right and people should be fired as they were over it, (would hurt to blow out more dreck) but this has been sensationalized by the left.

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1 reply
Kwriter dhartson January 22 2014 at 3:11 PM

Denying Sandy money to Hoboken was a major abuse of funding.

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drkay2u January 22 2014 at 2:00 PM

Christie has my vote for 2016..........And I don't even care for most of the Repubs.

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drb107 January 22 2014 at 5:00 PM

Although I am for immigrant support and a path to citizenship, the Latino leaders should also be for legal immigration and not support illegal immigration. That would apply to all people also

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RSHta January 22 2014 at 2:08 PM

Let's look into WHO is trying to discredit this man that had a great reputation, before his aides did this.
He is a threat to someone......I remember when Jimmy Carter was thinking of running for Pres. and the news was filled with "He knew that peanuts could cause cancer." In our country everytime someone gets successful and is well lliked.....out of the woodowrk comes the haters and the insinuators and the stories begin to fly.
Wait for the HONEST TRUTHS to come out, before making any decisions. In this country you are supposed to be INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. And don't go with the masses.....get the facts yourself. Too many innocent people have been ruined by trash talkers.

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Virginia January 22 2014 at 2:11 PM

How can anyone justify granting college tuition to ILLEGAL immigrants!!!???? Someone please look up the word "ILLEGAL" in Webster's!!! It means against the LAW, friends! So, to grant monies paid for by the American people to those who are "outside" the law is outrageous and; and should be deemed (here we go again) ILLEGAL!!
I speak as a 2nd generation American whose grandparents came to this country through legal portals; worked hard to give their children a good education;abidedby USA LAWS; and were grateful to become American citizens....So, why is our approach to today's immigrant so different ? If I went to the federal government for "free tuition", I would have to subject to detailed qualification. And I was born here! To give our monies away to ILLEGALS is an insult to all Americans.

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g7agent January 22 2014 at 2:12 PM

Hilary and her team kill 4 people . . . A few of Cristie's team holds up traffic. . . You do the math as to which is worse!

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mahk1944 January 22 2014 at 2:19 PM

Ah the msm and dnc are throwing dirt on Christie finally. They will do anything to protect and propel hillary. This is such a scandel? Wow, how about Benghazi or the IRS or Whitewater etc etc etc? How many people really believe this mayor of hobroken? Did it take a year for her to get the gumption to speak out? Democratic poltics are better than daytime TV but not by much. This is such a sham, I think more people are laughing at these allegations than believing them. H*ll, I am a bigger bully than Christie is. I demand something from my employees and they know what I demand. 'Nuff said!

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1 reply
Kwriter mahk1944 January 22 2014 at 3:04 PM

Lots of people believe the mayor of Hoboken, including the NY Daily News.
She felt too intimidated by this big mouth bully to speak out until now.

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