Christie stirs outrage of an old enemy, teachers unions

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Chris Christie Promises Straight Talk in 2016 Campaign

HADDONFIELD, N.J. (AP) — More than any single Democrat, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's greatest rival has been the biggest teachers union in his home state.

Running for the Republican presidential nomination, Christie is now taking on teachers unions nationally. When was asked Sunday in an interview on CNN who deserved to be punched in the face, he didn't hesitate: "Oh, the national teachers union."

Here's a look at Christie's history of entanglements with teachers unions.

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WHAT CHRISTIE SAID

On the CNN program "State of the Union," host Jake Tapper pointed out that Christie has previously said there are two ways to deal with bullies — sidling up to them or punching them in the face. He asked Christie, "At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face?"

Christie answered the teachers union, explaining, "They're not for educating our children. They're for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members, and they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I've been saying that since 2009. I've got the scars to show it."

He noted that one national union representing teachers has already endorsed Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton for president. The American Federation of Teachers endorsed Clinton last month, but the larger National Education Association has not yet made an endorsement.

See more of Christie's recent political moves:

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Christie stirs outrage of an old enemy, teachers unions
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to reporters during a news conference following his signing of the state's 2016 budget, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Trenton, N.J. Christie vetoed more than $1.6 billion from the 2016 budget approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed a roughly $34 billion budget into law. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signs the state's 2016 budget, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Trenton, N.J. Christie vetoed more than $1.6 billion from the 2016 budget approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature and signed a roughly $34 billion budget into law. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Philadelphia, Friday, June 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a breakfast ahead of this afternoon's convening of the Georgia Republican Convention, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at the Latino Coalition Business Summit held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Wednesday, June 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a likely Republican 2016 presidential candidate, addresses a crowd during a town hall style event at an American Legion post, in Pembroke, N.H., Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
In this May 12, 2015, photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a likely Republican 2016 presidential candidate, addresses a crowd during a town hall style event at an American Legion post, in Pembroke, N.H. Christie isn’t yet officially running for president. But it’s clear he and his team are staking his likely bid for the GOP nomination on success in New Hampshire and its first-in-the-nation primary. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to reporters after a meet-and-greet at a restaurant in Flowood, Miss., Tuesday, May 5, 2015. Christie, in his first out-of-state trip since two former allies were indicted and a third pleaded guilty to corruption charges for their roles in the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal, is on a jaunt through Mississippi and Louisiana to raise money for fellow Republicans. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie gestures while speaking at the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) in Tyson's Corner, Va., Friday, May 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering during a town hall meeting Thursday, April 23, 2015, in Cedar Grove, N.J. Christie blasted the Democrat-controlled Legislature on Thursday over its decision to file a brief asking the Supreme Court to side with the public sector unions suing his administration over a decision to scale back promised payments into the state workers' pension system. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gives the keynote address at the Macomb County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Dinner fundraiser in Shelby Township, Mich., Friday, March 27, 2015. (Paul Sancya)
Republican candidate for Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, far left, watches as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, second from left, campaigns for Hutchinson at Lindsey’s Barbecue in North Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, speaks on behalf of Republican candidate for Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, left, at Lindsey’s Barbecue in North Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Christie is a potential 2016 presidential candidate and chairs the Republican Governors Association. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, speaks with campaign volunteers during a stop at Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner's Chicago campaign headquarters Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. While speaking with the volunteers, the Republican Governors Association chairman said he questions the motivation behind Illinois' new same-day voter registration recently signed into law by Rauner's opponent, Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn. Christie claims that decision and voter law are attempts to boost votes for Quinn. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, speaks with campaign volunteers during a stop at Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner's Chicago campaign headquarters Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. While speaking with the volunteers, the Republican Governors Association chairman said he questions the motivation behind Illinois' new same-day voter registration recently signed into law by Rauner's opponent, Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn. Christie claims that decision and voter law are attempts to boost votes for Quinn. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering during a town hall meeting, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, in Ocean City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, right, chat as they take a tour of a laboratory at the Southern Research Institute on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, in Birmingham, Ala. Christie praised Bentley’s fiscal stewardship Wednesday during the stop to raise money for Bentley’s re-election campaign and GOP executives in other states. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, center, heads out of BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H. after stumping for Republican candidate for governor of New Hampshire, Walt Havenstein, second from right, on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Christie has been traveling around the country boosting Republican candidates in his role as chair of the Republican Governors Association. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, second from right, shakes hands with Republican gubernatorial candidate for New Hampshire, Walt Havenstein, right, after a campaign stop at BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H. on Thursday, July 31, 2014. Christie has been traveling around the country boosting Republican candidates in his role as chair of the Republican Governors Association. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
In this July, 12, 2014, photo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie talks with reporters at the National Governors Association convention in Nashville, Tenn. Christie came into office declaring "a new era of accountability and transparency." Yet after winning a second term in 2013, and as he explores a run for president, a wide variety of people say his administration routinely stonewalls even the most basic requests for public records. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
FILE - This June 25, 2014 file photo shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaking in Haddon Heights, N.J. Conservative Republicans claimed victory this week in the Supreme Court ruling on religious freedom and the White House’s acceptance that an immigration overhaul won’t happen this year. Today’s victories could haunt the GOP in two years’ time, as the party’s presidential nominee looks for much-needed support among women and Hispanics in the 2016 election. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
FILE In this Tuesday, June 24, 2014 file photograph, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addresses a gathering in Trenton, N.J., after he signed into law a bill that would extend the cap on arbitration awards to New Jersey's police and firefighters. The New Jersey state Senate has confirmed the two men Christie wants to add to the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Senate confirmed John Degnan and George Laufenberg for the jobs just hours after both were advanced by the Senate judiciary committee following hearings. (AP Photo/Mel Evans,file)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to a question as he campaigns with New Hampshire Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein, Friday, June 20, 2014 in Bedford,N.H. Havenstein faces Andrew Hemingway in the Sept. 9 primary to take on incumbent Democrat Gov. Maggie Hassan in the November general election. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie takes questions during a visit to Hoogasian Flowers Friday, June 13, 2014, in San Francisco. Christie is in San Francisco as part of a national tour, headlining a high-dollar fundraiser in the liberal stronghold and supporting the California GOP's long-shot nominee for governor. Christie visited the local flower business with California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari before going to a luncheon fundraiser. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, chats with former New York Jets football player Curtis Martin at a reception before the 73rd Annual Father of the Year Awards benefit luncheon, Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in New York. They are both honorees at the event. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
File-This Jan. 23, 2014, file photo shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie addressing a gathering at the Dudley Family School in Camden, N.J. Lawyers for a state legislative panel investigating a political payback scandal say a former aide to Gov. Christie has shown no valid legal reasons for refusing to comply with a subpoena. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leaves after a visit City Hall Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, in Fort Lee, N.J. Christie traveled to Fort Lee to apologize in person to Mayor Mark Sokolich. Moving quickly to contain a widening political scandal, Gov. Chris Christie fired one of his top aides Thursday and apologized repeatedly for the "abject stupidity" of his staff, insisting he had no idea anyone around him had engineered traffic jams to get even with a Democratic mayor. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, laughs with Newark Mayor and senate candidate Cory Booker in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Newark charter schools. A new poll shows the U.S. Senate race between Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan is tightening as Lonegan accuses Booker of being more interested in Hollywood than New Jersey. Christie endorsed Lonegan but is close with Booker. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has his picture taken by student Anika DeBerry, as students and officials gathered at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, during ground breaking ceremonies on an addition to its College of Engineering building. The new building will be a three-story, 90,500-square-foot structure. Its projected cost is $71 million, and construction is expected to be completed during the 2016-17 school year. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
In this Sept. 12, 2013 photo provided by the Office of the Governor of New Jersey, Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, right, stands with Gov. Chris Christie, left, during a tour of the Seaside Heights, N.J. boardwalk after it was hit by a massive fire. Christie fired Kelly Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, and apologized over and over for his staff's "stupid" behavior, insisting during a nearly two-hour news conference that he had no idea anyone around him had engineered traffic jams as part of a political vendetta against a Democratic mayor. (AP Photo/Office of Gov. Chris Christie, Tim Larsen)
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THE ROOTS OF THE DISPUTE

When Christie took office in New Jersey in 2010, he quickly antagonized the state's teachers unions, which strongly supported his Democratic opponent.

His first budget, adopted amid a fiscal crisis, included cuts to state aid for schools, which led to layoffs in many of the state's school districts. He frequently bashed the New Jersey Education Association and its leadership during the budget process and campaigned for voters to reject local school budget proposals in districts where educators hadn't agreed to concessions.

The NJEA fired back, spending $17.5 million on lobbying in 2010 and 2011 — a record for lobbying spending in New Jersey each year — almost all of it on ads going after Christie. The union spent another $3 million in 2013 as a rare voice against Christie as he coasted to re-election.

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IT GETS PERSONAL

In 2010, Christie called for the head of the Bergen County Education Association to be fired after he included this line in a memo to members:

"Dear Lord this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor."

The Bergen County local's president, Joseph Coppola Jr., apologized, but refused to step down. He still holds the position.

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THE COOPERATION

Christie and teachers unions have occasionally found some common ground. Christie and NJEA were both parties to a compromise that resulted in a major overhaul of the state's teacher tenure protections in 2012.

The same year, Christie approved of an innovative contract for teachers in Newark, the state's largest school district, that paid teachers in part for their performance — something he had pushed for and teachers unions generally oppose.

Earlier this year, Christie announced the NJEA was the one major public employees' union that was working with him on a plan to overhaul the state pension system. The union later backed out of the discussions.

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THE FALLOUT

It's too soon to tell if Christie's comment will help him in the crowded Republican primary field for president, but teachers unions are not happy with him — as usual.

NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer said in a statement that Christie should resign as governor, chiding him: "He is a terrible role model to the children that our members work so hard to protect, nurture and educate."

AFT President Randi Weingarten lambasted Christie in a statement issued Monday, saying his comment "promotes a culture of violence and underscores why he lacks the temperament and emotional skills to be president, or serve in any leadership capacity."

A spokeswoman for Christie declined to comment on the criticism.

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