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Monday, December 5, 2016

By Melissa Hayes, The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

TRENTON, NJ—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blamed the state’s largest public employees union for orchestrating interruptions at his public events — and that was before he was confronted by a group of Rutgers University students.

Christie called the unions “special interests who have polluted Trenton all these years.” Then, after predicting outbursts, Christie asked the 400 attendees gathered in South River to wait until any shouting was over to ask their questions.

The governor was in the Middlesex County community hit hard by Superstorm Sandy to promote the state’s purchasing of flood-prone homes and talk about efforts to rebuild the state 16 months after the devastating storm.

Christie has been holding storm recovery and budget promotion events across the state in recent weeks. He’s using the events to try to bolster his image while state and federal investigators look into his administration’s involvement in lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. His next event is set for Flemington on Thursday, following a trip today to Michigan, where he is to raise money for the Republican Governors Association, which he heads.

At Tuesday’s meeting Christie attacked the Communications Workers of America, blaming the public employee union for the protesters at his Mount Laurel event last week. Six Rowan University students affiliated with the union-backed New Jersey Working Families Alliance had been escorted out for shouting over questions from people Christie called on.

But the Rutgers students leading Tuesday’s protest said they weren’t affiliated with the union. They wanted to bring attention to the $4.8 million in federal Sandy aid going to the developer of a 240-unit high-rise in New Brunswick, in exchange for providing 48 affordable units.

“It’s a diversion tactic to discredit the union so that the general populace doesn’t look at the governor,” said David Bedford, secretary of the Rutgers Student Union.