In keeping with his tough campaign rhetoric on public employees’ unions, Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie has declined to seek the endorsement of the New Jersey Education Association’s (NJEA) political action committee.
NJEA President Joyce Powell, whose group claims about 200,000 members, was offended by what she perceived as a snub by Christie. She announced today that he sent her a letter turning down an invitation to participate in the union’s screening process.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Christie is unwilling to take the time to have an honest discussion about educational issues with the organization that represents the overwhelming majority of the state’s educators. It is also unfortunate that the Republican standard-bearer has chosen to break his party’s long-standing tradition of candid discussion and direct communication with NJEA,” said Powell.
Powell noted that the union endorsed Tom Kean, Sr., who is the Christie campaign’s honorary chairman, for governor in the 1980s, though it did not specify if it was for his 1981 campiagn or his 1985 race, in which he had the most lopsided victory in the history of New Jersey gubernatorial races.
The Christie campaign provided a copy of the letter. In it, Christie said he wanted to meet with union representatives to “engage in a frank dialogue about the future of our public education system,” but that “doing so under the specter of an endorsement is difficult… that is why I will not be seeking the endorsement of your organization.”
“Because I respect your members’ contributions to our public education system, I want to speak honestly and openly with you to ensure you know exactly where I stand and for what I believe,” he wrote.
Christie went on to outline some reforms he supports that the NJEA opposes, like school vouchers and merit pay.