Menendez to Christie: Cuba is a state issue

GOP gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie says he hasn't thought much about U.S.-Cuba relations, but agrees with state Attorney General Anne Milgram that stepping up efforts to extradite convicted cop killer Joanne Chesimard is a good idea.

"If we're moving toward normalizing relations with Cuba, it would be a sign of goodwill for that country to extradite Joanne Chesimard," Christie said yesterday. "There are a lot of issues on the table."

Asked if he believes the United States should normalize relations with Cuba, Christie said, "I haven't thought that deeply about it. It's not a state issue."

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-Hoboken), the state's ranking Cuban American, disagreed.

"It is a state issue," Menendez told, noting that the Governor appoints members of the Free Cuba Task Force. "While it may not be the most popular issue of the day, the Governor will have to appoint the head of the advisory council and charge what its mission should be."

Cuban-born U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York) had another take on Christie's position.

"There are a lot of issues he hasn't thought deeply about," Sires said.

Patrick Murray, the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, says that Cuba will not be a big issue in the race for Governor, despite the large Cuban population in the state. New Jersey has the third largest Cuban population in the world.

"It’s certainly an important issue to that constituency which has tended to vote Democratic," Murray said. "”If you’re a Democrat it matters, if you’re a Republican it doesn’t.”

The Free Cuba Task Force was created by Executive Order in 1993 to examine economic opportunities for New Jersey during a post-Castro government. Menendez to Christie: Cuba is a state issue