TRENTON – The host pastor of the church that served as the latest town hall meeting place for Gov. Chris Christie says the Republican governor owes the state’s Democratic speaker an apology.
Kenneth Clayton, a pastor at St. Luke Baptist Church in Paterson, says Christie overstepped when he made comments at the town hall about Speaker Sheila Oliver. Clayton, who’s also the president of the Paterson branch of the NAACP, is the latest person to weigh in on the governor’s comments.
“I was and am yet saddened by the governor’s blatant attack of Speaker Sheila Oliver. Governor Christie insinuated that Speaker Oliver was preventing his School’s Choice bill from going to the floor of the Assembly,” Clayton said in a statement.
“He made it clear that he has established and maintained a great rapport and relationship with Oliver’s Democratic counterpart in the Senate, but such a relationship does not exist with Speaker Oliver,” he said. “The words that the governors chose to use in speaking of Oliver (while not even respecting her enough to call her by name) defies his earlier assertion that political leaders – himself included – need to learn to respect all views and work together for the good of the State of New Jersey.”
Referring to the governor’s latest town hall as “a missed moment,” Clayton said Christie also owes Paterson an apology for failing to unite residents.
“We have an African American female speaker of the Assembly,” said Christie, speaking about a school voucher system.
“The very people who represent urban New Jersey … blocked this,” he said. “She refused to let people vote on this bill.”
The governor said students in failing schools are being robbed of a future.
Christie’s comments drew some applause from town hall attendees, but also some shouting, specifically from one man who repeatedly yelled, “Fix the public schools!”
“You can yell all you want about fix the public schools,” Christie said at the event, adding it won’t happen until “you give me the chance to set up competition.”
A Christie spokesman did not immediately respond for comment.
Clayton’s full statement is as followed:
“When I was first contacted about Governor Christie’s desire to have a town hall meeting in Paterson, and at St. Luke Church I was excited. As Pastor of the St. Luke Church and President of the Paterson Branch of the NAACP my relationship with the Governor and his policies has not always been endearing. I was happy that after having been seemingly ignored or dismissed by this Governor, that the Governor now found the time to come and talk to Patersonians and give ear to the concerns of Patersonians. As a result I welcomed the opportunity to host him in the church where I serve as Pastor and in the 4th Ward of our great city.
“I had hoped that the Governor would articulate to our community his vision and plan for helping Paterson and other urban cities in our state become safer, economically solvent, and educationally stable and independent. I am keenly aware that our Governor is a passionate speaker but was hopeful that we would not be deluged with political rhetoric alone.
“Unfortunately my hopes and expectations were not realized. Governor Christie is without question a forceful and dynamic speaker and leader. I appreciate his courage as it relates to his willingness to confront and tackle issues and people who disagree with policies and style.
“I was and am yet saddened by the Governor’s blatant attack of Speaker Sheila Oliver. Governor Christie insinuated that Speaker Oliver was preventing his School’s Choice bill from going to the floor of the Assembly. He made it clear that he has established and maintained a great rapport and relationship with Oliver’s Democratic counterpart in the Senate, but such a relationship does not exist with Speaker Oliver. The words that the Governors chose to use in speaking of Oliver (while not even respecting her enough to call her by name) defies his earlier assertion that political leaders (himself included) need to learn to respect all views and work together for the good of the State of New Jersey.
“I believe that the Governor not only owes Speaker Oliver an apology but the Paterson community as well, for his misuse of a great opportunity to unite us toward the betterment of the great Garden State.”