By David Madden and Cleve Bryan
MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (CBS) — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held another of his town hall meetings in an area where he should have been among friends, Republican-rich Mount Laurel. But some in the audience were determined to disrupt the session.
Governor Christie’s 113th Town Hall started where this year’s budget address left off – talking pension reform, tax caps and spending cuts.
“I am not under the illusion that anybody voted for me in 2009 or voted for me again in 2013 because of my charm and good looks, you knew we had big problems here,” Christie said.
It started routinely enough Thursday morning. Christie called on a few hundred attendees to support his call for continued pension and public arbitration reform.
But when it came to the public part of the program, some in the crowd had different plans.
One by one, a half dozen young people interrupted with cries about corruption, Sandy problems and the like. Each was quickly escorted out.
At first, Christie seemed frustrated.
“Either sit down and keep quiet or get out. One or the other. We’re done with you,” Christie said to the hecklers.
There had been online efforts to coordinate a protest at this event.
“They don’t want an answer from me. If they wanted an answer from me they’d wait their turn and ask their question and I’d give them an answer. What they want is attention,” Christie said.
One man who did wait his turn, retired teacher Phil Paul, jokingly introduced himself as part of the pension problem.
“Pension funds are a problem and as a person who has retired if changes have to come, I just want to know what are the possibilities.”
One group disappointed not to get their questions answered – several organizations were in the crowd who advocate for affordable housing. Mount Laurel is where some of the state’s first affordable housing initiatives started decades ago.
“Want to know what are your solutions for offering more affordable homes in this State?” asked Nina Arce of Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.
Christie later sidestepped the protestors, insisting that screaming demands won’t get anyone anywhere, whereas civil discourse will.