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PERTH AMBOY, N.J. (AP) — Standing in a wood-paneled union hall, Gov. Chris Christie wanted the audience to know one thing.

“I am not, by any stretch, an anti-union person,” Christie said to the hundreds packed Wednesday into the Ironworkers Local Union 73 hall in Perth Amboy.

Clad in T-shirts bearing their union logo, they chowed down hot dogs off a sizzling grill while rock music blared outside before and after Christie’s town hall meeting.

The governor sought to shore up his ties to private-sector unions, drawing a distinction between them and the public-sector unions he has fought with in overhauling their pensions and benefits systems.

“I am against anybody in this state having to carry other people’s benefits unfairly on their own backs,” Christie said.

Christie vowed to push for an end to the stalemate of the American Dream project at the Meadowlands.

The proposed entertainment complex would include entertainment, restaurants and an indoor water park, but development has long been stalled.

The New York Giants and Jets sued the developer, saying it breached a contract by submitting expansion plans to the state without consulting the teams first. The teams said the expansion would adversely affect traffic.

In August, a judge threw out part of the lawsuit, but said the teams could refile if the state agency approves the proposed expansion.

Christie said team owners are standing in the way of a project that would drive jobs and revenue to New Jersey.

“I will not put up with billionaire team owners for the Jets and the Giants standing in the way of building American dreams,” Christie said.

Christie urged the audience to vote for a ballot measure that would green light a $750 million bond initiative that would fund building and renovation at the state’s public colleges and universities. He said it would create jobs and keep young people in the state.

One audience member yelled out that Christie had a big mouth. To which the governor responded: “You bet I got a big mouth. You didn’t elect me for my charm and good looks, pal.”

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