The News & West Essex TribuneObserver

Christie Announces 2016 Republican Presidential Bid At Livingston High School

West Essex Tribune — Thursday, July 2, 2015

By GEOFF MULVIHILL and JILL COLVIN
Associated Press

National and local media descended on Livingston this past Tuesday morning as New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced his 2016 Republican Presidential bid. He is the 14th contender seeking the GOP nomination.

"When I decided to make this announcement, there wasn't any choice. I had to come home. And Livingston is home for me," he stated. He was joined on the stage by his wife, Mary Pat, and their four children.

The former Livingston resident spoke before an invitation-only crowd. Christie, who was introduced by former school board president Sheila Goldklang, a self-professed Democrat, and Lynn Grone, a friend from both LHS and college, entered the gym to the sounds of Bon Jovi's "We Weren't Born to Follow" and left to the strains of Bon Jovi's "Who Said You Can't Go Home?"

"America is tired of hand wringing and indecisiveness and weakness in the Oval Office," he said to a cheering crowd. "We need to have strength and decision making and authority back in the Oval Office and that is why I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Republican nomination for President of the United Sates of America."

The governor said that he is not looking to be "popular" and promised a campaign with no spin, honest answers and a belief "in an America that is as great as the hopes and dreams we would want our children to have."

He announced that his campaign slogan is "Telling It Like It Is."

"I mean what I say and I say what I mean," he said. "Truth and hard decisions today will lead to growth and opportunity tomorrow."

The crowd at the event was basically composed of three groups of people; those who supported Christie, those who oppose his politics and those who just wanted to watch history unfold.

Hundreds came out in support of the governor, including Livingston resident Dave McClaughlin.

"I agree with his policies and would love to see him in the White House," he said.

Lixia and John Lutjen of Livingston said that they were able to obtain last minute tickets by showing up at the LHS gym late Monday night.

"We are excited for Livingston and for Chris Christie," they agreed.

Also in attendance was Marty Writt, who said that he grew up with the governor. They went to the same schools and played on the same baseball team. He praised his old friend, as well as the Christie family, "They are good people."

Even some of Livingston's teens came out to witness the announcement. They were not so much interested in the politics as the historic nature of the event and its affect on their hometown.

Jeremy Knopf, 18, and Tyler Corsello, 17, who were both graduated from LHS last week were excited to attend the event.

"How cool it is to be Livingston residents at an event of this caliber," said Knopf.

"It's the most buzz we have seen here in a while," added Corsello.

Trevor Wood, arising senior at LHS and editor-in-chief of the school's newspaper, also expressed his enthusiasm at the opportunity to attend the event, despite his political views.

"Personally, I am more of an Independent who leans toward Democrat, but of all the Republicans, I would support Christe the most," he stated.

Protestors

A significant portion of the story of the day unfolded outside the venue as protestors gathered to denounce the governor and express their opposition to both his politics and his Presidential run.

As expected, hundreds of teachers from across the state showed up, many members of the Essex County Education Association. Donning red t-shirts, they chanted and raised their signs.

Out on the Oval, former Livingston art teacher and resident Hugh Mahon weighed in on the side of the teachers.

"If I were carrying a sign, it would say 'Fund a Pension, Then Sit Down and Shut Up.' That's the closest I can come to summing it all up," he said. "We can all remember the smile, the boy, the LHS graduate, but the man he [Christie] has become is not anyone I would like to see running our country."

John Palatucci, who has taught music in the township for 23 years, expressed his opinions regarding Christie, "I made all my pension payments. I played by the rules. Suddenly, I am told that the rules have changed and I am supposed to like it?"

Melissa DeAngelus, treasurer of the Livingston Education Association (LEA) said "We are the most dedicated group of professionals and there have been a lot of broken promises. We made pension payments. The legislature approved the budget with the pension and he vetoed that line item. Our lives matter, too. It is time for us to stand together."

Diane Pondiscio, who resides in Livingston and teaches in West Orange, was appalled that Christie chose LHS as the venue to announce his Presidential bid.

"He has some nerve coming back to LHS when he has nothing good to say about the education system in New Jersey," Pondiscio said.

Her friend Louise Auble, a Livingston resident and a teacher in Cedar Grove, held a poster that read, "Truth Promotes Trust. Christie is Not Truthful and Not to Be Trusted."

In addition to educators, environmental activists and union representatives were on site to protest the governor's policies. The Amalgamated Transit Union set up a giant inflatable camel on the Oval, which symbolized its thoughts about the governor.

"Chris Christie needs to stop humping the workers," said John A. Costa, international vice president of the organization. "NJ Transit workers have had no respect under this governor... We were out there for Sandy, for the Super Bowl, storms. He hasn't done anything for the state workers as far as we're concerned."

New Jersey Citizen Action brought a giant faux "Letter of Resignation" and an oversized pen to the event. Representatives of NJ Communities United, which works in partnership with the Newark Student Union, were also on the scene.

"They were loud, but orderly," said Livingston Police Sergeant Jack Hickey, noting that reports of an issue with protestors at the Oval was unfounded.

In addition to the Livingston Police Department, the New Jersey State Police and the Essex County Sheriffs Office provided security at the event. Approximately 25 officers in total were on site. In addition to the roar of protestors on the Oval, rumblings of discontent connected to the event are being heard throughout the township. Residents have questioned why Christie was allowed to make his announcement at LHS, when the school district's policy forbids school grounds to be used for any partisan political event.

The Livingston Town Council also took issue with the planning of the event, as only one — former Republican Rudy Fernandez — of Livingston's five Council members received an invitation.

Said Livingston mayor Michael Silverman, "It is an insult to the township that we were not invited to an event in our town. He is saying he is from our town. It is simply disappointing and insulting."

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