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Christie and Oliver at odds, again

GLENN TOWNES Special to the AmNews | 3/28/2013, 11:47 a.m.
Christie and Oliver at odds, again

Firebrand New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and outspoken Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver are at it again--they're entrenched in a heated war of words regarding a comment Christie made about Oliver at a church town hall meeting last week in Paterson, N.J.

The tough-talking governor is under fire for referring to Oliver by race and gender instead of by name. Christie said, "[An] African-American female is blocking a vote on a school voucher program."

Oliver is the first African-American woman to become Assembly speaker and has had a rocky tenure since taking office in January 2010. She has frequently clashed with Christie and members of her own Democratic Party on a number of issues, including her strong alliances with Republicans. Two years ago, she was slammed by her constituents and members of the mental health field when, during a verbal tirade, she called the governor "bipolar."

In this latest debacle, Oliver, 60, said she was "appalled" at Christie's' remarks and accused the governor of injecting race into a discussion about education reform--a platform that she adamantly supports. Oliver represents the 34th Legislative District, a largely African-American district that includes the city of East Orange. The district is home to some of the most troubled and underfunded schools in the state.

A spokesmen for the governor said Christie's remarks were misconstrued and no further comment would be issued. Meanwhile, some residents call the matter an embarrassment to the 34th District.

"I've lived in this area my entire life," said Ann Mayo. "This ongoing war of words between the governor and the speaker is an example of politicians at their worst."