Gov. Chris Christie received an unusually warm reception at a town hall meeting Wednesday _ warm enough to make him blush. During a question-and-answer session at a church hall in Hopatcong in Sussex County, Debra Nicholson of Sparta prefaced a question about affordable housing with this praise: "Having a governor who's smart and has the perseverance to do what's right is hot and sexy."
The portly but recently slimmer Christie responded by asking her to write a note to his wife restating that claim immediately.
Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary Tuesday, "so comments like those after 25 years will keep her on her toes," the governor said.
Moving on, the governor gave Nicholson some leeway.
"What's your question? Yes, whatever you want," he joked.
During a radio interview later in the day, Christie again made light of the remark.
"Miracles happen every day," he said.
The rest of the capacity crowd of about 500 in the Republican stronghold was also friendly, giving Christie a standing ovation as he walked in. Eventually, officials had to lock to the doors to keep people out.
Christie, a rising star in the Republican Party for his budget-cutting ways, was not as warm toward Democrats in the Legislature, whom he told the crowd to blame if their property taxes go up in August.
He complained that the Legislature had passed only a handful of his bills to help towns keep down property taxes, which are the highest in the nation at an average of $7,300 a home.
Meanwhile, 16 towns are preparing to ask residents to exceed a 2 percent property tax cap that went into effect in January, according to the New Jersey League of Municipalities.
"If your property taxes go up in August, don't see me," Christie warned.
He also looked toward November, reminding the crowd that all 120 lawmakers are up for election. Democrats hold a majority in the state Senate and Assembly.
"If you like what I've been doing and trying to do ... if you give me a Republican Legislature, you're not going to believe what's going to happen in New Jersey," he said.
That prompted outcry from Democrats in Trenton, who accused the governor of campaigning on the taxpayers' dime and of cutting property tax rebates for middle-class homeowners instead of reinstating an income tax hike on millionaires.
"Let's get this straight _ this governor and former U.S. attorney was openly campaigning today at a taxpayer-paid town hall meeting organized by his taxpayer-funded office?" said Assembly Democratic spokesman Tom Hester Jr.
"It's bad enough that he's already hit taxpayers with huge property tax hikes, but now he's spending taxpayer's money to campaign," he went on. "He should immediately reimburse taxpayers for all costs associated with this trip."