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Kinder, Gentler Chris Christie Wins First Debate by Not ‘Losing It’

Christie countered that “Senator Buono shows her misunderstanding of how to create jobs. That money doesn’t come off a money tree. It comes out of the pockets of those who own convenience stores and bodegas.” He criticized Buono and Democrats for failing to support his plan to phase in a minimum wage hike over three years.

Christie blamed the state’s economic crisis on the recession he inherited after “the Corzine-Buono years,” and asserted that the state has added more than 140,000 jobs during his governorship, including a private sector job gain in 2012 that was the largest in New Jersey history.

The governor said his property tax cap, interest arbitration overhaul, and pension and health benefits legislation resulted in property taxes rising less than 2 percent in 2011 and 2012, and said he would push for Civil Service changes and the elimination of banked sick leave in a second term.

But Buono countered that Christie’s deep cuts in property tax rebates led to a 20 percent increase in net property taxes for the average New Jersey homeowner. Christie, she said, “vetoed legislation to have millionaire pay their fair share and fund property tax relief. I believe millionaires should pay their fair share and fund property tax relief. I will never balance the budget on the backs of the middle class.”

Christie deflected questions on whether he would run for president in 2016 -- a campaign he would have to begin planning less than two years into his second term. He said he did not think voters expected him to make a decision three years before the next presidential election, and in any case, he said, “I can walk and also chew gum at the same time,” meaning that he could plan a presidential campaign while governing the state if necessary.

Buono said what bothers her is not that Christie is running for president, but how he’s running for president.

“You’re sacrificing the safety of our children by vetoing common-sense gun legislation just to cater to the NRA (National Rifle Association,” she charged. “You’re sacrificing the health of our women by vetoing funding for Planned Parenthood and that’s because the national conservative base of the Republican Party has declared this war on Planned Parenthood. And you know what, you are sacrificing and compromising the dignity of our gay brothers and sisters by vetoing marriage equality because you know that would kill you in a Republican primary.”

Christie defended his veto of gay marriage by saying the issue should be put before all of the state’s voters in a referendum, as it has been in 35 other states, rather than being decided by seven state Supreme Court justices or by a Legislature made up of “120 politicians with political agenda.”

“My daughter who is openly gay is not a political agenda,” Buono responded angrily.

Buono criticized Christie for thwarting the intent of the state’s medical marijuana legislation by making it difficult for centers to be licensed. She added that while she opposes the legalization of marijuana, she would support the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana.

Christie disagreed. “As a former U.S. attorney, I do not favor the legalization of marijuana or the decriminalization of marijuana,” he said. “I do not want my children or the children of New Jersey to believe using marijuana is okay. As long as I am governor, it will not happen.”

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