His administration gripped by scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has found unlikely allies among the nation’s Hispanic community.
In New Jersey and beyond, some minority leaders usually aligned with Democrats are giving the Republican governor the benefit of the doubt regarding controversies that have enveloped his office.
Just days before an apparent case of political retribution by his office was exposed this month, Christie signed a new law granting in-state college tuition rates to New Jersey immigrants in the country illegally, winning national praise from Hispanic officials.
The gesture may alienate some conservatives in the next presidential election should he seek the White House, but it helped cement Christie’s status as one of the Hispanic community’s more popular Republicans.
“I think everybody needs to take a deep breath,” said the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “We don’t want to judge anything before all the facts are out. Gov. Christie has said he did not know about it. Right now, there’s no evidence to the contrary.”
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, suggested that Democrats are pushing new allegations against Christie because they’re afraid of his strength as a prospective 2016 presidential candidate.
“I just don’t see the huge scandal,” Aguilar said.
Minority leaders report that Christie began reaching out almost immediately after taking office. He focused, in particular, on helping minority business owners cut through red tape.
“He’s always been very popular with the Hispanic community,” said Carlos Medina, chairman of the state Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.