SOMERSET HILLS NJ - Assemblyman Erik Peterson, who represents Bedminster and Peapack-Gladstone in the State Assembly, had some strong words for Governor Chris Christie in the wake of the Governor's speech to the New Jersey Laborers Union.

Governor Christie lobbed a hand grenade into what had been a quiet week in state politics on Thursday night when he addressed the Laborers International Union.  According to reports, Governor Christie urged the traditionally-Democrat union to go to the polls to defeat legislators who voted against the 23.5 cent per gallon gas tax increase last year.

As governor, Christie is the titular head of the New Jersey Republicans.  His statement would seem to pit him against 29 of his fellow Republicans, including Peterson, whose 23rd Legislative District includes part of the Somerset Hills.  Of the nine Republican legislators whose districts include part of the Somerset Hills, seven voted against the increase.

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On Friday, Assemblyman Peterson fired back at the Governor in a strongly-worded press release:

“The Governor has made it abundantly clear that he is no longer the leader of the Republican Party in New Jersey.  This time, he chose line the pockets of special interests and labor unions, while those of us who voted against the gas tax increase stood with the millions of middle class families throughout New Jersey who now have to struggle to make ends meet due to the Governor’s massive tax hike.  His abdication has resulted in every New Jerseyan paying higher taxes, and more borrowing by a State that struggles to pay its debt. Now this ‘Brutus’ of New Jersey politics is calling on his big money special interest ‘friends’ to oppose members of his own party.  This is one step too far and I will no longer stay silent while the Governor bankrupts the State I love and impoverishes its hardworking residents.  I will gladly defend my record on the issue, and continue opposing the waste, fraud and abuse that is far too common in Trenton, even under this Governor’s administration.”