Claude Brodesser-Akner | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
DES MOINES — Gov. Chris Christie was barely halfway through his 20-minute interview with Iowa ethanol mogul Bruce Rastetter when the second heckler of the morning shouted at him.
Christie was in the midst of assailing what he termed environmental “overreach” by former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson when a protestor from the New Jersey Organizing Project, Joe Mangino, stood up and yelled, “I’m from New Jersey also!”
Mangino, of Beach Haven West, protested that Christie had not done enough to help mitigate the recovery from superstorm Sandy, at one point screaming, “I will NOT shut up!” — a clear reference to Christie’s commanding another Sandy activist in Belmar to “Sit down and shut up!” last October at an event commemorating the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.
Mangino was joined by fellow New Jerseyan Lisa Stevens, of Little Egg Harbor, who held up a sign, declaring “Thousands of families still not home after Sandy.” Mangino was forced to vacate his home after Sandy, and in a follow-up email to NJ Advance Media, said that he had been forced to move his family three times in the aftermath of the storm.
On stage, Christie remained unruffled. He turned and joked to Iowa Agricultural Summit moderator Bruce Rastetter, “I am glad to see that New Jersey … has come … to Iowa. How great is that?”
“I think you understand, I’ll deal with you here the same way as I deal with you in New Jersey,” Christie warned, half-jokingly.
But governor checked his swing. As the protestor was escorted out by uniformed police officers, Rastetter remarked, “It really is a wonderful country that people can do that.”
Christie nodded, unfazed, and even playfully joking, “My people follow me everywhere, Bruce” to uproarious laughter from the crowd of 450. “I’m magnetic, Bruce. They can’t stay away from me.”
It wasn’t the combative Christie who’d been on display in Belmar last October, or who’d become an internet sensation on TMZ, chasing down hecklers on the boardwalk brandishing an ice cream cone. It mirrored the Iowa Christie who used humor when he was heckled at the conservative Iowa Freedom Summit two months ago and drew huge cheers by saying: “Don’t they know I am from New Jersey?”
Earlier in the morning, a group of some 50 protesters from Farm Aid, PETA and a pro-family farms group called Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement stood across the hall of the Iowa Fair Grounds, holding signs and chanting, “Hey Bruce: What’s it gonna be? Corporate rule or democracy?”
Several protestors complained that despite having purchased tickets to the Ag Summit, they were being turned away.
One of them, Nathan Malachowski, 22, from Des Moines, complained of what appeared to be an admittance system that discriminated by Democratic voter registrations. An NJ Advance Media reporter saw five ticket-holders turned away at the door. All five ticket-holders said they were currently or previously registered to vote as Democratic or Green Party members.
Several ticket-takers outside would not answer questions about why those with pre-purchased Ag Summit tickets were not being admitted.
Several clearly got through, however. Prior to Christie’s interview, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who Christie helped reelect to a record sixth term last year while head of the Republican Governors Association, was the first elected official to speak at the Ag Summit.
“It’s a beautiful day in Iowa …” began Branstad, but almost immediately, a protester who’d secreted himself within the crowd stood up to shout, “It’s all about money!” before quickly being escorted out by Des Moines police officers.