BELMAR, N.J. — Seven months after he told a heckler in Belmar to "sit down and shut up" at a press conference marking the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie struck a softer tone Friday as he kicked off the summer tourism season with a visit to the same shore community.
Christie, who has been laying the groundwork for an expected presidential run, began his annual summer ritual with a press conference in Belmar. He was immediately interrupted by a heckler, who said she wanted to present the governor with what she described as a federal summons.
"Why don't you bring it on up," Christie responded calmly, shrugging off the interaction with a laugh.
He later turned to the groups of protesters penned behind police barricades, there to show their opposition to planned research involving blasting the ocean floor with sound waves and calling for the cleanup of Shark River.
Christie assured the first group he would continue to fight Rutgers University's seismic testing plan. He then announced the state is moving forward with plans to dredge the polluted river, calling the move long overdue.
"Thank you for coming out and thank you for expressing your concerns about the natural resources that make the Jersey Shore a great place," the normally brash governor said.
Christie also failed to take the bait when asked whether he thought Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a potential opponent in the GOP presidential primary, was being hypocritical by asking for federal aid to repair flood damage in his state when Cruz had voted against federal aid to help New Jersey in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy because it included other spending.
Instead, Christie urged Congress to move quickly to help devastated parts of the south.
"This is not the kind of thing where we should be playing tit-for-tat," he said. "The only voice I'm going to add to this is to say I feel for the people of Texas and for what they're going through."
The event ended shortly after Christie called on 92-year-old Rose Corcoran of Spring Lake Heights, who approached the stage with a walker and told Christie he was the only politician she'd ever trusted.
Christie then gave her a kiss on the cheek, prompting "awws" from the crowd.
Christie usually holds his kickoff event ahead of Memorial Day weekend, but was out of the state speaking at a Republican candidates' gathering in Oklahoma City last Friday.