Democratic women leaders in New Jersey called for Gov. Chris Christie, a key surrogate and potential running mate for Mitt Romney, on Tuesday to say whether he supports equal pay legislation for women in the state, in an effort to localize the gender gap in the race for the White House and warn women voters nationwide against a Romney-Christie ticket.
In a conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg assailed Mr. Christie for failing to support the state package of equal pay bills and for his recent campaigning on behalf of Mr. Romney, as well as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who repealed his state’s equal pay law in early April and faces a June 5 recall election after nearly eliminating public workers’ collective bargaining rights in 2011.
“There’s one voice that’s been noticeably absent from the debate, and that’s Gov. Chris Christie,” Ms. Weinberg said. “Time and time again, Republicans have been caught on the wrong side of the issues. As a national leader and vice chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, we were hoping that Gov. Christie wold offer his party some of the straight talk he’s known for dishing out here in New Jersey.”
Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver referred to a new study by the Institute for Women and Policy Research showing that women on average earn 77 percent for every dollar earned by men.
“Women are not some monolithic bloc to be fought over in an election. We make up half of the population,” she said. “We want hard work to pay off. … [We want] to succeed or fail on our own merits and we want choices that put us in control of our careers, our families, our bodies and our health.”
Mr. Christie, she said, has the opportunity to show New Jersey women that he “gets it.”
A Christie spokesman said the governor supports equal pay for women, and will consider signing the law, if it reaches his desk.
“The Christie Administration supports equal pay for equal work,” Michael Drewniak said. “If this specific legislation passes in the Senate and makes its way to the governor’s desk, he’ll review and consider it.”
President Obama and his Democratic allies have accused the GOP of launching a “war on women” this year after Republicans objected to mandated contraception coverage in the president’s national health care law. Mr. Obama’s campaign has repeatedly demanded to know whether Mr. Romney supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first legislation Mr. Obama signed into law in 2009. It extends the window for women to sue over pay discrimination.
Mr. Romney’s campaign has said the former Massachusetts governor supports pay equity and is “not looking” to overturn the Lilly Ledbetter Act, but only after an aide responded to a question about the law by saying she would get back to the reporter.