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NJ Gov. Chris Christie: GOP needs to 'show up' and engage groups that disagree

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie discusses human trafficking and other issues Friday with Cindy McCain during an event hosted by Arizona State University's McCain Institute for International Leadership. (Photo by Larissa Garza/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX -- Believing that Republicans can win support from Hispanics just by supporting immigration reform "is insulting to Hispanic voters all over the country," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday.

"The fact is that they want a seat at the table, to influence policy," Christie said during a discussion hosted by Arizona State University's McCain Institute for International Leadership.

In Arizona for the Republic Governors Association's annual conference, Christie discussed his state's efforts to curb sex trafficking with Cindy McCain, co-chair of a task force Gov. Jan Brewer assembled to address the problem. McCain also asked Christie, often mentioned as a potential presidential contender, for his thoughts on the lack of bipartisanship in Washington and the state of the GOP.

Christie said the key for Republicans to become more appealing to Hispanics and other groups is engaging the broader public.

"The most important part is showing up and going to places that make you uncomfortable," he said.

Holding public meetings in communities where he lost overwhelmingly in winning his first term helped him improve his results among Democrats and minorities when he breezed to a second term earlier this month, Christie said.

"Show up. Listen. And don't vilify people because they disagree with you," he said.

On gridlock in Washington, Christie said President Barack Obama's unwillingness to deal with congressional Republicans is "the cause of the disease," noting that as a GOP governor he has to engage a legislature controlled by Democrats to get things done.

"If I wait for them to lead on an issue, I'll be waiting my entire career," he said.

"The problem is that in the end the federal guys are not required to produce any results," Christie said. "People would never put up with this from a governor."

With the Super Bowl to be held at New Jersey's Meadowlands sports complex in February, McCain and Christie discussed efforts to cut down on the practice of prostituting minors, often from abroad and subjected to threats and other forms of coercion. He said the event is an opportune time to focus on the problem because so many law enforcement agencies are working together.

"This is something that has been going on in the world forever - greed for free labor, for profit," he said.

Arizona will play host to the 2015 Super Bowl, and looking toward that date the commission that includes McCain, wife of Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, is pushing for tougher laws against human trafficking as well as laws and policy changes to help victims.

"It's hard, I think, for folks in this country to grasp the fact that the Super Bowl is the biggest human trafficking event of the year in the United States," Christie said. "And it's extraordinary to think that we will have young women, young men, enslaved by folks who are coming to enjoy a football game."

In May, Christie signed into law bipartisan legislation toughening New Jersey's laws against human trafficking by expanding the list of illegal actions, increasing penalties and creating a commission to address the problem. A federal judge in September blocked enforcement of a provision that makes it a crime to publish or disseminate ads for that lead to commercial sex abuse of minors, saying among other findings that it conflicts with federal law and may infringe on free speech rights.

Christie said that ruling isn't the end of the battle against websites that carry such ads.

"They have a First Amendment right to do what they do and you have the First Amendment right to shame them," he said.

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