Protesters blast Bush at Colts Neck GOP fete

September 22, 2008 12:12:52 PM PDT
John Hreno was able to be outdoors on a beautiful Monday afternoon near where President Bush was to attend a fundraiser for two Republican Congressional candidates. "The reason I'm able to be out here is that I'm out of work because of Bush and his policies," he said.

The 53-year-old Hillsboro man was among 4,000 Merrill Lynch workers who lost their jobs this year due to the Wall Street crisis. He was one of about 30 protesters who massed along Route 34 Monday afternoon where Bush's motorcade was expected to pass by later in the day.

"After 17 years, I'm out of work because (Merrill Lynch) lost $40 billion on subprime mortgages," he said. "Bush and McCain orchestrated this disaster and made it fall like a house of cards. Now you, me and everyone else is paying for it out of our own pockets."

The president was to visit the Colts Neck home of Juan and Marta Gutierrez, both of whom fled Cuba in the 1960s. Juan Gutierrez runs two businesses - Northeast Remsco Construction Inc., and Caldwell Marine International - both based in Farmingdale.

The event, which is closed to the media, will benefit state Sen. Leonard Lance, who's seeking the 7th District seat (in Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset and Union counties), and Chris Myers, who hopes to win the 3rd district seat (in Burlington, Ocean and Camden counties).

Between 200 to 300 people are expected to attend the $1,000 to $5,000 per ticket event.

GOP officials have been low-key about the visit in a state where the president remains deeply unpopular. And Democrats are already ramping up criticism of the visit, seeking to link the two Republicans to Bush in the hope of damaging their chances in the November election.

Myers is running against Democratic state Sen. John Adler for the seat being vacated by Republican Jim Saxton in the 3rd District. Lance faces Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender from Middlesex County for the 7th District seat being vacated by Republican Mike Ferguson.

Myers' campaign played down any connection to Bush.

Campaign manager Chris Russell said Myers "is job-creating businessman, a decorated combat veteran and a tax-cutting local mayor who will bring real change to Washington. He'll be an independent voice that can't be bought or bossed by anyone - let alone a President who will be out of office by the time Chris is sworn into Congress next January."

The president had some support in the crowd that gathered along the highway before his visit. Ben McCormack, a 70-year-old retired business owner from Point Pleasant, drove to the neighborhood in hopes of seeing the president, who he supports.

"I like what he stands for," McCormack said. "I don't like people that are for abortion and gay marriage."

Gutierrez was active in professional associations that sought public funding for infrastructure projects. He has given generously to Republicans, but also has helped Democratic Cuban-American politicians from New Jersey including U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Albio Sires.

Monday's fundraiser came about from a conversation Gutierrez had over the summer with Republican fundraiser Lawrence Bathgate in which Gutierrez said he would be willing to host a fundraiser on his 50-acre estate in the heart of Monmouth County horse country.


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