By Beth Defalco, Associated Press

MANCHESTER, N.J. (WTW) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested Thursday that U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg should retire, saying the 88-year-old statesman should be ashamed of himself for opposing a plan to merge two South Jersey universities.

Earlier this week, Lautenberg, a Democrat, wrote a letter to the U.S. education secretary requesting a federal review of a plan to merge Rutgers-Camden with Rowan University, suggesting it was meant as nothing more than a power grab by South Jersey political power broker George Norcross in order boost the credit rating of Rowan, which has reached a borrowing limit in its commitment to build the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

Norcross, an insurance magnate, chairs the board at Cooper Hospital.

The Republican governor is pushing a plan that would merge Rowan University and Rutgers University’s Camden campus into one school to make it New Jersey’s second most comprehensive public research university. Christie wants to see a merger happen quickly as a major piece of a broader reorganization of the state’s university system that was first contemplated to boost the state’s medical education opportunities.

Lautenberg said the plan was “crafted to benefit powerful political interests without regard for the impact on students.”

South Jersey Democrats, led by state Senate President Steve Sweeney, signed a letter that labels Lautenberg’s remarks as “bizarre and misguided,” “uninformed and vengeful” and “utterly false.” The comments appeared to take aim at Norcross, who supports the merger.


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