He’s the head of the Republican Governors Association and a potential 2016 presidential nominee. And controversy seems to follow New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie wherever he goes.
In Connecticut on Monday for a Republican fundraiser at the home of a hedge fund manager, Christie agreed to a campaign stop with Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley. The two met up at the Glory Days Diner in Greenwich before heading to the fundraiser in the Belle Haven section of town, where admission was between $1,000 and $10,000.
At the diner, the two who were followed by throngs of news media from the tri-state area. They made their way around the diner and introduced themselves to Republican voters who filled the diner shortly before the duo’s arrival.
Christie, a nemesis of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy who has been critical of public policy decisions Connecticut’s governor has made — said Foley should have won four years ago.
“I’m looking forward to working with Tom over the next 100 days or so and we’re going to have a win,” Christie said.
Asked about Sen. John McKinney, who is running against Foley in the Republican primary on Aug. 12, Christie said it’s a hard decision to make.
“I got to know Tom four years ago and quite frankly I thought he was going to be elected four years ago,” Christie said. “. . . He earned my support by the way he conducted himself last time and the way he’s conducted himself over the last four years.”
He said it’s never an easy decision to make but the state Republican Party in Connecticut has also endorsed Foley at the convention.
“I felt like it was the right thing to do,” Christie said.
Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola said he hasn’t made any personal endorsements, but the party made a strong endorsement of Foley in May.
“Tom was instrumental in arranging this fundraiser which will benefit the state party,” Labriola said. “We’ve reached out to both candidates and invited them both to try to help us build our resources for the general election. Tom has stepped forward with this event.”
Christie said he knows how tough things have been in Connecticut over the past few years and he feels like Foley is the “right guy to be able to fix those problems.”
The New Jersey governor said he didn’t know how much money the Republican Governors Association would dedicate to the race, “but we don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes.” He said he would dedicate the resources necessary to get Foley’s campaign over the finish line.
Outside the fundraiser at the home of Brian Olson, a co-founder of Viking Global Investors, Christie was expected to be greeted by protesters upset with his decision to veto a bill restricting some high-capacity gun magazines and refusing to meet with parents of the Newtown victims.
Christie said that the statement was not true. He said he met with Newtown families a year ago and didn’t believe it was necessary to meet with them again after he had made a decision.
“I have nothing but sympathy for those folks, but I don’t believe the bill that was passed in New Jersey was an effective way to deal with it,” Christie said.
Foley declined to comment on Christie’s veto of the legislation.
“Gov. Christie is the governor of a different state. He represents different people. So I don’t really want to comment on the decision he has to face in New Jersey,” Foley said.
After a debate last week, Foley faulted Connecticut for its ban on high-capacity magazines and certain types of assault weapons, and for not doing more to improve access to mental health treatment in Connecticut. He suggested some of the gun control policies unfairly inconvenienced state gun owners.
However, Foley would not specify exactly which gun control policies he opposes. After the debate, he was asked by a reporter to detail which of the firearm policies he would have seen removed from the bill. Foley simply answered “No.”
Christie said it would be unusual for a voter to agree with a candidate 100 percent of time.
“If you look for the candidate you agree with 100 percent of the time, go home and look in the mirror. You’re the only person you agree with 100 percent of the time,” Christie said.
He said he and Foley may disagree on some things, but the “litmus test is who best serves the people of the state of Connecticut. There is no question in my mind after watching the last four years of Gov. Malloy, on the merits, Tom is going to be a better governor for the people of Connecticut.”
The Democratic Party pounced on Christie’s visit.
“It takes a lot of chutzpah for Governor Christie to insult the families of Newtown one week, then fundraise in their state the next,” Devon Puglia, Democratic Party spokesman, said. “We know Tom Foley thinks our smart, strict gun law signed by Governor Malloy is ‘inconvenient,’ but does he think Governor Christie’s actions are acceptable?”
Puglia said Foley has refused to be specific about where he stands on gun control.
“While Tom Foley often struggles to provide specifics on complicated policy questions, this is an issue he can be crystal clear on with Connecticut voters,” Puglia said.
Labriola said the protesters have every right to protest the event. At the same time, Christie has to “govern the affairs in his state as he sees fit.”
Labriola said the fundraiser is being held for one purpose: to defeat Malloy in November.
“It is to raise money to defeat Dan Malloy so we can pull Connecticut’s economy out of last place. That’s what this election is about, and what the Democrats want you to forget,” Labriola said Monday.
The money raised will go to the party’s state account to help statewide candidates, including Foley. Even candidates participating in public financing like Foley can now receive money from the Republican Party to help with their campaign thanks to changes made by Malloy and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly in 2013.
Labriola declined to say Monday how much he expected the party to rake in from the event. The amount will be made available afterward.
Christie came to Greenwich in 2010 to campaign for Foley, who lost that year by 6,404 votes.