Christie hits the campaign trail — at private events — for New Jersey candidates

 Politico

10/14/2021 

 

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is hitting the campaign trail in his home state, but at private events.

Christie, a Republican, has a fundraiser scheduled for later this month with Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick, who’s running for state Senate. On Wednesday night, he headlined a fundraiser in Parsippany for the state Senate Republicans’ fundraising arm, and he’s recently been featured at fundraisers for state Sen. Michael Testa (R-Cumberland), state Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-Morris) and Republican Senate candidate Vince Polistina, according to Christie's confidant, Bill Palatucci.

The former governor has not made any fundraising appearances for Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli, with whom he’s had an icy relationship for years. As a member of the General Assembly, Ciattarelli was one of the few Republican elected officials in New Jersey willing to openly criticize Christie and voted several times to overturn his vetoes.

The fundraisers come as Christie continues to tease a potential run for president in 2024 and criticizes former President Donald Trump, whom he supported in 2016 and 2020. Palatucci said the former governor is in Minnesota on Thursday for a fundraiser for Rep. Tom Emmer and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“He’ll entertain any invitation that he gets,” Palatucci said in an interview.

The fundraiser for Bramnick is scheduled for Oct. 27 in Bramnick’s hometown of Westfield. Bramnick, a moderate, was one of Christie’s most important legislative allies during Christie’s two terms as governor and held the line after the state Senate voted to override Christie‘s veto of a gun control bill, preventing a legislative rebuke to the governor.

“I’ve proved my independence, but as far as I’m concerned he’s a pretty good fundraiser, and I’m in a race that I feel as if it’s important to get my message out,” Bramnick said.

Bramnick is running for the seat currently held by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr., who’s not seeking reelection to instead run for Congress in 2022 against Rep. Tom Malinowski. State Democratic leadership has not targeted the race in the 21st Legislative District, even though Democrats ran well-funded and competitive — though ultimately unsuccessful — campaigns for Assembly there in 2019.

Bramnick’s Democratic opponent, Roselle Park Mayor Joe Signorello, said the fundraiser with Christie shows Bramnick knows the race is closer than many think.

“Jon Bramnick was [Christie’s] biggest supporter, and I would argue that many of the issues we face as a state today are remnants of the disaster of the Christie administration,” Signorello said in an interview. “It’s no surprise when he looks at the polls and sees how popular [Gov.] Phil Murphy is, he’s probably doing whatever he can to raise the funds to send out as many mailers as he thinks he can so people think he’s not a Republican.”

Christie, now an analyst for ABC News, left office as New Jersey’s most unpopular governor since the advent of public opinion polling, his once-stellar popularity brought down by the Bridgegate scandal and his 2016 run for president, which took him out of the state for long stretches.

Murphy, who’s looking to become the first Democratic governor in New Jersey elected to a second term since 1977, continues to attempt to capitalize on Christie’s unpopularity, bringing him up on the campaign trail nearly as much as Trump and saying Christie left him a “mess” to clean up.

Fundraisers are generally only open to attendees who pay, and usually the press is not permitted.

Christie had some words of his own for Murphy at the Parsippany fundraiser, said state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Morris), who co-hosted the event with Sens. Steve Oroho (R-Sussex) and Robert Singer (R-Ocean) — all of whom are vying to replace Kean as minority leader.

According to Pennachcio, Christie called Murphy “the merchant of death” over his coronavirus policies. New Jersey, which was hit hard early in the pandemic, has the second highest per capita coronavirus death rate in the country, after Mississippi.

While Christie has not held a fundraiser for Ciattarelli, he and former First Lady Mary Pat Christie each gave Ciattarelli’s campaign $2,600 — not the maximum $4,900 they each could have given.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-10-15 05:31:14 -0700