New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the Republican Governors Association is throwing its full weight behind Colorado GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez during a visit to the state this week, but he also stood by comments he made in April disparaging Colorado’s “quality of life” in the wake of marijuana legalization.
“We don’t pay for landslides, and we don’t invest in lost causes,” said Christie, a potential 2016 presidential candidate and head of the RGA, during a press conference on Wednesday at the Sam’s No. 3 restaurant in downtown Denver. “So if I show up some place that means that I believe that the race is winnable.”
Christie said he plans to return to Colorado often to lend whatever help he can to Beauprez, who emerged from a four-way primary a month ago to challenge incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.
Christie’s ringing endorsement of Beauprez came as fresh polls show the Colorado race in a dead heat. A Quinnipiac University poll released last week shows Beauprez ahead but in a statistical tie with Hickenlooper, with the Republican tallying 44 percent support and the Democrat 43 percent. The shares are reversed — with Hickenlooper leading Beauprez 44-43 — though still amounting to a statistical tie within the margin of error, in a survey released this week by Public Policy Polling, Inc. (Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall had the exact same 1-point lead over Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner in the survey.)
“Go to Colorado and see if you want to live there,” Christie said in April on a radio show. The remarks drew swift rebukes from across the political spectrum in Colorado. “See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado, where there are head shops popping up on every corner, and people flying into your airport just to get high. To me, it’s not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey.”
Pressed by reporters on Wednesday, Christie stood by his statements.
“I’m not backing off an inch from what I said. What I said is what I believe,” Christie said. “I think it’s the wrong thing to do. I think legalizing marijuana is the wrong thing to do from a societal perspective, from a governmental perspective.”
“It doesn’t mean that Colorado is not a great place, I’m sure it is,” added Christie. “It would be greater if it didn’t legalize marijuana.”
For his part, Hickenlooper told a New Jersey newspaper earlier this month that the hatchet had been buried.
“Gov. Christie obviously loves New Jersey and is always defending and trying to enhance New Jersey’s image in every way he can,” Hickenlooper said while attending a conference of the National Governors Association, which he chairs. “And I can accept that.”
Christie was in Colorado to attend a Beauprez fundraiser on Wednesday at Lower Downtown’s Capital Grille and appear on a panel with other Republican governors in Aspen. He participated in a discussion at the Aspen Institute with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Beauprez met with several Republican governors this week as part of his intention to forge a coalition of “like-minded,” particularly Rocky Mountain West, governors “to push back against federal encroachment on issues that are properly state concerns.”
“It’s important that we let other governors around the nation know what Colorado is really all about, what we have to offer, and identify where we can work together,” Beauprez said in a statement. That could mean “banding together and presenting a united front against the overreach and incompetency of federal bureaucracy — it also means never subordinating the interests of Colorado to the political wishes of an East Coast billionaire or special interest group,” he added.
Beauprez talked this week with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, all Republicans, in addition to Christie, his campaign said.
While a handful of protesters pressed against the diner’s windows — signs read “Christie Go Home!” and warned the governor against consuming too many cookies — the famously pugnacious Christie laughed them off, saying he’s used to drawing more demonstrators wherever he goes.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican, got in some digs at Christie via his campaign’s Twitter account, which posted, “New Jersey could learn a thing or two from us” and challenged followers to provide reasons why Colorado was “better” than New Jersey.
Beauprez presented Christie with a Colorado-themed gift basket at the event, including a stuffed buffalo, bison jerky, a Broncos water bottle and tins of Colorado Mints. Asked whether the basket might contain any marijuana-infused goodies, Christie joked that he was going to subject the basket’s contents to “inspectors” before crossing state lines back to New Jersey with it.
Though the protesters greeting Christie might have been sparse, Democrats threw out their own welcome mat and got in a dig at the Colorado Republican at the same time.
“By bringing Chris Christie and his scandalous New Jersey politics to our state, it’s pretty clear that Both Ways Bob is still lost on the Colorado way,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio in a statement released along with a video blasting Christie’s association with Beauprez. “Instead of embracing Christie’s style of cronyism and corruption, Beauprez should denounce his visit the way Christie denounced Colorado’s way of life.”
See the July 25, 2014 print edition for full photo coverage.