PORTLAND – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined Maine Gov. Paul LePage Wednesday for a campaign stop at Becky’s Diner in Portland.
Christie, who heads up the Republican Governors Association, traveled up to Maine as part of a fundraising effort for both the Maine Republican Party and LePage. The RGA has named Maine’s 2014 gubernatorial contest as a top five race in the country, and Christie vowed today that the group would be willing to spend considerable time and money to help reelect LePage.
“Paul’s not only a colleague of mine, but he’s become a really good friend of mine,” Christie told reporters after briefly shaking hands inside the diner.
Critics of the two out-spoken governors have often compared LePage and Christie and it’s a comparison neither deny. But while adversaries, such as the Maine Democrats, chalk the similarity up to both men being “bullies,” the governors themselves say they share in common a willingness to speak plainly and truthfully with constituents.
“The one thing they can’t say about LePage and I is that we sound like everybody else. We don’t. Because we tell the truth, we say what we think, we’re very direct. The only people who don’t like that are the people who don’t agree with our opinions. That’s ok. People are allowed not to agree. But they’re not going to silence me and they’re certainly not going to silence Governor LePage,” said Christie.
Christie declined to say anything specific about LePage’s opponents – Democrat U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler. But he speak confidently about how LePage’s record will stack up against the opposition.
“He has a record as governor which distinguishes him in a very positive way from either of his opponents,” he said. “And the fact is, the campaign will show that over the course of time and you’re seeing that already… As far as his opponents are concerned, they’re going to have to talk about how they would run Maine better. And I don’t think they’re going to be able to convince the people that they could run it better than LePage has.”
Asked how much money the RGA is willing to spend on LePage’s reelection effort, Christie didn’t name a figure but hinted that it would be at least as large, if not larger, than the $1.8 million it spent in 2010.
“I will tell you that I am committed to spending what we need to spend here in order to give the people a full view of Governor LePage’s record and the record of his opponents,” he said. “When I say this is a top five race in the country, remember: we have 36 governors races across the country this year. A top five race is a place where you’re going to spend time and financial resources. I’m up here this early to let the people of Maine know how committed the governors across the country are to supporting Governor LePage.”
“The one thing you folks really need to understand when it comes to people like Chris Christie and myself, what we tell you is what we believe. It’s not what you want to hear,” said LePage.
LePage hit quickly on some political issues from the recently adjourned 126th Legislature, including Medicaid expansion and funding for nursing homes. He defended his decision to veto Medicaid expansion several times and expressed concern about the financial security of some of Maine’s nursing homes.
Unlike LePage, Christie did support Medicaid expansion in New Jersey. But he said today he supported LePage’s decision not to do so in Maine because each state faces different circumstances. The RGA’s position, he said, was that each governor needs to do what’s best for their state. Rather than a sign of disagreement and weakness, Christie said the two governors’ different approaches to Medicaid expansion shows that today’s Republican Party is diverse and welcoming of different opinions.
“This is the strength of our party,” said Christie.
“That’s the kind of party we are,” he said.
Editor, The Maine Wire