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Gov. Christie Plays Nice For GOP Candidate McKenna

Amy Radil

Republicans held a unity rally in Bellevue Thursday to kick off the campaign for the general election. And Attorney General Rob McKenna had a celebrity guest to bolster his campaign for governor: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came to town to raise money for McKenna and to show off some Jersey attitude.


Thursday's rally featured a lineup of Republican hopefuls ready for the race to November. They lamented that 1982 was the last time Republicans controlled the governor's office and both chambers in the state Legislature. Washington Republican party chair Kirby Wilbur expressed his hope that he'll wake up the day after the November election with a headache, smelling of cigar smoke, and see headlines proclaiming a Republican sweep.

Rob McKenna said he's ready to take on his Democratic rival, former congressman Jay Inslee. He ridiculed Inslee's pledge to create a new cabinet–level agency to promote key industries.

McKenna: "I've talked to literally hundreds and hundreds of business owners and leaders. And not one of them has said, 'You know Rob, what I really need to make my business succeed is a new state Agency of Economic Competitiveness!'"

McKenna stressed his support for charter schools and competitive contracting of state services, and his opposition to raising taxes. He has promised to curb state spending while increasing funding for higher education.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took the stage next and said his record so far shows that McKenna's pledge is doable.

Christie: "You can make those tough choices and still, as Rob said, spend a record amount in New Jersey history, $8.8 billion, on K–12 education."

Christie said he's been able to continue to fund public hospitals and other vital services, while successfully working with the legislature to reform state pensions, teacher tenure, and other seemingly intractable issues.

Christie: "But I'm not going to fund wasteful programs anymore; I'm not going to say yes to every special interest group that walks into the office just so they love me because here's my message: I didn't run for this office to be loved."

And finally Christie had a few choice words for the assembled crowd in case they don't tackle McKenna's campaign with gusto.

Christie: "I haven't, you know, 'gone Jersey' on anybody tonight. But I want to tell you something, if I don't see this thing going well, and I mean really well, I'm going to hold the people in this room responsible first. Don't make me come back here!"

Nobody seemed too scared. Christie and McKenna then headed to another Bellevue hotel nearby for a $250–per–ticket fundraiser. He and McKenna planned to do another fundraiser in Vancouver, Washington, before he left the state.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

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