SALISBURY — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie brought his no-nonsense style to North Carolina on Thursday to rally supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory at McCrory’s alma mater.
Christie’s appearance also was intended to help refill the campaign coffers of the former Charlotte mayor.
Speaking to more than 200 McCrory boosters in the lobby of the Catawba College gymnasium in Salisbury, the rising star within the national GOP said McCrory can restore confidence to North Carolina’s economy and put the state’s fiscal house in order. The New Jersey governor also planned to attend a private McCrory campaign fundraiser Thursday evening at a Charlotte home.
Christie took it hard to McCrory’s rival in the fall campaign, accusing Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton of learning how to run state government at the feet of outgoing Gov. Bev Perdue, who decided not to run again.
“The lieutenant governor only knows one way to govern, and that is watching how Bev Perdue and her people did it over the past four years, and North Carolina doesn’t need four more years of Perdue and Dalton in this state,” Christie told the crowd. “You need four years of Pat McCrory.”
Dalton has distanced himself further from Perdue in the months since the May primary election, in particular moving away from Perdue’s proposal earlier this year to raise the sales tax on education, which he supported during the primary. Dalton and Perdue weren’t elected on a team ticket in 2008 — each was elected separately and rarely worked together on issues.
But Christie’s words reinforced a key McCrory campaign mantra that Dalton is part of the old-guard Democratic rule in Raleigh that has extended a sputtering economy and generated years of corruption.
“It’s time for an outsider to come in and fix our broken government right now, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” McCrory said as a warm-up act to Christie, wearing a Catawba College T-shirt over his dress shirt and tie. He got his teaching degree from Catawba in 1978.
Christie said his administration has helped New Jersey’s economy and government rebound since getting elected in 2009, turning a multi-billion government deficit and more than 100,000 jobs lost in a year into a budget surplus while lowering business taxes and creating private sector jobs. He’s labeled it part of the “Jersey Comeback,” but he didn’t mention that unemployment remains close to 10 percent in his state and revenues didn’t meet projections early in the fiscal year.
Dalton’s campaign pounced on the recent setbacks in New Jersey, especially since McCrory has been talking of a “Carolina Comeback.”
“Like his role model, Chris Christie, Pat McCrory talks about himself a lot with no concrete solutions for creating jobs,” Dalton campaign spokesman Schorr Johnson said in a statement, pointing to Dalton’s detailed job-creation plan released this week. “While Walter Dalton is focusing on his real plan to put people back to work, Pat McCrory is spending his day as a partisan groupie.”
Christie said voters shouldn’t be fooled by Dalton’s recent comments that there would be no sales tax increase in his first budget proposal if he’s elected. Dalton endorsed Perdue’s proposed sales tax increase during the primary election. Now he says that tax endorsement only applied to this fiscal year.
“He will release the sales tax on you. You can take it to the bank because this is what Democrats know how to do,” Christie said.
Christie delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention last month in Tampa, Fla. The day before, Christie talked to the North Carolina GOP delegation in Tampa and told them North Carolina is the “state of consequence” to get Mitt Romney elected in November.
Christie said he’d be back in the state before Election Day to help McCrory wrest the Executive Mansion from Democrats after 20 years. Christie also attended a Greensboro fundraiser for McCrory last fall.
Christie delivered his 20-minute speech with tastes of both New Jersey and the Tar Heel state, saying he got his first taste of Salisbury’s-own Cheerwine soda when McCrory took him out for barbecue before the rally.
Christie said he was in a good mood Thursday but warned supporters they wouldn’t want him to return if McCrory falls short and loses on Nov. 7.
“I’m a happy guy. You don’t hear me angry, swearing,” he said, but “if you mess this thing up and you have McCrory come up just this short, I will be back. I will be back ... maybe down here in North Carolina you might say, ‘I’d be cross.’”