BANGOR, Maine (AP) - Just more than three months since his last visit, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie returned to Maine on Tuesday to help raise money for Gov. Paul LePage and predicted that the Republican Governors Association would spend millions of dollars in the state this fall to help LePage win a second term.
Christie, who leads the RGA, called LePage a “personal friend,” applauded his leadership in aiding Maine’s economy and pledged financial help from his organization.
“We are going to spend what we think we need to spend in order to win,” he said during a campaign stop at a Bangor aircraft repair company, C&L Aviation Group, before heading to fundraisers for LePage and the Maine Republican Party in Dedham.
Christie’s visit came as the RGA released its first television advertisement for LePage, touting his first-term record, including delivering the biggest tax cut in state history and paying more than $400 million owed to Maine hospitals.
During his first trip to Maine in May, Christie called the three-person race between LePage, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and independent Eliot Cutler one of top five races in the country this year for the RGA, which spent about $1.8 million in Maine in 2010. The Democratic Governors Association spent about $490,000.
The RGA spent about $500,000 this year, through the latest reporting period last month. The Democratic governor’s group has pumped about $150,000 in the state and thousands into a PAC that’s planning a $2 million television advertising campaign for Michaud this fall.
DGA spokesman Danny Kanner said defeating LePage remains a top priority for the organization.
“Ensuring that the embarrassment and economic failure of the LePage administration finally comes to an end is something that we are committed to making a reality,” he said.
Maine Democrats seized on Christie’s visit to slam what they called the two governors’ “failed economic records.” They pointed to LePage’s decisions they say have hurt Maine, such as delaying voter-approved bonds and political maneuvering that caused a Norwegian company to scrap a planned $120 million offshore wind project.
But Christie, who said he expects to be back in Maine at least one more time before the November election, dismissed Michaud’s “Washington approach” to governing and heralded LePage’s leadership for policies that have helped Maine businesses, like C&L, grow.
LePage pushed to extend a sales-and-use tax exemption for aircraft parts, helping the company add dozens of employees and undergo a $5 million expansion over the last several years.
While Democrats have sought to frame the two tough-talking governors as “bullies,” Christie and the RGA promoted LePage’s unpolished, straight-forward approach as a positive.
The RGA’s television ad features Mainers applauding LePage for being “one of a kind” and a “real person” - instead of a smooth talking politician.
“Problems are complicated; people don’t need to be,” Christie said. “And the fact is, what you see is what you get with Paul.”
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