- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday winning the Maine governor’s race is critical for the Republican party, which will continue campaigning on behalf of Gov. Paul LePage through Election Day.

Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, attended a fundraiser at Ironhorse Court in Lewiston before LePage showed him around the “Little Canada” neighborhood where he grew up in Maine’s second-largest city.

Christie touted LePage’s efforts to grow private sector jobs in Maine, which he said is a key example of the Republicans making inroads in a blue state. Recent polls show LePage and Democrat Mike Michaud in a tight race, with independent Eliot Cutler trailing.

“Paul has set a great stage here, not just in Maine but in all of New England, of what can be done with common sense conservative Republican leadership,” Christie told the assembled media.

At one point during the tour, LePage jokingly noted the spot where he was punished as a youth for a playground fight. LePage told the New Jersey governor a Catholic school official left him hanging from a fence by his belt loop as punishment for pushing a boy.

The tour began outside LePage’s childhood church - now the Franco-American Heritage Center - and looped past the neighborhood where he lived as a boy. He pointed out social clubs that were Lewiston’s political nerve centers, and told Christie about growing up in a French-speaking a home where his father spoke no English and his mother spoke very little.

The neighborhood is an emotional place for LePage, who grew up in an abusive home and took to living on Lewiston’s street and wherever he could find shelter at age 11.

Reporters pressed Christie and LePage about their different stances on Medicaid, which expanded in New Jersey under Christie. LePage vetoed a bill to expand Medicaid in Maine. Christie called LePage’s veto the “right decision for Maine.”

LePage reaffirmed his stance that he seeks to “grow people’s work skills so they can afford to buy their own insurance.”

It was Christie’s third visit to Maine to aid LePage’s re-election effort. When a reporter asked Christie if he faced criticism from constituents for spending time in Maine, the New Jersey governor responded that “we don’t send messages via Pony Express,” and he was still available to attend to state business via phone and email.

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