N.J. Gov. Chris Christie stumps for Pat McCrory in Salisbury
SALISBURY - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie touted Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory as the right choice to lead the state of North Carolina during a rally at Catawba College on Thursday.
"I'm thrilled to be here because there is no more important governor's race in America than the governor's race in North Carolina," he said. "All it needs is the kind of governor who understands that government is not the solution and that getting the wet blanket of over taxation, over spending and over borrowing off the private sector will free up the great citizens of this state, create jobs and help put people back to work."
Christie told a crowd gathered in the lobby at the college's Abernethy Physical Education Center that if elected McCrory's Democratic opponent Walter Dalton, the state's current lieutenant governor, would raise taxes. "You can take that to the bank," he said. "You do not balance budgets by raising taxes, you balance budgets by cutting spending and making government smaller."
During his tenure as governor, Christie said he's gotten New Jersey on track by regaining fiscal control and lowering taxes.
"We made government smaller and smarter," he said.
Christie said when he took office in 2010 the state was in desperate shape and he let residents know turning things around wouldn't be easy or painless.
"All you need is a leader who is willing to tell you the truth and willing to make the hard decisions that need to be made to take you back in the correct direction," he said.
Catawba junior Kimberly Weemhoff said she appreciates that McCrory is following Christie's lead by refusing to sugarcoat things.
"We need to know the truth in order for things to change," she said.
But Gerrick Brenner said McCrory hasn't been completely transparent with North Carolinians.
The executive director of Progress North Carolina Action, a Raleigh-based nonprofit group that advocates for progressive values and holding candidates and lawmakers accountable, stood outside the rally Thursday with the group's owl mascot pressing the issue, "Hoo Pays Pat."
"We're basically trying to explain to people that Pat McCrory is running for governor and claiming to bring sunshine and transparency to state government, but he refuses to say much about his own private business dealings," he said.
Brenner said McCrory has not released tax returns, provided a list of clients he serves at the law firm Moore & Van Allen or explained the work he did at previous private sector jobs like Duke Energy.
"These are not wild requests," Brenner said. "One of the important reasons for being here today is (McCrory) is campaigning with Chris Christie, who has been unambiguously clear that he feels it's important to release tax returns."
Brenner said until the public knows everything about McCrory's work history, there's no sure way to know there are no conflicts of interest.
"Mr. McCrory is obstinate on this and there's really no clear explanation why," he said. "He wants to claim that it's an invasion of privacy or an attack on the private sector, but he's running for governor and people want to know."
Catawba County resident Hope Hout said she supports McCrory because she considers him an honest man.
"He says it like it is, and that's what we need here," she said.
Trisha Gabriel, another Catawba County resident, said McCrory has a proven track record from his 14-year run as Charlotte mayor.
"He doesn't talk the talk, he walks the walk," she said. "You can see that by his achievements."
Christie said McCrory's history proves he's up to the job of governor.
"You have a body of work for somebody who committed 14 years of their life to helping build a strong economic base in what is now one of America's strongest cities."
McCrory donned a navy Catawba College T-shirt as he spoke at his alma mater Thursday.
"What a great day to be in Salisbury, my second home," he said.
The audience burst into laughter as McCrory pointed out an influential person in his life, former Catawba professor Sanford Silverburg.
"He's a flaming liberal," he said. "We've been arguing now for 30 or 40 years. He's coming around because he's at a Pat McCrory for governor rally."
During his time as a political science student, McCrory said Silverburg taught him about government, freedom and the Constitution.
"I never forgot what Sandy Silverburg taught me at Catawba and that is that you also have to care for your community and get involved, so I ran for Charlotte City Council," he said. "Six years later I became mayor at 39 years old. For 14 years I was proud to be mayor and we built an economic powerhouse 45 minutes from here. Now why not do it for the rest for North Carolina."
McCrory said if he's elected he'll fight to grow the private sector.
"It's the private sector that is going to get us out of this recession," he said. "That's the difference between me and my opponent, he believes we need to grow the government, I believe we need to grow the private sector and that starts right here in Salisbury."
Before the rally at Catawba on Thursday, McCrory and Christie had lunch at Rick's Barbeque and Grill, where Christie got his first taste of Cheerwine.
"The good news is I love it," Christie said. "That means when McCrory becomes governor, exports from North Carolina to New Jersey are going up significantly."
Catawba President Brien Lewis said the college was happy to have McCrory back to campus.
"We are so proud to welcome home a favorite son, an alum of Catawba," he said.
Lewis said McCrory is a great example of the college's mission of preparing students to reach their highest potential.
Catawba senior Christian Crifasi said he'd been looking forward to the rally.
"I really think (McCrory) has the vision that North Carolina needs right now to get us back on track," he said. "I feel like Pat McCrory is going to do a lot of good for the state by limiting government spending and creating more private sector jobs."
Catawba student Justin Smith said he was excited to see McCrory because he grew up in the same Guilford County neighborhood that he did.
"He's kind of like a hometown hero," he said. "His work in Charlotte has been phenomenal, so I'm really excited to see what he's going to do for the rest of the state if he's elected governor."
Police estimate between 250 and 300 people attended the event. Earlier this week, Catawba spokeswoman Tonia Black-Gold told the Post that the space where the rally was held could hold about 550.
Re-energizing the crowd
Weemhoff said Christie did a good job getting the crowd riled up for the final days leading up to the election.
"He's a spitfire kind of guy and I like that quality," she said.
Crifasi said he hopes the fire Christie brought will spread.
"I hope Pat McCrory can bring that to North Carolina and keep the Republican platform going," he said. "(Christie) is a very good representative of the GOP and the direction the party needs to go in the future."
Christie wrapped up Thursday's rally by challenging the audience to get involved by making phone calls, knocking on doors or collecting donations. "Nov. 6 is a big day, and so far things are going well for Pat, but we know the president is going to spend a fortune on this state trying to win," he said. "We cannot take one minute for granted on Pat's behalf.
"You don't want to wake up on Nov. 7 and say 'I could have done more.' "
Christie said North Carolina residents won't want him to visit the state after November if McCrory loses. "Let me tell you something, if you mess this thing up and you have McCrory come up short I will be back and you might say I'll be cross. Up in Jersey we say I'll be back and I'll be pissed."
Christie said he'd rather come back in 2013 to see McCrory sworn in as the next governor.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.