BANGOR — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, visiting Maine on Tuesday to raise money for state Republicans and Gov. Paul LePage’s re-election campaign, trumpeted LePage’s economic record during a tour of a Bangor aviation business that LePage says has benefited from his tax policies.
Christie’s second visit to the state this election season likely won’t be his last.
He chairs the Republican Governors Association, a tax-exempt political group that supports GOP gubernatorial candidates around the country. The RGA and Christie have pledged to support LePage, and so far have purchased at least $500,000 of ad time in the state. Tuesday’s visit coincided with the premiere of a TV spot promoting LePage’s first-term accomplishments.
According to a Democratic media consultant, the RGA already has reserved spots for more advertisements between Labor Day and Election Day, although the cost of those purchases hasn’t been made public yet by the Federal Election Commission.
“We’re going to spend what we think we need to spend in order to win,” Christie said Tuesday. “Millions of dollars will be spent here by the RGA by the time we’re done. Exactly how many million, we’ll see.”
The Democratic Governors Association has pumped about $150,000 into the state and thousands into a PAC that’s planning a $2 million television advertising campaign this fall for 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, LePage’s chief opponent, The Associated Press reported.
Christie was in Maine to attend two fundraisers, both in the Hancock County town of Dedham. The first was for the Maine Republican Party, while the second was to raise cash for LePage’s campaign. The gathering was hosted by former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and her husband, two-term Maine Gov. John McKernan, at the Lucerne Inn. Tickets ranged from $1,500 per couple for host billing and a private reception, to $100 per person or $200 per couple for a general reception.
Christie was scheduled to leave Maine on Tuesday night for Birmingham, Alabama, and Biloxi, Mississippi, to stump for Republican Govs. Robert Bentley and Phil Bryant, respectively.
During a 10-minute question-and-answer session at the door of an aircraft hangar in Bangor, Christie made remarks similar to statements he made during his first visit to Maine in May. Then and now, Christie offered the RGA’s full support while promoting LePage’s economic record and talking up the former Waterville mayor as an authentic candidate who speaks his mind.
This time, however, Christie also took a jab at Michaud, with whom LePage is locked in a close race.
“All the congressman can do is bring his Washington approach to governing here,” Christie said. “I don’t think people in Maine want a Washington, D.C., approach to governing. Agree or disagree with the things that Gov. LePage does, but he gets things done.”
In a statement, Michaud’s spokeswoman, Lizzy Reinholt, said the congressman has a record of bipartisanship that contrasts sharply with LePage’s style.
“Mike is the only candidate in the race who has a proven record of bringing Democrats, Republicans and independents together to get things done for the people of Maine. Meanwhile, Gov. LePage has vetoed more than 180 bills since taking office – more than any other governor in Maine history. It’s already clear that LePage and the Republicans will say whatever it takes to distract from Gov. LePage’s divisive leadership and failed policies.”
There was no mention of independent candidate Eliot Cutler, who trails far behind in the opinion polls. Crystal Canney, a Cutler spokeswoman, declined to comment on Christie’s visit, saying Cutler was too busy campaigning. Christie’s news conference in Bangor came after a brief tour of C&L Aviation, an aircraft maintenance and parts supplier that moved to Maine 2010 with about 20 employees. Today, it employs more than 120, with plans to add more jobs. The company was a direct beneficiary of an exemption of the 5 percent state sales and use taxes on aircraft parts, a provision championed by LePage and that state legislators extended this past session until 2023.
Led by C&L Chief Executive Officer Chris Kilgour, Christie and LePage toured the $5 million aviation facility, which officially opened in July. Kilgour told both governors that the company is close to moving its painting operations into a nearby hangar, and plans to keep expanding.
“This business has quadrupled in the last four years,” Christie said. “That kind of growth doesn’t happen without leadership at the top from the state, showing the right kind of business atmosphere to have the people of Maine help create jobs.”
In a statement Tuesday night, Michaud’s campaign attempted to claim some credit for C&L Aviation’s expansion, saying Michaud and other members of Congress were responsible for nudging the federal economic development agency to approve a $580,000 grant for the business expansion. LePage, who let his New Jersey counterpart do much of the talking, defended his economic record, highlighting a surplus in the state budget year that ended this summer.
“When’s the last time you saw the year end with $93 million in the bank? That has not happened for at least 20-plus years,” LePage said. “Enough with the rhetoric. Let’s get some action.”