One of the top Republicans running for governor of Illinois said he’d be happy to campaign with embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and even plans to attend his speech in Chicago next week.
Bill Brady, one of four candidates vying for a shot to unseat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, called Christie a friend and heaped praise on him for how he’s handled the firestorm regarding last fall’s lane closures on the George Washington Bridge ordered by members of his administration.
“He’s hit the issue head on. He’s addressed the people who acted improperly, let them go, he didn't tolerate it regardless of his history with them and I think, as best as I know, he’s been true to the voters,” said Brady, a state senator who was the party’s 2010 nominee for governor. Quinn squeezed by Brady by a little more than 31,000 votes, less than a full percentage point.
During recent political trips to Florida and Texas on behalf of the Republican Governors Association, Christie has eschewed public appearances with his party’s candidates. While Florida Gov. Rick Scott attended a private event with Christie, Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott wasn't even in the same city as the RGA chairman when he arrived in Dallas Thursday.
Christie’s next political jaunt comes Tuesday when he lands in Illinois for a private RGA fundraising dinner and a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago.
Brady said his schedule won’t allow him to get to the dinner, but he planned on attending the luncheon to “see him and say hello.”
Asked whether he thought Christie’s political problems could complicate his own candidacy, Brady replied, “I have no reason to think so.”
Brady is competing with wealthy investor Bruce Rauner, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and state Sen. Kirk Dillard in the March 18 GOP primary.
The RGA is formally neutral in the primary, but having been the 2010 nominee Brady has a personal history with Christie, which may explain his loyalty.
“I was fortunate to have Christie campaign with me in the last election and absolutely, I would [campaign with him],” he said. “He’s a dynamic individual. I consider him friend.”
An RGA spokesman declined to disclose how much the dinner would raise for the committee but noted Christie would conduct several one-on-one meetings with past and potential new donors.Brady framed the primary contest as a “two-man race” between himself and Rauner, who has tapped his personal largess to establish name recognition in what’s expected to be a low-turnout primary affair.
He drew parallels between himself and GOP luminaries Bobby Jindal and Jeb Bush, each who lost their first race for governor before rebounding on a second try.
“It’s going to take someone who’s been tried and tested and came as close as I did last time. I’m the only one who’s got that footing,” he argued.An aide to Rauner said he wasn't aware of Christie’s schedule and the campaign had not finalized its own schedule yet.