CONCORD — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s first visit to New Hampshire in two years on Friday – to campaign for candidate for governor Walt Havenstein — prompted a partisan war of words on whether the two Republicans or Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan have done a worse job in leadership positions.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party charged Thursday Christie and Havenstein have similar failed records leading New Jersey and in Havenstein’s case, a large information technology contractor.
The state Republican Party responded that Hassan has been “incompetent” in her management of the state budget.
Christie arrives Friday in his role as chairman of the national Republican Governors Association, which is backing Havenstein in his primary with conservative Andrew Hemingway.
But there is also – unofficially but in reality — a 2016 undertone to Christie’s visit. He has done nothing to dispel the notion that he may well run for President in 2016 and will need a strong vote in New Hampshire if he is to succeed in gaining his party’s nomination. A new Suffolk University-Boston Herald poll out Thursday showed Christie with a slight edge over Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul in a tightly packed potential first-in-the-nation primary field.
Before arriving in New Hampshire, Christie will be in Washington courting a huge Christian conservative audience as a headline speaker at the annual “Road to Majority” conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, chaired by Ralph Reed. He will then arrive in New Hampshire as the chair of the establishment RGA.
Christie carries the baggage of the “Bridgegate” controversy, although he has not been personally implicated. But he will also be the harbinger of financial resources for Havenstein as the retired CEO tries to secure the GOP gubernatorial nomination and then take on the popular Hassan in the general election.
There are only three stops on the Christie-Havenstein schedule, and only one is open to the media – a stop at T-Bones Restaurant in Bedford at 5 p.m. They will also attend a private meeting with New Hampshire RGA donors in Manchester, where Christie is expected to urge strong support. In the evening, they will attend a Havenstein fundraiser hosted by Steve and Gail Lewis in Atkinson.
Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said it is “quite fitting” that Havenstein is receiving Christie’s endorsement, “as their records of failed leadership, disastrous economic strategies and lack of job creation are actually pretty similar.”
He charged that both have failed at job creation, citing a New Hampshire Public Radio Report that New Jersey is tied for 48th in private-sector job creation since 2010.
Under Havenstein’s leadership Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), lost more than 5,000 jobs, Buckley said, citing Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
He said both have had “failed economic strategies,” and both have ties to or the support of the Koch brothers, co-founders of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. And, he said, both have been involved in federal investigations, Christie for the “Bridgegate” George Washington Bridge traffic jam scandal and Havenstein’s firm, SAIC, in relation to the New York CityTime scandal. Havenstein joined the firm after the scandal was unearthed.
“It was already clear that Havenstein would be wrong for our state, but touting the endorsement of a Governor whose record of failed leadership and mismanagement is as bad as his own only reinforces that Havenstein would take our state in the wrong direction,” Buckley said.
State GOP Chair Jennifer Horn responded, “Democrats need look no further for failure in office than the tenure of Governor Maggie Hassan. Her incompetent mismanagement of the state budget has driven New Hampshire into a financial crisis. Her record of raising our taxes, relying on $80 million in fabricated revenues and failing to abide by her own policies like taking paid vacations on the taxpayers’ dime despite her own travel freeze, will motivate voters to replace her with a responsible Republican this fall.”
And the Havenstein campaign responded with a March 1, 2012 quote from Thomas Young, chairman of SAIC, when Havenstein retired:
“Walt has taken SAIC to new levels during his tenure. Thanks to his leadership, today we’re an $11 billion company, with strong positions in our markets and I am optimistic about our future. The Board and I are very grateful to Walt for his acumen, vision and stellar management.”