Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey lent a little celebrity verve to the Kansas governor’s race Wednesday, buzzing in to campaign for Republican incumbent Sam Brownback.
The tough-talking New Jersey governor, frequently seen on national television, came to the Kansas City area for a noon fundraiser at the home of a Mission Hills dentist.
On the way, Christie and Brownback stopped for takeout at Oklahoma Joe’s Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, Kan., where they created a stir as they took time to shake hands — and take some selfies — with the early lunch crowd.
Later they met with reporters and joked about Christie’s fearless approach to eating sauce-lathered barbecue.
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“I suggested he might want to bring a second shirt,” Brownback said. “He says in Jersey you just wear it.”
After picking up their $53.92 order of ribs, sausage and brisket, Brownback and Christie — showing no signs of getting messy — stood outside the gas station turned restaurant and grappled with questions about the Kansas governor’s re-election campaign.
Brownback has been trailing Democratic challenger Paul Davis in most polls so far, raising questions about why a Republican governor would have trouble getting re-elected in a deeply red state.
“This has always been a difficult state. I kind of remember (former governor) Kathleen Sebelius being here for quite some time and that’s about as blue as you can get,” Christie said.
“I never expected this to be an easy race,” he added. “Kansas voters are independent thinkers. They’ve elected Democratic governors before, but they’re going to re-elect a Republican governor in November.”
As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie promised to give Brownback the help he needs to win a second term.
The organization is already spending $600,000 on a second round of ads assailing Davis as a clone of President Barack Obama.
Brownback blamed his lagging poll performance on voters not understanding what he’s accomplished for the state.
He argued that his efforts to strengthen the state pension system, add money for schools and create jobs are still lost on voters.
“I don’t think people know the truth,” Brownback said.
Brownback immediately turned the focus on Davis, a Lawrence legislator who, according to polls, is still relatively unknown with the electorate.
“I don’t think they know that Paul Davis is an Obama Democrat who’s got a very liberal track record,” the governor said.
Brownback predicted the campaign will turn in his favor when voters see what he has accomplished when compared with Davis’ record, which includes supporting tax increases for schools.
Meanwhile, Kansas Democratic Party chairwoman Joan Wagnon criticized Christie’s appearance in Kansas.
Wagnon said New Jersey provides a bad example for Kansans because New Jersey’s bond rating has been lowered six times during the Christie administration.
Kansas also has seen its bond rating downgraded, partly because of its failure to reduce state spending to match falling revenues brought about by income tax cuts.
“The fact is, Kansas is going broke under Gov. Sam Brownback, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the last person he should turn to for financial advice,” Wagnon said in a prepared statement.