New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rallied support for gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna before a crowd of about 200 Republicans in Bellevue Thursday afternoon.
“He has earned your trust,” said Christie, a GOP firebrand and rumored vice presidential candidate, in town to raise money for McKenna. “He has earned your respect. He has earned your support through his deeds.”
McKenna, the state attorney general, finished second behind former Democratic U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee in the primary on Tuesday.
But Christie said he’s “got a feeling” McKenna will win in November.
He spent most of his 20-minute speech highlighting his tenure in New Jersey, where he took a hard line with a Democrat-controlled Legislature and, he said, eventually achieved better prioritizing and job growth.
“I can’t wait to come back here in 2013 and watch Rob McKenna do it for the state of Washington,” Christie said.
The “unity rally” at the Westin Bellevue was meant to inspire Republicans in the wake of the primary.
McKenna issued his standard stump speech, calling for changes to the state’s education system, streamlining of state government and enacting “tax and regulatory relief.”
Several other Republican candidates were also in attendance, including attorney general candidate Reagan Dunn, U.S. Senate hopeful Michael Baumgartner and John Koster, who is running for Congress in the 1st district.
Before the rally, Democrats held a news conference of their own outside the hotel.
Marko Liias, one of six openly-gay members of the state Legislature, highlighted Christie’s recent veto of a same-sex marriage legislation in New Jersey, as well as his opposition to abortion rights.
“Christie’s record in New Jersey has been nothing short of a disaster for women and gays and lesbians,” said Liias, D-Edmonds, who was joined by King County Executive Dow Constantine. “By standing with such a divisive figure, Rob McKenna is showing his true colors.”
Wilbur, the state party chairman, rejected that criticism.
In an interview, he said he wanted to bring Christie to Washington because he knew the governor would “get everybody fired up.”
“He’s been a reform-minded governor, much as Rob will be,” Wilbur said. “He’s popular, and he’s going to help us raise some money.”
After the rally, Christie and McKenna were scheduled to attend a pair of fundraisers, also in Bellevue.