Dems slam Chris Christie for bridge scandal, pot pessimism

New Jersey guv visits Denver to campaign for Bob Beauprez

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, tells reporters and patrons at Sam’s No. 3 restaurant in downtown Denver that he was in Colorado to support Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, center, because it’s a winnable race for the GOP. Enlarge photo

Peter Marcus/Durango Herald

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, right, tells reporters and patrons at Sam’s No. 3 restaurant in downtown Denver that he was in Colorado to support Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, center, because it’s a winnable race for the GOP.

DENVER – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped into a Denver diner Wednesday in an effort to stump for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez.

The controversial, larger-than-life figure who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association was met outside Sam’s No. 3 restaurant in downtown Denver by a small group of progressive protesters who told the governor to “go home.”

But neither Beauprez nor Christie seemed bothered by the protesters. They said Colorado is a winnable state for the GOP this November and suggested that Christie’s presence in the state was an indication of that.

“We don’t pay for landslides, and we don’t invest in lost causes, so if I show up someplace, that means that I believe that the race is winnable,” Christy said to a pack of reporters shortly after shaking the hands of surprised patrons who were enjoying burgers and BLTs during their lunch break.

“I don’t waste my time or waste our money on just making somebody happy,” he continued. “I go to places where I think we can win, and I don’t go to places where I don’t think we can.”

A recent Quinnipiac University poll pegged Beauprez and Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Democrat seeking re-election, virtually tied just four months before the election.

“I’m really glad he is here,” Beauprez said. “This is validation that this thing is winnable, and that’s exactly the way we see it across the whole state.”

Before landing at the Denver diner, Christie attended a private fundraiser for the RGA at a more upscale restaurant just a few blocks away. He then headed to Aspen for other events as part of a national tour for the GOP governors.

Campaigning with Christie generates major headlines, but it also results in several questions. The protesters outside pointed to the George Washington Bridge lane-closure scandal in which Christie’s administration was accused of collaborating to create traffic jams by closing toll lanes.

“We don’t need that type of scandal in Colorado,” said Amy Runyon-Harms, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, one of the protesters who held signs outside the campaign stop.

“We’re consistently one of the least corrupt states, and with Bob Beauprez associating with Chris Christie in this way, to me that just demonstrates the type of leadership that he would demonstrate as governor of Colorado, and that’s not what we need,” she said.

Beauprez shrugged off the criticism, suggesting that when the bridge scandal came to light, Christie took decisive steps to address it. He said Hickenlooper would not have taken such leadership.

Beauprez pointed to the recent controversy surrounding a public-private partnership to manage operation and maintenance along U.S. Highway 36 between Denver and Boulder. The state entered into a 50-year contract with Plenary Roads Denver, but the public raised a firestorm of criticism over fears that parts of the contract were being kept secret because of proprietary concerns.

Lawmakers passed a bill this year that would have required greater transparency in public-private transportation projects. But Hickenlooper vetoed the measure. He signed an executive order, however, that enacted much of the bill’s transparency components.

“If this is corruption, that’s the wrong definition of corruption,” Beauprez said of Christie. “We’d better look at our own state and the transparency we’re not getting from a governor who actually told us transparency creates problems.”

But Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party, said Christie is the epitome of scandal. He also noted Christie’s attack on the state’s “quality of life” for legalizing marijuana.

“By bringing Chris Christie and his scandalous New Jersey politics to our state, it’s pretty clear that Both Ways Bob is still lost on the Colorado way,” Palacio said. “Instead of embracing Christie’s style of cronyism and corruption, Beauprez should denounce his visit the way Christie denounced Colorado’s way of life.”

pmarcus@durangoherald.com

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