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Whitman campaigns with N.J. governor, faces another heckler

September 22, 2010 |  7:36 pm

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday that his victory in a blue state and his success working with a Democratic legislature offer a blueprint for Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman.

“I’m here because I want Californians who in their heart want to vote for Meg Whitman but who are convinced at times by the brow beating of the media that California is a blue state and can’t elect a Republican in this time. I want them to see with their own two eyes that it can happen and that when it does happen, leadership makes a difference,” Christie said. “She is the best thing that can happen to the state of California, and I am ready to work with her and other Republican governors starting next January to stop the craziness going on in our country and bring our country back.”

Christie, who is in demand on the campaign trail among GOP candidates across the nation, visited Los Angeles to stump with and raise money for Whitman. The pair had a rally at the Renaissance Hollywood, where, for the third time in eight days, a critical voice emerged in Whitman’s usually intensely friendly audience.

“Why are you hiding from us?” said Ed Buck. “You’re looking like Arnold in a dress.”

Christie stood up and shot back, “You want to yell? Yell at me. It’s people raising their voices, yelling and screaming like you, who are dividing this country. We’re here to get this country back.”

Earlier, he had been saying that if Whitman is elected, she will have a mandate to provoke change in the governance of the state, which he has done in New Jersey.

He spoke of taking on unions over pension reform, and of working with the state Legislature to close an $11-billion hole in a $29-billion budget and capping property tax increases at 2%. He spoke at times of forcing reforms through, such as by allowing the state government to shut down if the Legislature wouldn’t pass a budget that did not raise taxes, and also of being conciliatory.

“My Legislature in New Jersey, now even though it’s controlled by Democrats, we now have eight months of accomplishments people thought weren’t possible,” Christie said. “Democrats and Republicans both want to accomplish things for the people of the state; they just have different views on doing it. If you show strong leadership and a willingness to listen, you can get things done.”

Later, in an interview, Christie acknowledged that his state allows budgets to be passed by a simple majority vote, rather than two-thirds, as California requires. Christie said he was optimistic he could have met the higher threshold, but added with a chuckle, “I’m glad that I only had to have a majority.”

Some of Christie’s actions also seem to contradict Whitman’s approach. For example, after he sent the Legislature a budget proposal, he noted that he would not be sleeping in a cot in the governor’s office, negotiating with the Legislature to avoid shutting down government like his Democratic predecessor. Rather, he said he would be heading “to the governor’s mansion, ordering pizza, opening a beer, watching the Mets” and be available to sign a spending plan that was balanced and featured no tax increases.

Whitman, in contrast, has chided Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature for leaving town while failing to pass a budget, and has spoken fondly about working furiously overnight to fix a website crash at EBay when she was the company’s chief executive.

Christie, whose name has been floated as a potential White House contender, emphatically denied any such plans. He said his planned October visit to Iowa, which has caused some political tongues to wag, is solely driven by a candidate’s request.

“I am not running for president in 2012 or vice president, and I’m not under any circumstance, no little trap door, no ‘don’t intend,’ I’m not doing it,” he said in an interview. “I have absolutely no interest in running for president of the United States.”

-- Seema Mehta in Los Angeles

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