Christie visit leads to pot talk

Controversial N.J. governor talks marijuana, stumps for Beauprez


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made no apologies for having previously called Colorado's "quality of life" into question for its voter-approved marijuana legalization, during a July 23 visit here.

Not that anyone would have expected a "sorry, Coloradans" from the larger-than-life Republican and potential 2016 White House contender, who isn't one to mince words.

"I'm not one of those guys who is going to change my opinion just because I'm standing in Colorado and go, 'Well, what I really meant was ...'" Christie told reporters inside Sam's No. 3 Diner in downtown Denver. "No, I meant what I said."

Christie was in Colorado to raise money for the Republican Governors Association and stopped by the diner to stump for fellow Republican Bob Beauprez, the former congressman who is seeking to unseat Gov. John Hickenlooper this fall.

Christie was joined by Beauprez at the diner, and he praised the former congressman for having "the right vision for the future of Colorado."

But much of Christie's availability with the press was spent responding to comments he made about Colorado's pot laws earlier this year.

During a New Jersey radio show in April, Christie blasted the state for allowing recreational pot use and sales.

"See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado, where there's head shops popping up on every corner and people flying into your airport just to come and get high," Christie said in April. "To me, it's just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey and there's no tax revenue that's worth it."

Christie reiterated his position during his Denver visit, saying that legalizing pot "is the wrong thing to do from a societal perspective (and) from a governmental perspective."

"... I think that diminishes the quality of life in a state that legalizes an illegal drug, a drug that is still determined to be illegal by the federal government and most other states," he said.

When he wasn't answering questions about pot, Christie was heaping praise on Beauprez, who is making his second run in eight years for the governor's mansion.

Christie said he was encouraged by recent polls that show a neck-and-neck race between Beauprez and Hickenlooper. He also said he wouldn't be visiting Colorado in his capacity as chairman of the Republican Governors Association if he didn't think Beauprez had a shot at winning.

"Listen, there's nobody who is awake and alive here in Colorado who doesn't believe that this is a winnable race," Christie said. "The only people who don't believe (that) are just absolute, flat-out partisans."

Christie was asked about demographic problems that continue to afflict the Republican Party at the national level. Those problems include consistent failures at winning over women and minority voters, making it increasingly difficult for the GOP to win in blue or purple states.

Christie reminded reporters that he is the governor of a Democratic stronghold and said that Republicans need to "campaign in places where we're uncomfortable," in order to win over a more diverse group of voters.

"The fact is, Bob's not going to win this race by going to chamber of commerce lunches every week," Christie said. "He needs to go every once in a while, but that's not where he needs to spend his time. He needs to spend time in places where Republicans typically don't get the vote you're talking about."

Christie said Hickenlooper has made "fundamental errors" and "poor decisions" as Colorado's governor. However, the New Jersey governor refused to cite specific examples of those decisions.

A Hickenlooper campaign spokesman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment, but the Colorado Democratic Party blasted Christie's visit.

"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," said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio, through a statement that was sent in advance of Christie's trip.

"Instead of embracing Christie's style of cronyism and corruption, Beauprez should denounce his visit the way Christie denounced Colorado's way of life."

Palacio was referring to a now-infamous bridge scandal in New Jersey, where one of Christie's staffers and some of his political appointees are alleged to have been politically motivated in conspiring to create traffic gridlock in a New Jersey town.

Beauprez responded to criticism of Christie's visit and the perceived baggage he brings as being "pure and utter nonsense." Beauprez said Christie "took responsibility and took action" as the bridge scandal came to light.

But some outside the restaurant strongly disagree that Christie took the appropriate action during the bridge scandal and would have preferred that the governor stayed in New Jersey.

"To me, that just demonstrates the type of leadership that he would demonstrate as governor of Colorado and that's not what we need," said Amy Runyon-Harms of the left-leaning ProgressNow Colorado, referring to Beauprez's association with Christie.

Runyon-Harms was joined by a handful of others who protested Christie's visit from outside the diner, but the New Jersey governor paid them no mind.

"By the way, I welcome them here ... this is a much lower turnout of protesters than I normally get," Christie said.


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