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Dave Olson, Published October 06 2012

NJ Gov. Christie rallies ND Republican supporters, rips Heitkamp and her brother

FARGO – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie urged several hundred Republican supporters gathered here Saturday morning to spend two hours a week for the next four weeks working to get their slate of state and federal candidates elected.

The popular figure in Republican Party politics sprinkled in some tough talk while at the Fargo Air Museum to rally supporters of North Dakota’s Republican Party candidates, especially U.S. Senate candidate Rick Berg.

Christie said Berg’s opponent, Heidi Heitkamp, may be a nice person, but the country doesn’t need another Washington politician who thinks President Barack Obama is “amazing.”

He was referencing a comment Heitkamp made in the past regarding Obama.

Christie also made reference to Heitkamp’s brother, Joel Heitkamp, who is host of KFGO-AM radio’s “News and Views” talk show.

Christie told the crowd he’s aware the Democratic talk-show host isn’t very fond of him and says so on the air.

“First of all, Joel, if you’re watching, I don’t give a damn what you think of me,” Christie said to cheers and applause inside the packed museum.

North Dakota Republican officeholders and hopefuls stood behind Christie on stage. Some other politicians spoke at the event, which had people lined up in the chilly air outside the Air Museum before the doors opened at 8:30 a.m.

Organizers estimated the crowd at more than 650 people.

They included Gage Sitte and Libby Harrington, a pair of high school seniors from Lisbon.

Harrington said she was there to support the Republican Party in North Dakota.

“It’s just nice to see everyone who has viewpoints similar to ours,” she said.

Sitte described himself as a Democrat but said he holds some conservative views.

“I believe the Republicans in our state are doing fairly well,” Sitte said.

So, will the two be getting class credit for attending the rally?

“Sadly, no,” Sitte said.

During his time on stage Saturday, Berg said Obama’s policies have shackled the nation’s economic recovery, and he urged Washington to follow North Dakota’s lead.

“In North Dakota, we don’t burden small businesses with red tape,” Berg said, calling the state “the economic envy of the rest of the country.”

The Heitkamp campaign shot back at Berg later Saturday.

“Rep. Berg is looking to change the direction of his campaign and recruited a governor who came into North Dakota and attacked the Heitkamp family because he can’t defend Rep. Berg’s record of voting the party line to cut $180 billion from farm programs and allowing the farm bill to expire,” said Tessa Gould, campaign manager for Heidi Heitkamp.

Christie told the crowd at the Air Museum that individuals working for Republican campaigns can have a big impact.

“You can move votes,” he said.

“Don’t be shy,” he added. “Take it from me, it doesn’t pay.”

Christie said he was impressed by how many people recognized him when he arrived in Fargo on Friday and he said he ended up having his photo taken with a lot of people.

“We may be thousands of miles apart geographically, but we are together philosophically. We know where this country has to go,” Christie said.

Christie spent a good share of this talk criticizing Obama, stating that the president’s talk of new jobs, lower debt and lower tuition, “all this stuff he’s promising now, it seems to me it sounds very much like hope and change.

“Some of us bought hope and change four years ago, and what we’ve gotten is high unemployment, huge debt and diminished American prestige at home and around the world,” Christie said.

Following the rally, Republican candidates took part in the North Dakota State University homecoming parade, the staging area for which was located nearby in the parking lot of the Fargodome.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555