Presidential hopeful Chris Christie comes to Nevada

Austin Harrington and Marlys Barker
Presidential hopeful Chris Christie comes to Nevada

Gatherings in Nevada was the place for Story County Republicans to be last Friday night, as they gathered for the annual Wendy Jensen Memorial Chili Supper and had the chance to hear from Republican presidential candidate, New Jersey governor, Chris Christie.

Once seen as a possible front-runner for the GOP nomination in the 2016 presidential election, Gov. Christie has had a tough time on the campaign trail as he was moved to the lower tier for the fourth Republican debate last week due to a steady decline in his poll numbers.

When he spoke in Nevada Nov. 13, however, Christie made it clear that he had no intention of leaving the race.

“If my poll numbers stay where they’re at, I won’t win. But don’t worry about it; they’re not going to stay where they are,” Christie said. “I’m in this race through the caucuses and the primary in New Hampshire, I’m going to do well in both and then you’re going to see me be president of the United States.”

The event, hosted by the Story County Republican Party, was attended by about 70 people and gave county residents a chance to hear Christie’s ideas on issues facing the nation.

Recently, Christie has gained some attention after a video of him went viral. In the video, Christie explains that because of his personal encounters with loved ones who have struggled with addiction, he believes that people facing similar issues should be placed in treatment facilities instead of going to prison. During Friday’s discussion, the issue was raised again.

“I just think it’s something that most Americans are concerned about and they’re waiting for their leaders to talk about,” Christie said. “I just think it’s a problem all across this country; it affects every family and they just want to hear their leaders talk about it.”

Christie also went on to discuss Friday’s siege in France that was occurring as he spoke to the crowd. There was a moment of silence taken at the beginning of the night’s events to remember the people of Paris. Christie said that because of his experience as an attorney following the 9/11 attacks, he believes he has the necessary experience to stop similar attacks from happening again.

“See, I’m a prosecutor and I know what we need to do to keep this country safe. Here’s what we need to do; we need to get all the information we can, as quickly as we can and we need to get that information before they act,” Christie said.

He also talked about how he believes that teachers should only receive merit-based pay raises and his plans to change the nation’s tax policy.

“You can’t breathe without the government wanting half your breath that you took in. If I’m president of the United States, we are going to simplify the tax code, we’re going to get rid of all these special interest loopholes and deductions. You get to deduct your home mortgage interest and your charitable contributions and that’s it,” Christie said.

Story County GOP Chairman Brett Barker said he was thrilled with the turnout and was proud to be able to showcase Nevada with such a high profile event. “I could not have asked for a better night. Everything went smoothly, and Gatherings did an excellent job, as usual,” Barker said of the new restaurant/catering hall on Nevada’s main street. “I heard nothing but positive feedback and Gov. Christie and his staff were very happy with the event.”

Barker found Christie to be “very engaging. His remarks about Sept. 11, terrorism and today’s attack in France were very powerful,” Barker said.

Barker, who was recently elected to the at-large city council position in Nevada, has inspired a few local friends to get into politics. Niki and Rob Martin of Nevada were at Gatherings Friday night, and Niki admitted, “this is probably the most involved I’ve ever been (in politics).” She and her husband were waiting in line to try to get a moment with Christie.

John Anderson, of Nevada, who is chairman of the Story County campaign for Republican Candidate Jeb Bush, came to Gatherings with his wife Michelle to listen to Christie. “It’s not often you get a national candidate to come right to your hometown,” Anderson said, and he wanted to hear Christie “speak outside of a controlled debate environment.” If Christie was to get the Republican nomination, Anderson said, “I can say I was here.”

Dee Monson of Nevada has been a Christie fan for a long time. “When he’s made up his mind, he sticks with it. Nobody runs over him,” said Monson, who had come to the event with her husband. Matt Brooke was sitting next to the Monsons with his wife. “We came to listen to Christie because we think he’s bold, audacious and his record shows that he’s a man of action. We think he should get more ‘umph’ in the polls,” Brooke said.

Rebecca Cordray, a member of the Story County Republicans Central Committee, said she thinks all the Republican candidates are good. As for Christie, “I think after the last debate, he really came out. I wanted to see him in person.” Her neighbor, Ruth Book, said she likes the whole range of Republican candidates and wishes “we didn’t have to settle on one. I wish they could all just work together.”

During the event, longtime Story County Recorder Sue Vande Kamp, of Nevada, was presented with a 2015 Service Appreciation Award in recognition of 36 years of service to Story County.

The chili supper in Nevada Friday represented the end of a three-day run of events in Iowa for Christie. During the trip, Christie held town hall meetings in Bettendorf, Coralville and Cedar Rapids, while also taking time to speak to voters in Muscatine and Anamosa.