CHICAGO (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is stopping in Chicago Friday to support Republican Bruce Rauner's campaign for Illinois governor, a race the GOP sees as one of its best chances of picking up a governorship in November.
Christie and Rauner are scheduled to visit a downtown Chicago restaurant Friday afternoon. Christie will then headline an evening fundraiser for Rauner at a Chicago hotel.
Christie is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which sees Gov. Pat Quinn as particularly vulnerable because of Illinois' struggling economy and the Chicago Democrat's support for higher income taxes. The organization has donated $1.5 million to Rauner, who is making his first bid for public office.
Christie has called Rauner, a Winnetka businessman, "a real leader" who is "prepared to do what it takes to bring back Illinois."
But Christie's visit won't be without its detractors. Groups supporting tougher restrictions on guns, gay marriage and other causes say they plan to protest outside his events.
Quinn's campaign and the Democratic Governors Association also ripped Rauner for appearing with Christie, who recently vetoed legislation that would have reduced maximum gun magazine capacities in New Jersey. Christie angered advocates when he called the measure "trivial," saying it wouldn't limit mass shootings.
Quinn has pushed for a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. He has called Rauner "out of touch" for supporting the weapons, which he says don't belong in Illinois.
Rauner is an avid hunter who has said owning an assault-style weapon is a constitutional right that should be respected, noting that some people use the weapons for target practice. In an Associated Press candidate questionnaire, he said he supports "common-sense" gun legislation such as background checks.
"Going beyond that requires a very careful balance between promoting public safety and protecting constitutional rights," he said.
A potential 2016 presidential candidate, Christie has recently heightened his public profile following allegations of a political payback scandal.
He's also appearing at a Chicago fundraiser Friday night for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.