CHICAGO – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stopped in Chicago Friday to campaign for Republican Bruce Rauner, calling his bid to defeat Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn "among the most important governor's races in the country."
Christie and Rauner grabbed hot dogs and milk shakes at a downtown Portillo's restaurant, where they also shook hands and took photos with customers before an evening fundraiser at a Chicago hotel. Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, also announced the organization is giving an additional $2.5 million to Rauner's campaign.
"That's just another down payment on what we're going to do," he said, adding that he plans to be in Illinois frequently before the Nov. 4 election.
The association already had given $1.5 million to Rauner, a wealthy businessman from Winnetka who's making his first bid for public office.
Republicans see Quinn, who is seeking his second full term, as particularly vulnerable because of Illinois' struggling economy and the Chicago Democrat's support for higher income taxes. Christie said he's fighting for Rauner because he believes he will create jobs and improve education.
Quinn and other Democrats used the joint appearance to highlight the Republicans' positions on gun legislation, noting Rauner opposes a ban on assault-style weapons and Christie recently vetoed legislation that would have reduced maximum gun magazine capacities in New Jersey. Christie angered advocates when he called that measure "trivial," saying it wouldn't limit mass shootings.
Quinn has pushed for a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
"There is no place in Illinois for military-style assault weapons," Quinn said in a statement Thursday. "Bruce Rauner's strong support for military-style assault weapons is not only out-of-touch, but extremely dangerous to our children, our communities and our policemen who put their life on the line every day to keep us safe."
Rauner said Friday he supports "common-sense restrictions around gun ownership," such as criminal and mental health background checks for gun purchases. But he said going further "creates constitutional questions." During the GOP primary, the avid hunter said owning an assault-style weapon is a constitutional right that should be respected. He said some people use the weapons for target practice.
Both Rauner and Christie accused Quinn of trying to distract voters from his own record on crime, which Rauner said has been a failure.
"Gov. Quinn's had four years to address the issue of crime in Illinois, and he's been AWOL on the issue," Christie said.
Christie also said he has signed some "common-sense" gun control measures "where necessary."
"But I don't think what any of us favor are things that don't address the issue of crime," he said.
A potential 2016 presidential candidate, Christie was hit in January by allegations that members of his administration ordered traffic lanes to be closed on the George Washington Bridge linking New Jersey and New York as political payback. He's heightened his public profile in recent weeks, appearing with candidates nationwide.
Christie also was scheduled to appear Friday night at a Chicago fundraiser for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.