SALISBURY — Saying “there’s no more important governor’s race in the America,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie touted fellow Republican Pat McCrory and bashed his opponent Thursday at a rally.
Christie joined McCrory in front of around 250 people at Catawba College, McCrory’s alma mater. They also were scheduled to attend a private fundraiser Thursday night in Charlotte.
The visit underscores the GOP investment in the North Carolina race. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also are expected to campaign with McCrory in coming weeks.
Polls have consistently shown McCrory leading Democratic Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton. Recent surveys have him ahead from six to 15 points.
Two weeks after keynoting the Republican convention, Christie praised McCrory’s call to fix North Carolina’s economy through tax relief for businesses.
“North Carolina can be once again an economic engine for the entire region,” Christie said.
He also criticized McCrory’s Democratic opponent. Following talking points from the McCrory campaign, he sought to tie Dalton to Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, whose approval sank to 30 percent in one mid-summer poll.
“You don’t want to trade one failed administration for another failed administration,” Christie said. “(Dalton) will raise the sales tax on you. You can take it to the bank.”
Last month Dalton said he would not support raising the sales tax in his first 2-year budget, though he refused to rule out a later sales tax hike. He supported Perdue’s proposed three-quarter-cent increase.
A Dalton campaign spokesman said McCrory would support tax reform that extends the sales tax to services currently not subject to the tax. McCrory has said any reform would “spread out the burden to help equalize the fairness.”
Dalton spokesman Ford Porter dismissed the criticism from a governor of a state with a 9.8 percent unemployment rate, higher than North Carolina’s.
“Pat McCrory wants to import the failed policies of New Jersey to fill the void left by his staggering silence on the issues,” Porter said.
“While McCrory promises to model his plan for North Carolina after a state with higher taxes in every category and higher unemployment than North Carolina, he is still failing to follow the one positive example set by Gov. Christie: releasing his tax returns.”
Dalton has pressed McCrory to release his tax returns. McCrory has refused, saying he released an economic disclosure statement as required. In a private talking points memo to Christie this week, the McCrory campaign said, “The only taxes voters are concerned about are the ones Walter Dalton wants to increase on them if elected.”
In Salisbury, McCrory touted his 14 years as mayor of Charlotte.
“We built an economic powerhouse 45 miles from here,” he told the crowd.
Christie alluded to that record.
“Isn’t it ironic?” he said. “All they do is criticize Pat McCrory’s record in Charlotte, yet when Barack Obama had to pick a place for his convention, he chose Charlotte, North Carolina.”