BEDFORD, N.H. — Gov. Chris Christie’s trademark in the 2024 presidential race is that he’s the Republican most willing to rip into Donald Trump’s deficiencies. But in a state like New Hampshire that focuses on retail politics, campaigning also means facing tough questions about himself and his beliefs.
Christie spent the bulk of a Tuesday town hall in Bedford answering policy questions on topics ranging from unions to Taiwan, engaging audience members in back-and-forth conversations. He also defended his own record and policy ideas, getting fiery while answering a question from an audience member about several major events from his time as governor of New Jersey: Bridgegate, “Beachgate” and his decision to not attend the funeral of State Trooper Sean Cullen.
“I have not had one person, not one, before you mention Bridgegate to me in the three months of this, not one,” Christie said. He addressed the issue, saying he wasn’t responsible and that he fired the three people who were responsible for shutting down several access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
The audience member tried to connect Christie’s low favorability numbers in a May 2023 Monmouth poll to events that happened during the governor’s administration.
Christie spent approximately five minutes explaining his side to all of these events.
He addressed Beachgate, which occurred when New Jersey’s legislature did not finalize a budget by its summer 2017 deadline, which prompted a state government shutdown. Viral aerial photos showed Christie lounging on a public beach with his family by the governor’s beach house during the July 4 weekend in 2017.
“What people were led to believe was it all the beaches in New Jersey were closed and my family was the only one on a beach. Every other beach in New Jersey, beside that one was open and full and people were there,” Christie said.
“Guilty. I went out on the beach for an hour. It was a mistake,” he later added.
Finally, he addressed skipping State Trooper Sean Cullen’s funeral to campaign for Trump in March of 2016.
“I went to the hospital when Trooper Cullen was injured and visited with his family before he died. I was there as soon as he got hurt. And so to come out here now and say I wasn’t at his funeral — no, I wasn’t at his funeral. But I was there when his family needed me to be there,” Christie said.
“This is the stuff you’ve got to be ready for if you’re going to run for political office and you’ve been in political office for the eight years that I was the governor of a very blue state,” Christie said.
Christie has spent a lot of time as a candidate attacking President Donald Trump. At a town hall at New England College, he answered a question about what he meant when he said he is going to follow the former president if Trump does not show up at the debates.
“What we’re going to basically have to do is go to public events and try to confront,” Christie said. “If you want solid debates, that’s what we’re gonna have to do.”
During his latest campaign swing, Christie continued to attack the former president while defending his own record and opinions.
“The fact is that there are no perfect candidates in this race, as I said before,” Christie said at the Bedford town hall. “I would point out that I’m not under four criminal indictments. I’m not even under one criminal indictment.”
Another person who attended the town hall in Bedford, New Hampshire voter Gary Johnson, 64, asked Christie a question banning assault weapons.
After Christie could see Johnson was unsatisfied with his answer, Christie allowed Johnson to express his opinion.
“No security in the world is going to keep that from happening. No mental health program in the world is going to keep him from slipping through the cracks and buying an assault weapon,” Johnson said about a shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. He later said of assault weapons: “Ban those weapons. They have no place. I don’t care about the 250 million that are out there.”
After Johnson received claps from the audience, Christie responded, “I respect your opinion of wanting to do that. I fundamentally disagree with it but I respect that you feel that way and feel strongly about it.”
Christie said the gun issue is the “hardest issue that we have to solve in this country. The hardest. And I wish I had a better answer that I could principally and fundamentally stand behind, and I gave you the best one I have.”
Christie does not believe in banning assault weapons and says the nation has to work on destigmatizing mental health.
Johnson did not like Christie’s answer, he told NBC News.
“I think too many politicians on the Republican side depend on the mental health argument for the gun crisis, which to me is absolute blasphemy,” Johnson said. “You’re not going to fix mental health.”
Nevertheless, Johnson, an independent, told NBC News he plans to vote for Christie in the primary.
“Chris Christie seems to represent a lot of that classic Republican way of thinking that I respond to. And so, I’d be with him all the way through,” Johnson said.