Gov. Susana Martinez and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie embrace oil man Ray Willis during a campaign stop Thursday morning at Roswell’s Stellar Coffee Co. Martinez and Christie, both presidential prospects, have campaigned for each other in their respective states and have become close political allies. (Jeff Tucker Photo)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined Gov. Susana Martinez at a Roswell coffee shop Thursday morning as the two presidential prospects had a frenetic hour-long meet and greet with local residents and leaders with less than a week to go before the New Mexico primaries.
Christie said he would campaign all day Thursday for Martinez in the Republican stronghold of southeast New Mexico, with stops in Roswell, Artesia and Carlsbad, before he headed off to Memphis, Tenn., to campaign for Gov. Bill Haslam.
Christie and Martinez have become political soul mates in recent years, campaigning for each other in their respective states. Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said Martinez is “one of my best friends in the entire Republican Governors Association.”
“Gov. Martinez and I have been friends for four years,” Christie said. “I was here in Roswell four years ago. I’m thrilled to be back. I’ll come back as often as she asks me to. She’s been an outstanding governor and I’m really proud to call her a friend. Any help I can give as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, I am ready, willing and able to give.”
The prospect of the two moderate GOP governors forming a presidential ticket in 2016 was the little spoken backdrop of Thursday morning’s event in Roswell as Christie works at shaking the reputation of not being a team player within the GOP.
“When I was running for re-election last year, there was only one other governor in the country that I asked to come and campaign with me, and it was Gov. Martinez because we share the same values and the same approach to solving problems,” Christie said. “We know that bringing people together of all parties is so important to providing the right type of leadership for our states. While there were lots of people that I could have asked, the only one that I did was Gov. Martinez. We’re friends, so for me to come out here is a personal pleasure and not just a political trip.”
Asked the obvious question by a reporter about a possible presidential ticket comprised of the two governors, Christie did not rule out the possibility.
“Who knows?” Christie said. “You never know where life’s going to bring you. What I do know is that we’ve been partners now for three and a half years, bringing reforms to states as Republican governors that aren’t used to this kind of thing. We’ll continue to be partners no matter what our future winds up holding for either one of us, but we’re good friends.”
Martinez, who is unchallenged in the GOP primary and awaits the winner of the Democrat gubernatorial primary June 3, also said she and the colorful New Jersey governor have become good friends.
“I consider him a friend,” Martinez said. “We’re prosecutors from way back. We think alike. His leadership, not only in the state, but also nationally with the Republican Governors Association, I admire him. I admire how frank he is, how honest he is, how he just says it like it is. He doesn’t do a lot of political speak. He says what people need to hear and then he follows up with it and follows through with his promises. And that’s really important to me for a good leader.”
More than a hundred people attended the meet-and-greet at the Stellar Coffee Co. shop on Roswell’s Main Street, including many local candidates and office holders.
Coffee shop manager Anne Baker said she learned about a week ago that the two governors wished to make a whistle stop at her small coffee shop.
“We are just so excited that they decided to come to Roswell and meet with people at our shop,” Baker said. Asked if she is involved in politics, Baker said: “I vote.”
“They were looking for a place to meet and greet the citizens of Roswell and they decided this was a good location,” Baker said. “And I agreed.”
Having the nationally known Christie on the campaign trail with Martinez generated a political buzz Thursday from New Jersey to New Mexico.
“I’m very proud to have him here,” Martinez said. “We hope certainly that people will listen to our message and our ideas and the suggestions and the things that we’ve already implemented and put in place to improve New Mexico to make sure that we don’t go backwards to the days of (former Gov. Bill) Richardson, and the policies, or worse. We want to keep New Mexico going forward.
“I have the most admiration for his leadership and his ability to bring people together. Certainly, as chairman of the RGA, he is a great chairman and really is working hard to make each state a better place by electing more Republican governors.”
Roswell City Councilor Caleb Grant said the large turnout for the little advertised campaign stop was a show of the governors’ support in Roswell.
“I think it’s great that they’ve come back down to Roswell,” Grant said. “I’m really pleased with the turnout and support that we’ve shown down here.”
“I thought it was tremendous to be able to have a line outside waiting to see a phenomenal governor of our state and an ally from New Jersey,” said Roswell City Councilor Jason Perry. “It was exciting for Roswell.”
“This is great,” said Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh. “This is awesome. It’s a good day for Roswell.”
Chaves County Commissioner Greg Nibert said both Christie and Martinez are presidential prospects and Thursday’s joint event could be a forerunner of the 2016 presidential race.
“It really says something about the community when we can get people in the national spotlight to come to our city,” Nibert said. “I think right now it’s too early to get a handle on who is the (presidential) front-runner. It looks like Chris Christie is trying to position himself for a presidential run. Gov. Martinez is in the middle of a governor’s race. I certainly support her in that re-election effort.”
Nibert said he hoped Martinez would forego national politics in the near future.
“I want Susana as governor for another four years,” Nibert said. “I don’t want to share her with the nation. I’m selfish. But if that’s her ambition and goal, I’m sure that New Mexico will support her.”
Gov. Susana Martinez, right, talks with Andrea Moore, of Roswell, during a campaign stop Thursday at Roswell’s Stellar Coffee Co. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joined Martinez for an hour-long meet and greet with local residents and leaders. (Jeff Tucker Photo)