NJ's Christie Appears in Chicago for Fundraiser, Speech

Republican governor will have a "conversation" with the Economic Club of Chicago, raise money for Republican Governors Association

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie began his Tuesday in Chicago with a private fundraising event for Illinois House Minority Leader Jim Durkin.

A small crowd gathered at a law firm on the west side of the Loop for the public event tied to Christie's role as president of the Republican Governors Association.  

Later on, 1,600 gathered at the Sheraton Hotel for his event tied to the Economic Club of Chicago. Christie spoke of what he considers his accomplishments, such as reforming pensions, and noted the pension problem in Illinois.

"This is not rocket science," he said, receiving applause. He also said, "you have New Jersey to thank" for changes to teacher retirement.   

When asked about pressing news known as Bridgegate, Christie said "some people who worked for me made enormous errors in judgment." From there, the topic made a sharp turn to Hurricane Sandy and all that the governor has done to repair the damage there.    

NBC News reported last month the chairman of the Port Authority and a top aide to Christie were among those subpoenaed in a probe of the incident. Emails show Christie's staff was involved in ordering the September shutdown of access lanes to the bridge.

It's an action viewed by some as retribution against a Democratic mayor. Christie has denied involvement. Still, the scandal has taken a toll on the governor who is considered a possible 2016 presidential candidate.

Immediately after the bridge scandal, Christie traveled to Florida and elected officials steered clear, but that wasn't the case in Chicago.  

Illinois Republican candidate for governor Bill Brady attended the Economic Club luncheon, and Rauner planned to attend the evening fundraiser at Citadel CEO Ken Griffin's home.

Sen. Kirk Dillard, also a candidate, was downstate during the appearance, and State Treasurer Dan Rutherford did not attend any of the events.

Those who attended the private morning fundraiser especially noted how much weight Christie has lost. They recalled when he campaigned for GOP candidate Brady four years ago and said they see a significant difference in his weight.

This visit isn't Christie's first in Illinois. Christie participated in a discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative in the Windy City last summer, he stumped for Mitt Romney in Elmhurst in 2012, and in 2011 he made his way to the state with the intent to lure away jobs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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