NEWARK – Bill Palatucci, one of Gov. Chris Christie’s senior and most trusted advisers, told PolitickerNJ that Christie would soon headline a fundraising event on behalf of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Bell.
“Most important is following up on the Governor’s commitment with Jeff, trying to figure out the first opening on the Governor’s schedule so we can help by headlining an event for Jeff,” said Palatucci, an attorney with the prominent Gibbons law firm who is also one of Christie’s main fundraisers, on Tuesday. “It’s in the works. That will happen.”
Bell is seeking to block the reelection of incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), who is seeking a full six-year term in November. Although a recent New York Times-CBS poll showed Bell within seven points of Booker, Bell still lags far behind Booker’s nearly $3 million campaign war chest.
In comments to the press after a GOP rally outside of a Democratic fundraising event in Cherry Hill on Monday, Bell admitted that although his own fundraising progress was “slow,” Governor Christie “is pitching in now.”
“You’ll see some activity pretty soon,” Bell said. “I’ve been working with Bill Palatucci, and I’ve had one long conversation with [Christie] that was very, very warm. I’m satisfied that they’re doing everything they can. Mr. Palatucci is a man of his word, and he has delivered on everything that he said he would try to do so far.”
Palatucci noted that the road to Christie, a potential GOP 2016 presidential candidate and current chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA), headlining a Bell fundraiser still wends around Christie’s packed calendar.
“It’s just a matter of finding a date that works with the Governor’s schedule,” Palatucci said. “He’s on vacation this week, he’s got a bunch of RGA travel coming up. He’s doing an event for [GOP Third Congressional District candidate] Tom MacArthur, he’s doing an event for [state Assembly Minority Leader] Jon Bramnick (R-21). He’s doing the big [fundraising] event with the state Republican Party with [2012 GOP U.S. presidential nominee] Mitt Romney on September 10 [in East Brunswick]. He’s out there working for a lot of Republican candidates. But it will be soon. We’re going to make that happen.”
Christie is known to have a relatively warm relationship with Booker, a former Newark mayor, although they stand on opposite sides of the partisan divide. Palatucci was asked if Christie’s upcoming fundraising efforts on behalf of Booker’s opponent could compromise what some have termed a political “bromance.”
“I don’t get into that type of speculation, but on the partisan side of things, the Governor has been very supportive of Republican U.S. Senate candidates, whether it was [state Sen.] Joe Kyrillos (R-13) [in 2012], Steve Lonegan [in 2013] or Jeff Bell this year,” Palatucci said. “In my view, one has got nothing to do with the other.”
Booker campaign manager and Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill preferred to focus on his candidate’s campaign rather than Christie’s potential fundraising efforts for Bell.
“We’re focused on the Senator’s campaign and on fighting for middle-class values,” Gill said.