Former Gov. Chris Christie visited New Hampshire on Monday for a lecture sponsored by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, previewing his 2024 presidential ambitions – and possibly causing a political headache for Matt Mowers, a former Christie aide who is running for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st district.
Since finishing sixth in the 2016 New Hampshire Republican presidential primary and dropping out in favor of Donald Trump, Christie has steadily morphed from a backer of then-candidate Trump into a staunch critic of his administration. This week’s Saint Anselm talk included some of that criticism, including an explicit callout of Trump’s fraudulent attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
“Trump] is dead wrong about the election,” Christie said. “There is no evidence that the election was stolen. None. Not even stolen in one state, let alone the six states he would have needed to reverse the result of the election.”
That attitude could give him a lane with a specific (and small) anti-Trump section of the Republican Party, but it also makes things complicated for Mowers, who is currently locked in a competitive Republican primary for the swingy 1st congressional district; Mowers previously lost a 2020 race for the same district against Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH).
Karoline Leavitt, a former assistant press secretary in the Trump White House and another top contender in the primary, immediately used Christie’s comments as a cudgel against Mowers, saying that Mowers needed to choose between Christie and Trump.
“Where’s Matt going to fall?” said Leavitt spokesperson Topher D’Anna. “Is he going to side with his former boss … or is he going to follow through on what the people of New Hampshire want, someone who believes in the America First agenda of President Trump?”
D’Anna added that Mowers, who originally moved to New Hampshire to become the executive director of the state Republican Party before switching to work on Christie’s 2016 presidential bid, has benefited from his New Jersey connections throughout his two campaigns.
“Matt’s a New Jersey guy through-and-through,” D’Anna said. “He got his start with Christie … and in both 2020 and this time around, a lot of his money is coming from the former governor and his network.”
Democrats also see Mowers’ Christie connections as a line of attack, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) releasing a statement on Monday gleefully slamming Mowers.
“In this fraught GOP primary, Matt Mowers is stuck between two toxically unpopular figures in Donald Trump and Chris Christie with nowhere to hide,” DCCC spokesperson James Singer said.
Mowers himself was not reachable for comment, but he said in a statement provided to New Hampshire outlet WMUR that he is a strong supporter of Trump regardless of his ties to Christie.
“Given Matt’s significant lead in the race, we expect desperate attacks but not unfounded ones,” the Mowers campaign said in the statement. “Matt Mowers is the only candidate who worked for President Trump on his historic 2016 campaign, proudly served in President Trump’s State Department, earned his full endorsement in 2020, and has always supported the America First agenda.”
Mowers and Leavitt are joined in the primary by Gail Huff Brown, the wife of former U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA); New Hampshire State Rep. Tim Baxter; and three other candidates. The ultimate winner of the primary will face what is likely to be a competitive race against Pappas, though just how competitive it is may depend on the state’s congressional map, which has not yet been finalized.