POLITICS

Chris Christie Criticizes Heidi Heitkamp's Brother

10/07/2012 11:14 am ET | Updated Oct 07, 2012

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is under attack from North Dakota Democrats after criticizing talk show host Joel Heitkamp, the brother of Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Heidi Heitkamp, during a rally Saturday in Fargo.

Christie was campaigning on behalf of Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.), who is challenging Heidi Heitkamp for the state's open Senate seat. Christie was told that Joel Heitkamp, a former state senator, had said negative things about him on his statewide political talk show.

“First of all, Joel, if you’re watching, I don’t give a damn what you think of me," the Fargo Forum reported Christie as saying.

Christie's comments drew quick criticism from Joel Heitkamp, who told the Associated Press he wasn't surprised that Christie had targeted him.

"I don't know if he's been going to Dale Carnegie classes, but after that flop at the Republican convention, I'm sure he has been working on his speeches," Heitkamp said. "What a better way to recover from that than to go after the No. 1 talk show host in the region."

Heidi Heitkamp's campaign sent out a statement Saturday criticizing Christie for what it described as a "personal attack" on her family.

"Rep. Berg is looking to change the direction of his campaign and recruited a Governor who came into North Dakota and attacked the Heitkamp family because he can't defend Rep. Berg's record of voting the party line to cut $180 billion from farm programs and allowing the Farm Bill to expire," Heitkamp campaign manager Tessa Gould said in a statement.

Heitkamp and Berg have been locked in one of the most competitive Senate races nationally, with polls showing the Democrat opening a narrow lead in recent weeks.

Berg has been backed by American Crossroads, Karl Rove's super PAC, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has aired several ads on Heitkamp's behalf.

The criticism of Christie's appearance in North Dakota comes as New Jersey Democrats have been attacking the governor for his out-of-state travel on behalf of Republican candidates across the country, saying he is setting himself up for a 2016 presidential campaign.

New Jersey Republicans have defended Christie's travel, with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno telling The Huffington Post that he has helped recruit new business to the state. State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. called the criticism "absurd" and said state Democrats have been ignoring their jobs.

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