Editor’s note: “Bringing It Home” runs weekends in The Aspen Times and focuses on state, national or international issues that have ties to or impacts on the Roaring Fork Valley.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will visit Aspen next week for the Republican Governors Association’s summer conference and a speaking engagement at the Aspen Institute.
Christie, said to be considering a run for president in 2016, has engagements in 12 states outside New Jersey in July and August, according to The Associated Press. However, this is not his first visit to Aspen, as he was present for the same two events last year.
As the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Christie is a natural fit for an Aspen Institute panel that has been held in conjunction with the summer conference for the past few years, institute spokesman Jim Spiegelman said. The event, set for 6 p.m. Thursday, is part of the McCloskey Speaker Series and will be moderated by Walter Isaacson, Aspen Institute president and CEO.
The Democratic Governors Association is holding a conference in Aspen from Aug. 1 to 3, just over a week after the Republicans. The Aspen Institute holds a similar panel event during that conference, Spiegelman said.
The governors of both parties will discuss issues such as tax, pension and education reform; developing skills for a 21st-century workforce; and possibly immigration, infrastructure and transportation issues, Spiegelman said. He does not expect Isaacson to ask Christie about the scandal in January in which Christie’s administration allegedly closed access to the George Washington Bridge, creating heavy traffic in the area, to get back at a New Jersey mayor who did not endorse Christie for re-election.
“I think this is more forward-looking,” said Spiegelman, who added that the conversation will focus more on what Christie is doing in New Jersey and ways in which those strategies could be applied nationally.
The Aspen Institute collaborates with the Republican Governors Association to choose the panelists for its event, who this year will be Christie; Rick Scott, of Florida; Sam Brownback, of Kansas; Nikki Haley, of South Carolina; and Scott Walker, of Wisconsin.
The Republican Governors Association holds four conferences annually, and its summer gathering has been in Aspen for the past several years.
“(The) purpose of the conference is (for) the (association) and our supporters to gather, talk about how our governors are using their reform policies to transform their states for the better, and discuss the 36 gubernatorial elections we have this November,” said Jon Thompson, press secretary for the organization.
The ability to participate in the Aspen Institute panel is one of the reasons the GOP governors continue to hold their conference here, Thompson said. Others include that it’s a good central location for party supporters and that “the good people of Aspen are just so nice,” he said.
This is not the first time a potential presidential candidate has visited Aspen during the conference. In 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, then weighing a presidential run and considered a strong contender for the Republican nomination, participated and joined the panel at the Aspen Institute. Perry also held Christie’s current position of Republican Governors Association chairman then.
The day after the panel discussion in 2012, Mitt Romney — just weeks away from being named the GOP candidate — held a rally in Basalt that many of the sitting governors attended.
And just last month, Isaacson interviewed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a potential but unannounced Democratic candidate for the next presidential election, at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Clinton made a stop in New Jersey on Thursday while Christie was in Iowa, according to the AP.
The primary purpose of the Republican Governors Association is to help get GOP gubernatorial candidates elected, according to its website. That’s also the goal of some of Christie’s engagements this summer.
The association has set fundraising records this year under Christie’s leadership, its website said. It now has $70.3 million on hand, more than ever in its history.
Some members of the Pitkin County Republicans will attend the conference and panel while the governors are in town, local party Chairwoman Frieda Wallison said, although the chapter isn’t holding any formal events around their visit.
“A lot of well-known people come to Aspen, not necessarily because Aspen itself has an influence on politics,” Wallison said. “I’m not sure that we do. I think it just indicates that it’s a great place to visit.
“We’re delighted that we’re in a (place) people want to come to.”
The Pitkin County Republicans hold fundraisers for campaigning members of their party, but Wallison said she doesn’t think that’s why the politicians are here this month.
“I think that in the case of these events that the governors are here for, they would be doing that whether or not we were able to provide financial support,” Wallison said.
The Republican Governors Association summer conference does not have a fundraiser associated with it, Thompson said.