In the second visit to the Bay Area by a nationally prominent Republican this week, Chris Christie was in San Francisco Friday morning and used the opportunity to distance himself from Rick Perry, the Texas governor who made controversial comments in San Francisco earlier this week comparing homosexuality to alcoholism.
On a tour of San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, the New Jersey governor addressed the comments made by Perry to a crowd of Commonwealth Club of California audience members on Wednesday night.
“I’ll just say that I disagree with him, and I don’t believe that’s an apt analogy, and not one that should be made because I think it’s wrong,” Christie said firmly. “But every governor and public official has to speak for themselves on these issues. I just spoke for myself.”
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Perry said Wednesday that sexual orientation could be genetic but, like alcoholism, is something that can be treated.
Christie's first stop Friday was at Hoogasian Flower Shop in the SoMa neighborhood, where he made an appearance alongside California gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, touring the warehouse and hosting a meet-and-greet with supporters.
Both men appeared eager to show that Perry’s views, including the Texas Republican’s support of so called “reparative therapy,” are not shared by everyone in the GOP.
“That you’re going to convert someone from one to the other, I just don’t agree,” Kashkari said. “I can look to him on issues of economics, and we can disagree on these personal issues.”
Christie signed a state law barring so-called reparative therapy aimed at turning gay minors straight last year.
Menlo College professor Melissa Michelson said it’s no surprise Christie is trying to differentiate himself from the extreme right ring of his party on the issue of gay rights.
“The need to moderate yourself on these issues is exactly what you need to win a national vote,” Michelson said. “If you’re going to compete on the national level you can’t be far out there, and the nation is becoming more progressive on LGBT rights.”
Christie has not said whether he’s running for president in 2016, but he told Jimmy Fallon Thursday night that in, a hypothetical race against Hillary Clinton, he would win.
Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official under the George W. Bush administration, has an uphill battle ahead of him after winning a distant second to incumbent Jerry Brown in the open primary. Kashkari got 19 percent of the vote compared to Brown’s 54 percent. He believes the New Jersey governor is the perfect example of how a Republican can win a blue state.
“He’s been very effective at working across party lines in New Jersey,” said Kashkari. “I’m looking forward to hearing his advice and how to bring some of his ideas to California.”
Governor Christie agreed.
“No one thought I was going to win in 2009: a blue state, 700,000 more Democrats than Republicans. We hadn’t had a Republican elected statewide in a dozen years, a lot of things you see that are very similar to what’s happening in California right now.”
One of the flower shop’s owners, Harold Hoogasian, said staff members from Kashkari and Christie’s offices called him on Wednesday to ask if he’d be interested in hosting a visit. When asked why, Hoogasian told NBC Bay Area that they were looking for a family-owned, small business because Kashkari would be speaking about how he’d help support small business owners.
Christie said Kashkari's vote for President Barack Obama in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, should not preclude Republicans from backing him. He says anyone who wants to vote for a candidate who agrees with them 100 percent of the time should "go home and look in the mirror.''
After the visit, Governor Christie attended a $10,000 a plate luncheon to raise money for the Republican Governors Association, of which he is chairman.
He then went down to Menlo Park to meet with Facebook brass and participate in a live Q&A session at the company's headquarters, answering questions posted by Facebook users on his page.
Christie's stop is part of a cross-country revival tour in which he is trying to shore up his reputation after a bridge-closing political scandal at home put a dent in his national aspirations. In recent weeks he has visited Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New Mexico, Iowa and New Hampshire.
He appeared Thursday night on ``The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon'' and is spending the weekend at a summit in Utah hosted by 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Christie's visit comes as Republicans in Congress are jockeying to fill a leadership void after the surprise primary loss this week of Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a little known tea party candidate.
Christie said he was ``sad to have seen him lose'' but does not see any broader message about GOP prospects in Cantor's loss.
``No. I think it's a sign for what happened in the 7th congressional district in Virginia,'' he said.
But the shake-up has jeopardized the chances for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress this year, and the issue could present a challenge for Republican candidates in November. But the New Jersey governor mocked a reporter who asked where he stands on it Friday.
``I'm sure you'd love me to do that, and in fact, what I want to do in a flower warehouse, I want to give you a very complex answer behind a set of microphones on a contentious issue that's driving a debate all across the country,'' he said sarcastically. ``No thank you.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report.