NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is returning to New Hampshire as he struggles to press forward with a likely presidential bid following indictments in the George Washington Bridge scandal.
The Republican governor will be in the early-voting state Thursday and Friday for a series of events and meet-and-greets. The trip will include a visit to a drug treatment center in Manchester and a keynote speech at a Cheshire County Lincoln Day dinner. He'll also lead another happy hour-timed town hall Friday evening at Fury's Publick House bar in Dover.
The trip marks the governor's first to New Hampshire since two former Christie aides were indicted and another pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a scheme to shut down access lanes to the busy bridge between New York and New Jersey to punish a Democratic mayor for failing to endorse Christie's re-election.
Christie has long maintained he had no knowledge of the scheme, and he has not been implicated in the criminal case.
The governor has said he'll announce whether he's running by the end of June.
Juliana Bergeron, New Hampshire's Republican national committeewoman, who invited Christie to speak at the Lincoln Day dinner, said voters are still eager to hear directly from the governor. Organizers are expecting about 200 people, Republican county chair Kate Day said.
"I think people think more highly of him in the state than we're supposedly thinking when I listen to news reports," said Bergeron, adding that she thinks the scandal pales in comparison to negative coverage of Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.
State Representative Steve Smith, the Sullivan County Republican Committee chair, who is organizing a meet-and-greet for Christie at a restaurant in Sunapee on Thursday, also dismissed the impact of the scandal, which appears likely to continue to dog Christie as the criminal case proceeds.
"Who knows what catches on? At this time, though, I haven't talked to many people who think it's an issue," he said.