Christie Takes on the “Local Gossip Hole”
Driving on county roads leading through cornfields, passing silos and farms, and the occasional small town, I found myself in the quintessential Iowa town of Jefferson. With a population just over 4,000, the Greene County Courthouse decked out in holiday trim, and the town’s public address system playing Christmas music, Jefferson created a great backdrop for Chris Christie to talk to the American people. Christie was scheduled to begin at 1:30 at the Uptown Café; I arrived early (at 12:45) and was the fourth person there, in stark contrast to most events I’ve been to in greater Des Moines. If you’re ever in Jefferson, stop by the Uptown Café and try a slice of their homemade pie, it is amazing.
Uptown waitress Alex Teeples, was the one who helped to set up the Christie event. Teeples described the Uptown Café as, “a place you can get good food and good gossip.” Teeples was born and raised in Jefferson and has worked as a waitress at the café for three years. As an undecided voter, the Christie campaign contacted her at the café asking to host the event.
“This is the first event the café has hosted this caucus season. I am here for whatever the Christie people need.” Teeples said. The Uptown Café also serves as the meeting place for the Jefferson Kiwanis Club.
In 2008, Mike Huckabee won the Greene County Republican caucuses as did Santorum in 2012. Prior to the Christie event, Huckabee and Santorum were the only candidates to stump in Jefferson this season. However, self-described “slightly over the hill” sisters Abby and Margaret Hamilton caucused for Barack Obama in 2008 and currently are planning to caucus for Hillary Clinton in 2016. “But, I like Christie because of his personality,” Abby Hamilton stated. “He is a reasonable person. That isn’t easy to find in the GOP pool this year,” Margaret Hamilton added. When asked about the café atmosphere, Margaret told me that “it’s just a popular place to catch up on the gossip.”
The crowd filled the small party room at the Uptown Café. There were about 50 people at the event, including the fifth hour Greene County High School Government Class. Sue Johnson, who works for the Greene County historical society said, “I’m happy to see the students here. Hopefully we get some more candidates to Jefferson so they can see even more of them in person.”
Christie focused his stump speech on national security, referencing the San Bernadino shooting and spending nearly 10 minutes talking about his ISIS strategy. Christie condemned the attack as a terrorist attack, “Everyplace in America is a target for an ISIS inspired terrorist attack.” Christie did not shy away from combatting his fellow republican candidates, criticizing Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul for supporting the sunsetting of the NSA metadata collection program, and adding the “entertainment portion of our program is over. It’s time for Iowa voters to decide who is the most tested, most mature, and most ready to be President of the United States.”
After his 15-minute speech, Christie took questions for about an hour. The majority of the questions focused on national security and immigration. The elderly crowd stayed to shake hands and take pictures with Christie. He was complimented several times for his record of bipartisanship, and how “level-headed” he was.
Skylar Borchardt is a junior studying political science and law, politics, and society from Litchfield, Minnesota. This summer he interned in the office of U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and was the recipient of the Harkin Institute D.C. Experience Scholarship. He enjoys politics, Minnesota sports and playing his guitar. Follow him on Twitter.