GREENWICH–Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley got some free advice Thursday, along with a financial boost, from one of his party’s rising stars, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Fresh from resolving an $11 billion budget deficit in his own state this fiscal year, Christie came to the Hyatt Regency to join Foley and about 170 guests for a closed-door fundraiser that, according to a source, cost $1,000 per person.

Foley with Chris Christie

Tom Foley with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: ‘Tell them what needs to be done’ (Keith M. Phaneuf)

With Connecticut’s next governor staring at a $3.26 billion deficit next fiscal year, the best approach a Republican governor can take–either with a Democrat-controlled legislature or with state employee unions–is direct, Christie said.

“Tell them exactly what needs to be done,” Christie, who spoke briefly with reporters before entering the fundraiser, said regarding worker concession bargaining. “That’s what we’ve done in New Jersey and my sense is that he’ll run into the same resistance I’m running into.

Christie, who has had several prickly public exchanges with unionized public school teachers in his home state, predicted Foley would have strong support from most citizens if he asks state workers to sacrifice to help resolve the budget crisis.

“The fact of the matter is I think people admire you when you say, ‘This is the truth. We can’t afford these things any longer and we can’t ask people who are being ravaged by the recessions to pay to protect a special class of people,’” he said.

Foley has conceded that Connecticut’s legislature, which currently has Democrats holding two-thirds majorities in both chambers, could remain in Democratic hands after this election, though he hopes the lead can be reduced.

But Christie, who is working with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate in New Jersey, said Foley has the right approach to break through any gridlock.

“You have to stand up for certain principles and let people know: ‘These are things I will not compromise on, and there are other things I will compromise on,’” Christie said. “Tom’s not going to have a real problem doing that because he’s real clear on what he stands for.”

Christie added Foley’s pledge to balance Connecticut’s budget without raising taxes is crucial “to make us more competitive as a region by making ourselves more business friendly. Tom knows how to do that. He’s done it his whole career. He’s a businessman.”

Foley has trailed his Democratic opponent, former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, in most polls so far, though a Quinnipiac University survey released in late September found the Greenwich Republican trailing by less than the margin of error. (A new poll out Friday morning show Malloy with a seven-point lead.)

Foley, whose campaign declined to disclose how much money was being raised at Thursday’s event, said Christie’s visit only helped to highlight the differences between the candidates in the Connecticut race.

“I think he  set a very good example in another New England state that’s facing many of the same challenges we are facing here in Connecticut,” Foley said of Christie, repeating his pledge to veto any tax hikes and to help improve the state’s business climate. “I can bring jobs to Connecticut more quickly than my opponent.”

Malloy has noted repeatedly that Foley has not identified enough spending cuts to close the projected deficit. The Republican nominee also has said regaining all of the 100,000 jobs Connecticut lost in the last recession–a benchmark that most leading Connecticut economists don’t expect to arrive before 2014–could provide enough additional tax revenue to solve over $1 billion of the 2011-12 deficit problem.

The Foley campaign’s senior advisor, Roy Occhiogrosso, said Thursday that it was odd that Christie, who was attacked in his last campaign for supporting legislation that would allow health insurance companies to drop coverage for mammograms, would come to support Foley. The GOP nominee has come under fire over the past week from Malloy, who has charged Foley’s health care platform would allow insurance companies here to deny coverage on similar services for Medicaid patients here.

“I’m not sure if someone who’s been roundly criticized for a mean-spirited health care proposal should bring someone in who supports one as well,” Occhiogrosso said. “Maybe they’ll talk about that” at the fundraiser.

Christie will headline a rally Friday night for the Republican senate candidate, Linda McMahon. It will be held at Westhill High School in Stamford, the alma mater of Malloy and the man who bitterly fought Foley for the GOP nomination, Lt. Gov. Michael C. Fedele.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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