Top Chris Christie Supporter Defects to Bush

AP Photo/Mel Evans
AP Photo/Mel Evans

Governor Chris Christie is dealing with the loss of a key Republican supporter in his home state, even though he earned positive media attention in New Hampshire last week.

State Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos has opted to support former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s exploratory committee, The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reports. Kyrillos, a key Christie ally, already donated $10,000 to Bush’s committee in March.

In this case, Christie loses a key member of the New Jersey Republican establishment. Kyrillos chaired Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in New Jersey, helping the former Massachusetts governor make key fundraising connections.

Kyrillos’ defection is a political victory for Bush’s camp – particularly after Christie pointedly said that the former Florida governor’s momentum had “slowed down.”

“It seems to me like that train has slowed down pretty significantly,” he said last week in an interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer.

According to the Asbury Park Press, Kyrillos and Christie’s relationship frayed after Kyrillos’ failed bid for U.S. Senate against troubled Robert Menendez in 2012.

Kyrillos’ decision to back Bush marks the trend of many northeastern donors and political figures who opted to choose the Florida governor over Christie after Romney opted against running again in 2016.

While Bush has worked furiously to build up establishment donor support, Christie appears to be taking a more relaxed approach.

“What I’ve told everybody — supports of mine, potential donors of mine, staff — is relax. You know, no one’s voting for another 12-and-a-half months,” he said in January after Romney announced his intentions not to run. “Everybody just calm down, you know?”