OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Republican Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma toured the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum on Wednesday in a visit that Fallin's Democratic challenger in the Nov. 4 general election said politicized the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The two GOP governors were escorted through the museum and a memorial on the grounds of the former Oklahoma City federal building in advance of a meeting of the Republican Governors Association, which Christie heads, and a fundraising event for Fallin, who is seeking re-election to a second four-year term.
Christie did not speak to the media afterward. But prior to the tour, Fallin told The Associated Press it was appropriate to tour the museum to understand the impact of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building — the second-deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil, which killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured hundreds more.
"The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, I think, is a place everyone who visits should see," Fallin said. She said it tells the story of the compassion of Oklahomans and others who provided aid following the terrorist attack and the resilience of victims' family members and survivors.
"This memorial pays tribute to those who lost their lives and the first responders," she said.
Her spokesman, Alex Weintz, said Fallin's office did not schedule a news conference following the tour to avoid the appearance of politicizing it.
"We're not here to talk about politics," Weintz said.
Fallin's challenger, Democratic state Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs, said he believes the GOP governors' appearance at the memorial was a political event.
"That is a reverent location for Oklahomans," Dorman said. "And to pull a political stunt like this is despicable."
Dorman also said Fallin is using recent disasters in Oklahoma for political gain. He said video of her visit to areas devastated by a tornado that struck Moore on May 20, 2013, is being used in her campaign ads.
Dorman said it is appropriate for a governor to tour storm-damaged areas. "It's another thing to get in the way during a rescue effort," he said.
Meanwhile, Dorman said his fundraising success in the most current reporting period is evidence that his message is resonating with voters.
Campaign contribution and expenditure reports filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission indicate Dorman raised slightly more money in his campaign than Fallin, who still maintains a huge fundraising lead.
The reports show Dorman raised $267,310 between June 10 and Aug. 11, more than $27,000 more than the $239,677 raised by Fallin during the same period.
"We've seen tremendous support financially during the past three weeks," Dorman said.
But the reports also indicate that Fallin has raised a total of almost $3.3 million for her campaign and had almost $1.14 million in funds remaining at the end of the reporting period. Dorman's campaign report indicates his campaign has raised a total of $654,026 and had $142,423 remaining at the end of the period.
"The determining factor in this race is who has a more appealing message," said Weintz, who described Dorman as "a professional mudslinger."