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Former U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, hoping to parlay a seven-year stint as New Jersey's top federal prosecutor into a career in elected politics, began his bid for governor Wednesday by saying he's the man to fix a broken state government.
Christie addressed about 200 Republican supporters at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, where he pledged to cut taxes and limit state spending and borrowing. He said he has a four-year plan to reprioritize spending, add jobs and bring fiscal discipline to the Statehouse. He did not specify what the plan entails.
"In nine months, I am confident that we are going to bring a real difference to this state and we are going to change Trenton in some very serious ways," Christie told the crowd.
Christie, who was appointed U.S. attorney for New Jersey by President George W. Bush, built a reputation as a corruption-buster. Christie was widely viewed as inexperienced when he took the job but amassed an unbroken streak of more than 130 political corruption convictions.
Relying on that success to build a political following, Christie assured supporters he would make decisions to restore fiscal integrity to one of the most indebted states in the nation.
"I have the experience, and I have the determination and I have the will to make the tough decisions that are necessary to put our state on the right track, and do it now," Christie told the partisan crowd. "We will deliver results so we can restore your faith and your trust in the idea that government can really work."
Taking a handful of questions from reporters following a 20-minute speech in Newark, Christie declined to specify his position on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage that are believed to be important to many Republican primary voters. Instead, he invited voters to examine his record as a Morris County freeholder in the 1990s, his last post in elected politics.
Christie also said he would encourage, but not force, towns and school districts to merge or share services.
The 46-year-old Mendham resident would have to defeat three Republican opponents in the June primary to run against Corzine in the November election. Corzine is unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Christie's two-day campaign rollout began on a day a new poll showed him slightly ahead of incumbent Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine by 6 percentage points, 44 to 38. The Quinnipiac University telephone survey of 1,173 registered voters was taken Jan. 29 through Feb. 2 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
"It's always better to be winning than losing," Christie said when asked about the poll, but he acknowledged being "an underdog in this race. I'm running against an incumbent governor with unlimited resources."
Christie, accompanied by his wife and four children, stopped at a diner in Hamilton (Mercer County) at lunchtime. There, he was greeted by about 20 union pickets from the Laborers International Union of North America, some of whom carried signs comparing the Republican to Bush.
He planned stops in Westville and Haddon Heights later Wednesday, and planned to pick up endorsements and attend a campaign rally on Thursday.