- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Monday shined a spotlight on New Jersey’s tumbling unemployment rate and despite declaring his neutrality in the state’s GOP primary, he invited Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to bask in some of the glow.

Christie answered press questions on Monday for roughly an hour for what he said would be his final briefing in the statehouse since he is moving down the street because of a planned $300 million, four-year renovation.

Guadagno, the front-runner in a tightening June 6 primary against Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, has said she would scrap the renovation project and has distanced herself from Christie, whose approval rating is near record lows.

But she took credit during recent debates with Ciattarelli for the state’s jobless rate, which fell to 4.1 percent last month, lower than the national rate of 4.4 percent. Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary reports announced last week show the state jobless rate was the lowest since 2001.

Christie said Guadagno deserved it on Monday and praised her “stick-to-itiveness.”

The state’s unemployment rate was nearly 10 percent when Christie and Guadagno took office in 2010. Guadagno headed a commission aimed at reducing regulations under Christie and is well known for giving out her personal cellphone number at events across the state.

“The fact is the lieutenant governor deserves credit for a lot of what’s happened,” Christie said.

He isn’t endorsing anyone in the primary, but said he’ll back the Republican winner and will campaign for him or her if asked.

Christie, who seemed to take stock of his legacy by touting the falling unemployment rate, didn’t directly address the credit agencies slashing the state’s rating 11 times on his watch. Instead, he chided Democrats and the media for pointing out the downgrades.

He is term limited and will be out of office by January and cautioned voters that the economy’s gains could be lost if his administration’s policies were reversed. He cited cuts to the sales and estate taxes during the last year as examples that could be ended in the next administration.

“The people of New Jersey at times have a short memory,” he said. “Part of what I want to do over the course of this time is … remind them that past is prologue.”

Christie has at times been cited during Republican campaigns to succeed him, mostly because the leading candidates exert themselves to show they’re different from him.

Both Guadagno and Ciattarelli are promising to move the state in a different direction if elected. Guadagno said last week she doesn’t invoke the governor more frequently because it’s her campaign, not his. Ciattarelli’s slogan is “a new direction.”

Leading Democratic candidates Jim Johnson, Ray Lesniak, Phil Murphy and John Wisniewski also contrast themselves sharply with Christie and say it’s time to say goodbye to the Christie era.

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