- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Gov. Chris Christie delivered his last State of the State address Tuesday in New Jersey, saying he’d overseen an economic revolution that left residents far better off than when he was elected in 2009.

The speech ushered Mr. Christie out of power after years on the national political scene that saw him go from a Republican superstar in a blue state, presaging the GOP’s anti-Obama resurgence, to embattled incumbent to, finally, failed presidential candidate.

In a 90-minute address at the state Assembly chamber, Mr. Christie reviewed the highlights, including adding private sector jobs and cutting the unemployment rate in half from the depths of the Great Recession, and leaving a more stable budget after changing the pension system for state workers.

After working with a Democratic-controlled legislature over the course of his tenure, he said bipartisanship was often the key to getting things done — though he also bragged about wielding his veto pen to keep the legislature’s spending in check.

“In the last eight years I have vetoed more tax increases than any governor in modern American history,” Mr. Christie said.

He is the state’s the first governor to serve eight years — the term limit in New Jersey — since Thomas Kean, another Republican, left office in 1990.

The 55-year-old governor’s next steps are not clear.

He will leave office Jan. 16, giving way to Phil Murphy, the Democrat who easily defeated Mr. Christie’s hand-picked successor. Analysts said anti-Christie sentiment was a major factor in the race.

William Palatucci, a member of the Republican National Committee from New Jersey and longtime Christie adviser, said Mr. Christie is still hashing out what comes next and that he has been approached with various opportunities.

‘We all still don’t know and we are all looking forward to finding out,” Mr. Palatucci said. “This I know for sure: Chris Christie will write another new exciting chapter to his career.”

Mr. Christie made no mention of 2013’s Bridgegate, which saw some of his top aides close toll lanes on the George Washington Bridge in order to punish a local mayor for not backing the governor’s 2013 re-election.

Two of those aides were sentenced to prison for their roles, and while Mr. Christie said he had no knowledge of their actions beforehand, the scandal dented his presidential ambitions and soured New Jersey voters on his tenure.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, described Mr. Christie’s tenure as a “pretty interesting ride,” saying he entered office in 2010 as somewhat of an unknown commodity.

“He was a blank slate to a vast majority of New Jersey voters,” Mr. Murray said. “They really didn’t know him well, he had a reputation among some as corruption-busting attorney.”

Mr. Christie, a former U.S. attorney, became a GOP star after he took on the public sector unions and teachers in dramatic town hall events.

Union members now pay more for their health insurance and contribute more into their pension funds.

Supporters pressed Mr. Christie to run for president in 2012, but he instead endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Mr. Christie’s popularity skyrocketed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and he coasted to re-election the following year after making inroads with young voters and minorities — groups that had soured on the GOP in national elections.

But Bridgegate was a major blow, and he suffered from spending more time out-of-state, focusing on his job as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which he led from 2013 to 2014, and then his campaign for president.

“His numbers continually deteriorated as New Jersey voters felt he turned his back on his day job,” Mr. Murray said. “In the short term he is going to be remembered most for his personal ambitions. The vast majority of voters in New Jersey think he put that above everything else.”

Mr. Christie’s presidential bid flamed out in the New Hampshire primary in 2016, and weeks later he became one of the most high-profile establishment Republicans to endorse Donald Trump, leaving many to conclude he would likely be rewarded with a Cabinet post.

But that never happened.

Instead, he served briefly as the head of Mr. Trump’s transition team before getting ousted from the job. He also served as chair of a presidential task force on combating the opioid epidemic.

Mr. Christie did not mention Mr. Trump in his final address and told NJ.com this week that he believes he would have won his party’s presidential nomination if Mr. Trump was not in the race.

Mr. Palatucci said Mr. Christie still has the president’s ear.

Chris Christie doesn’t need a job in the Trump administration to be in the Trump administration,” he said. “‘The president calls frequently for advice and ideas and also for him to act as a sounding board, and I don’t expect that to change.”

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