ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Republican Chris Christie said Thursday that he has every intention of serving out his full term as New Jersey's governor and doesn't have any reason to believe he won't, a week after he was demoted from head of President-elect Donald Trump's transition team.
With his approval rating in the state dragging bottom, Christie shook up a usually sleepy League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City, delivering the keynote address.
"I have no reason to believe as we stand here today that I will do anything other than serve out my full term as governor and turn the keys over to whoever you select," said Christie, whose term ends in 2018.
The event is a huge draw for elected leaders, government workers and office-seekers and comes at a low point for the governor. At the last minute, he replaced his lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, who had been scheduled to give the address. Guadagno is weighing a run to succeed Christie and said Thursday she will make a decision after the holidays.
In his address, Christie didn't shy away from taking a shot at Guadagno, who crossed him this month to lobby against a ballot question that asked voters to dedicate every penny of the state's recently increased gas tax to pay for transportation. The ballot question was narrowly approved by voters last week.
"Everyone is gonna play politics with an issue like this but this is what second term-governors were invented for," said Christie, who is in his second term.
He told the league that Trump's promised infrastructure investments could mean more federal money coming to New Jersey.
An early and enthusiastic supporter of Trump after bowing out of the presidential primary, Christie had been positioned to steer the federal government into the Trump era after Election Day, but was replaced with Vice President-elect Mike Pence as chairman of the transition team.
It's unclear what exactly Christie is doing now for the team and much of his preliminary planning has been scrapped. Since the election, it's seen new additions and several departures, mainly among those aligned with Christie. He left the event without taking questions.
The governor's diminished role comes years after he prosecuted the father of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump. Kushner's father Charles went to prison for tax evasion, making illegal campaign contributions and witness intimidation as part of a plea deal negotiated by Christie. Christie served as U.S. Attorney for New Jersey before being elected governor.
Jared Kushner is said to have tolerated Christie's role in the campaign, though he notably advocated for Trump to pick Pence as his running mate over Christie — and succeeded in convincing his father-in-law to do so. Jared Kushner is now a member of Trump's transition team.
Christie's arrival in Atlantic City also comes about a week after his administration voted to take over the city's government after the Department of Community Affairs' rejected the economically troubled city's plan for a comeback.
The state said the plan did not do enough to quickly repair the city's finances. Under the takeover, the state can cancel decisions by the city council, hire or fire workers, break union contracts and sell off city assets.
The city's financial strife is largely due to the decline of gambling. Christie appointed Jeffrey Chiesa, a former state attorney general and U.S. senator, to oversee the takeover this week.
Christie's appearance also comes after two former aides were convicted in the George Washington Bridge political revenge plot this month. Christie denies wrongdoing and wasn't charged in the 2013 scandal.
An official misconduct complaint against Christie, brought by a citizen, is pending in New Jersey court. Christie has appealed a judge's finding of probable cause.