PARAMUS, N.J. (AP) — Former "Saturday Night Live" comedian and Donald Trump backer Joe Piscopo said Wednesday that he will not launch an independent campaign to succeed Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Piscopo announced the decision during his radio show, telling a live audience at an event in Paramus that he doesn't want to be a divider.
He then brought Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who is running to succeed the term-limited Christie, on stage to endorse her ahead of next month's primary.
"This woman knows exactly what the heartbeat of this state is," Piscopo said. He added that he was "saddened and disappointed" to not be running but that after talking to Guadagno one-on-one recently, he thought she was the best candidate.
"Joe's gonna make sure that we talk about what is good about this state," Guadagno said.
Piscopo's decision not to run comes after a months-long public guessing game. Earlier this year, he said he was seriously considering running as a Republican, but he announced in March he wouldn't run on the GOP ticket and instead was considering an independent bid. A prime reason for waiting to get in the race was that he would be required to give up his morning radio talk show, he said.
On Wednesday, Piscopo said he just signed a new contract with the station. He said he hadn't used the possible political campaign as leverage for more money.
"I'm too honest for that," he said.
In backing Guadagno, Piscopo is throwing his support to Christie's top lieutenant for the last nearly eight years. The winner of the June 6 GOP primary will face a Democratic nominee favored by experts to win in the fall, in part because of Christie's low approval ratings and Democratic voter registration advantages in New Jersey.
A Quinnipiac University Poll published on Wednesday showed Guadagno trailing Democratic front-runner and former Obama administration ambassador Phil Murphy by 25 points. The poll surveyed 1,209 voters and had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
Not since the 19th century has New Jersey elected anyone other than a top-party candidate.
Piscopo gained fame as a member of the "SNL" cast in the early 1980s, impersonating fellow New Jersey native Frank Sinatra. He also appeared in films. He is passing on one of only two statewide contests in the nation this year; the other is the Virginia gubernatorial election.
Christie on Wednesday suggested Piscopo was never seriously contemplating a run.
"He never had any intention of running for governor — as a Republican, as an independent, as a Democrat, as a Martian," Christie said.
Guadagno faces four challengers in the Republican primary, including Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, Nutley commissioner Steve Rogers, businessman Joseph "Rudy" Rullo, and engineer Hirsh Singh.