ASBURY PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Chris Christie took the podium before a cheering crowd Tuesday night, after being re-elected handily over opponent Barbara Buono.
“Tonight, I stand here as your governor, and I am so proud to be your governor,” Christie said as he addressed the crowd at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park.
Christie noted said he took office four years ago with a mandate to “turn things upside-down” in Trenton, and “I think we’ve done just that.” He credited his administration with developing a government that worked for people rather than just taking from them, through a spirit of bipartisanship.
“I know that if we can do this in Trenton, New Jersey, maybe the folks in Washington, D.C., should tune in their TVs right now; see how it’s done,” Christie said.
Christie said he has worked hard to cut taxes, reduce the size of government and make changes to improve the way the government functions.
“For the next four years, we will fight to make those changes permanent, and we will fight to make them bigger,” Christie said. “I did not seek a second term to do small things. I sought a second term to finish the job. Now watch me do it.”
Christie added that just over a year ago, superstorm Sandy changed everything, bringing people from all walks of life to work together in solidarity.
“The spirit of Sandy will stay with us well beyond the days that the recovery will take,” he said, adding, “I will govern with the spirit of Sandy.”
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Christie had 60 percent of the vote to Republican Barbara Buono’s 38 percent.
He became the first Republican in a quarter-century to receive more than 50 percent of the New Jersey vote. This, in a state that President Barack Obama carried a year ago by more than 17 points, his biggest margin in the nation.
Earlier, Buono conceded the election, saying she had called Christie to congratulate him. She thanked her campaign team and supporters for their efforts.
“Each and every one of us believed it would be worth it, and was it worth it? Yes it was,” Buono said.
While she began her speech by congratulating Christie, her words were not so charitable as the speech went on. She accused her fellow Democrats of making “a deal with this governor despite him representing everything they’re supposed to be against. They didn’t do it to help the state. They did it to help themselves financially and politically.”
More than once, she accused Democrats in New Jersey of “betrayal.”
She said her supporters need to go on fighting for reform.
“New Jersey represents the last vestiges of old boy machine politics that used to dominate states across the nation, and unless more people are willing to challenge it, New Jersey’s national reputation will suffer among families who might otherwise move here, among businesses who otherwise might locate here, and among those qualified and honest candidates who might come here and run for office,” Buono said.
PHOTOS: Election Day 2013
Christie, 51, was already popular when superstorm Sandy slammed into the coast a year ago, damaging 360,000 homes and businesses, plunging 5.5 million people into darkness and disrupting gasoline supplies for days.
His popularity skyrocketed as he donned a blue fleece pullover and led the state through its worst natural disaster, whether he was embracing Obama during a visit to the battered coast or consoling a tearful 9-year-old who had lost her house.
Christie underwent weight-loss surgery in February and has been shedding pounds steadily since, addressing a health issue that could affect his political plans in the future. He was disqualified as a 2012 vice presidential candidate after refusing to answer questions about his health and other matters, according to a new book on last year’s presidential campaign.
Christie has refused to rule out a presidential run, which may mean he could resign before his second term ends.
Nearly half of New Jersey residents think he’ll run, according to a recent poll.
Buono, 60, portrayed Christie’s ambitions as a negative. In an interview on MSNBC on Monday, she said the governor is putting his personal ambitions ahead of the needs of the state.
Buono also challenged Christie on gay marriage, which she supported and he opposed before it became legal in New Jersey last month. She criticized Christie’s budget priorities — refusing to reinstate a surcharge on millionaires while trimming a property tax credit for the working poor, for example — and his veto of legislation raising the minimum wage.
Though a majority of New Jersey residents said they agreed with Buono on social issues, she has been unable to get out from a campaign Catch-22: She couldn’t get her message out because she hadn’t raised a lot of money for advertising, and she had trouble raising money because voters didn’t know her.
Democrats, including Buono, rejected Christie’s minimum-wage compromise of scaling back an increase and phasing it in over three years, and instead decided to put the question to voters.
Christie and Buono both cast their own ballots early.
Christie and his wife voted Tuesday at a firehouse in Mendham Township. He said this is the last time he’ll be running for elected office in New Jersey. By law, Christie can’t seek a third term.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever have another chance to vote for myself,” he said. “I won’t ever run for another office in New Jersey, I can guarantee that. This is it for me.”
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