NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is joining the 2016 presidential race and will make an official announcement Tuesday at his old high school, two people familiar with his plans told The Associated Press.
The Republican leader of a Democratic stronghold has been laying the groundwork for a White House run for months. In 2012, he decided against seeking the GOP nomination and challenging President Barack Obama.
This time, he will not be a potential front runner when he joins a field of more than a dozen major GOP candidates. Instead, Christie becomes one among the several contenders trying to emerge from a crowd of senators, governors, businesspeople and others.
The people familiar with Christie’s plans spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to pre-empt Christie’s announcement.
His plans were first reported by WNYC radio in New York. A spokeswoman for Christie’s political action committee did not immediately respond to telephone messages.
Christie is a tough-talking former federal prosecutor, ever confident in his skills as a campaigner. He appears ready to stake his candidacy on New Hampshire. The state, which holds the party’s first primary, has historically welcomed moderate candidates willing to invest time on the ground.
The governor has held a series of well-received town hall meetings and delivered policy speeches in the state. Christie has played up his brash persona, hoping to appeal to voters yearning for strong leadership in the White House after six years of Obama, whose personality couldn’t be more different.
At the same time, Christie has stressed his ability to work with Democrats, making the case he can expand the party’s base by appealing to the woman and minority voters Republicans probably will need to win over in greater numbers to capture the White House.
Christie remains dogged by the actions of several top aides, including his former deputy chief of staff, who were accused of closing down access to a busy bridge connecting New Jersey with New York. It was an act federal prosecutor say was designed to punish a Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse Christie’s re-election in 2013.
From the outset, Christie has denied any knowledge of his aides’ actions. The U.S. attorney who won indictments against Christie’s former deputy chief of staff and his top appointee at the authority that controls the bridge has said he does not expect to file any additional charges in the case.
Another former ally has also pleaded guilty, while the trial of the indicted aides could take months – an unwelcome distraction as Christie campaigns.
Christie is likely to be one of four current governors in the 2016 race, joining Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, who announced his candidacy this week, and expected candidates Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio.
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