Is Possible 2016 Run Behind Christie’s Tighter Grip On N.J. Financial Info?

Governor Christie won the 2009 gubernatorial election against incumbent Jon Corzine by promising to right New Jersey’s economy, fix a state budget riddled with debt and take on record-high property tax bills.

Christie would accomplish those goals while ushering in “a new era of transparency and accountability,” he said during his inauguration.

But since delivering those remarks in January 2010, Christie has been forced to face several stark facts: Tax collections fell below what he promised; credit ratings were downgraded; property tax bills grew; and the state unemployment rate continued to trail the national average and those of most neighboring states.

Now, Christie has turned his attention to 2016 and a decision about joining the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, in which each candidate’s economic record will be a critical issue. But in the past eight months, his administration has made several moves that ultimately keep sensitive details about state finances from public view.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist based in Washington, D.C., said what Christie has been doing is “par for the course” for a potential presidential candidate.

Christie’s top concern heading into the 2016 GOP primary and caucus season is his record on fiscal issues and the state economy, said O’Connell, who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. And, he added, that record will be more important to primary voters than any lingering concerns about the bridge controversy or Christie’s positions on social issues, which some conservatives have labeled as too moderate.

“The key to how far he goes comes down to how he can package and sell his fiscal management and the economic performance of the Garden State,” O’Connell said. “That’s his No. 1 concern right now.”

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