New Jersey Governor Christie touts his compassionate side

  • By Hilary Russ

By Hilary Russ

TRENTON, N.J. (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, proposed more drug addiction treatment and praised bi-partisanship in a State of the State speech that focused on his credentials as a compassionate conservative.

Christie, whose presidential campaign is focused on the New Hampshire primary election less than a month away, said on Tuesday he is a "real leader" who has achieved bi-partisan successes, unlike President Barack Obama.

Obama is to deliver his final State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. Obama said earlier Tuesday that not being able to unify Washington's political divisions was a "regret."

Obama's speech will be "a fantasy wish list by a President who has failed us," Christie said in his address to New Jersey's Democrat-led legislature.

Christie ranks fifth among Republican contenders in New Hampshire, according to a Monmouth University Poll on Monday.

Despite thanking Democrats who worked across the aisle and saying his own tenure had been a "victory for a different kind of politics," Christie also lashed out against a Democratic push to require the state to make its public pension contributions.

Christie also denounced public sector unions for being selfish.

Christie's wide-ranging speech touted his economic stewardship and harkened back over his tenure, noting that when he took office in January 2010, "New Jersey was broke, economically depressed and failing."

Six years later, he said, "the state of New Jersey is strong and growing stronger every day."

In addition to noting the state's lower unemployment rate and roughly 224,000 private jobs created - which, while true, do not reflect the fuller picture of the state's tepid economic recovery - Christie proposed new measures to combat drug addiction.

He wants to turn a shuttered state prison into a drug abuse treatment facility for inmates and proposed spending an additional $100 million on mental health and substance abuse services.

The proposals are part of Christie's focus on so-called compassionate conservatism which stresses concepts like giving people a second chance in order to improve the general welfare of society.

The governor faced criticism, however, from several dozen protesters outside the State House.

"Isn't it a shame that this man is running for president?" yelled Raymond Greaves, chairman of the New Jersey Amalgamated Transit Union State Council.

Greaves said New Jersey's roads and bridges are crumbling, despite fare toll and fare increases. The state's transportation trust fund for new projects is nearly insolvent.

For more on the 2016 presidential race, see the Reuters blog, “Tales from the Trail” (http://blogs.reuters.com/talesfromthetrail/).

(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Richard Chang and Andrew Hay)

SAP is the sponsor of this coverage which is independently produced by the staff of Reuters News Agency.

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