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In Tampa, N.J. Gov. Christie Helps Rick Scott Promote Port Spending

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May 22 -- TAMPA -- Embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie , tagging along with Gov. Rick Scott during a campaign stop at Port Tampa Bay on Thursday, said he plans to stump with Scott throughout the summer.

Flanked by Christie and a dozen shipyard workers at the Port Hendry shipyard, Scott visited the Tampa center to announce his ongoing initiative to improve Florida ports and to create more and better-paying jobs for Floridians.

He called Christie a "close friend and a great competitor for job creation."

Christie is chairman of the Republican Governor's Association , the national Republican Party's campaign and fundraiser group for governor's races. He stepped up to support Scott's re-election, calling the Florida governor a job creator whom the people of Florida can trust. Both attended the annual convention this week for the American Association of Port Authorities , held in Orlando .

Scott's likely Democratic opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist , cost the state thousands of jobs while in office, Christie said -- echoing a Scott campaign theme.

"Your governor understands that the most important job for government is jobs," Christie said.

He said Floridians this November face "a really clear choice. You don't have to wonder what it would be like if his opponent won.

"You've lived it. You saw the pain," Christie said. "You need to vote for the person you can look in the eye."

Christie's star has fallen since he was given a prime speaking slot during the Republican National Convention in Tampa in 2012, first because of the so-called Bridgegate scandal and recently because of a faltering New Jersey economy.

Christie has blamed misguided staffers for shutting down George Washington Bridge toll lanes as political retribution earlier this year and just Tuesday, he announced major cutbacks to the state's pension payments to prop up the state budget.

At his lowest point, Christie -- once seen as a potential candidate for president -- was viewed as presidential material by just three in 10 Republicans nationwide, according to a March Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The trend line hasn't stopped Christie from campaigning for fellow Republicans.

"I'm going to be down here a lot in the next 5 { months," Christie said. He said he is someone who knows how hard it is to create jobs.

As for Scott's port initiative, the governor announced a plan to commit $35 million to three Florida port projects, including $10.4 million that will go to Port Tampa Bay to help improve its container yard.

Scott, the Legislature and the Florida Department of Transportation worked together to get the money to Port Tampa Bay , said Ram Kancharla , vice president of development for the port.

The money will be used in the next fiscal year beginning July 1 for rail, roadway and container yard improvements and for site work, Kancharla said.

Port Tampa Bay began its container cargo business in 2006 to diversify its long reliance on phosphate, petroleum and other bulk shipments. Container service saves local businesses time and thousands of dollars in shipping costs, compared to using rail or trucks to transport goods.

yhammett@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7127

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