Moderate Christopher J. Christie walked to victory in the Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday, fending off challenges from two more conservative rivals and setting up a long-anticipated November matchup with the unpopular incumbent Democrat.
"I am honored by the confidence you continue to show in me," Christie told a crowd of supporters chanting his name. "I will work hard each and every day, just like all of you do, to prove to you that your confidence was well-placed."
Ultraconservative Republican Steve Lonegan conceded the race just before 10 p.m.
Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who glided to victory in the Democratic primary after facing only token competition, officially kicked off his re-election campaign with Vice President Joseph Biden in West Orange.
"Barack Obama and Joe Biden are committed to Jon Corzine's re-election. Period. End of sentence," Biden said just after polls closed at 8 p.m. "We need Jon Corzine at the helm."
Corzine accepted his party's nomination for a second term.
"Being governor of New Jersey is the highest honor of my life," Corzine said. "Serving the people is my highest calling."
Corzine, 62, could face a tough re-election bid. A series of polls has shown him trailing Christie, a former U.S. attorney under former President George W. Bush.
Christie, 46, was enthusiastically backed by the state's Republican establishment, receiving virtually every county GOP endorsement. He is widely viewed within the party as the only candidate with a shot at recapturing the governor's office, which no Republican has done since 1997.
Even before the primary polls closed Tuesday night, Christie's daughter, Sarah, 13, was ready to proclaim her dad the nominee, holding a homemade posterboard sign that read: "CJC Victory."
Lonegan and Assemblyman Rick Merkt said they will support Christie in November, though Lonegan has said he will continue to try to push Christie to the right on economic issues.