Gov. Chris Christie may be backing Donald Trump in the Republican race for president, but key GOP leaders in Burlington County said they weren't ready to make the billionaire businessman their nominee.
Christie announced his endorsement Friday afternoon during a news conference with Trump in Fort Worth, Texas.
"This is the person who will go to Washington, D.C., and be able to absolutely turn the place around," Christie said, adding that Trump was hands down the better choice than first-term U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
"We don't need any more of these Washington, D.C., acts," said the governor, who had needled the Florida senator for missing votes and for repeating the same lines during speeches and debates.
Christie quit the presidential race earlier this month after a disappointing sixth-place finish in New Hampshire, where he had invested most of his time and campaign money.
Now in his second term as governor, he remains the state party's top voice and leader, and his support for Trump could influence both rank-and-file Republicans and New Jersey party leaders to support the real estate mogul.
New Jersey's primary election is June 7.
Burlington County Republican Chairman Bill Layton said the county committee would likely decide on a presidential candidate to endorse sometime next month.
The party's selection is important because the endorsed candidate will be awarded the coveted "party line" on the primary ballot.
"We have a process where we'll meet and have a discussion and then select a candidate," Layton said Friday, adding that he had no personal preference among the Republicans still in the race.
"At this point, I think any of the candidates are more than capable of beating Hillary Clinton, and that's all that matters," he said. "We can't have four more years of an Obama administration."
State Sen. Diane Allen, one of the New Jersey GOP's most well-known and respected lawmakers, said Friday that she hadn't made up her mind about whether she would endorse a presidential candidate, but she expressed reservation's about Christie's selection.
"I don't know that I'll be able to join him in that," said Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park.
Among her concerns: Trump hasn't provided details about how he plans to accomplish his many lofty campaign promises, and he hasn't released his tax returns.
Allen also doubted his ability to win in the general election.
"I fear there's so many things that have been brought up during the Republican debates that will be used against him (by the Democrats)," she said. "I'm not sure he can win in November."
Former 8th District Assemblyman Chris J. Brown has endorsed Rubio and plans to argue for the Florida senator when the Burlington County Republican Committee makes its decision.
"I think Rubio for our county is exactly what we need at the top of the ticket in the county and across the state of New Jersey to give Republicans the best chance to win offices," Brown said. "The Burlington County freeholders race has been hard for Republicans during presidential election years, and having Trump at the top of the ticket would make it hard to win Burlington County. Rubio is the best thing for us."
Christie's decision to endorse Trump came the weekend before Super Tuesday, when scores of state delegates will be up for grabs. It also followed aggressive attacks by Rubio on Trump during Thursday's debate and in television interviews and advertisements.
"A con artist is about to take over the Republican Party and the conservative movement," Rubio charged on CBS' "This Morning" on Friday. "And we have to put a stop to it."
One of Burlington County's leading Democrats also said Christie's decision reflects poorly on the state.
"Mr. Trump's campaign is seemingly built on a frustration towards government cloaked in hateful, divisive and shallow rhetoric," said state Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra. "Having our governor, who represents a state that prides itself on the strength of its diversity, endorse this shameful agenda is deeply disappointing."
This story contains information from The Associated Press.