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N.J. governor makes Corbett 'top priority'

| Friday, June 6, 2014, 4:16 p.m.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Carmella Mullen of Braddock has her picture taken with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett by her husband Jim Mullen, left, while they stopped at Primanti Brothers Friday, June 6, 2014.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Chloe Kondrich, 11, of Upper St. Clair, has her picture taken with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, left, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett as they stopped at Primanti Brothers in the Strip District of Pittsburgh Friday, June 6, 2014.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, left in white dress shirt, is surrounded by visitors and the media as he (and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett) stopped by Primanti Brothers in the Strip District of Pittsburgh Friday, June 6, 2014.
Heidi Murrin | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie answer questions from the media as they stopped into Primanti Brothers in the Strip District of Pittsburgh Friday, June 6, 2014.

Inside the original Primanti Bros., surrounded by the scents of the afternoon lunch rush and the muffled sound of chanting protesters, Republican kingpin Chris Christie pledged his support for the nation's most beleaguered governor.

Re-electing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, the New Jersey governor said, is the “top priority” for the Republican Governors Association, the organization he chairs that is committed to electing GOP candidates.

“I'm here today because Tom Corbett's got a great record of accomplishment in this state,” said Christie, a rumored 2016 presidential contender. “I'm gonna work as hard as I can between now and November to make sure people hear that message and they re-elect him.”

Christie and Corbett stopped at the famed Strip District restaurant Friday afternoon. Wearing white button-down shirts on a sun-kissed afternoon after a morning of fundraisers, they entered through the side door, attempting to avoid about two dozen protesters camped out front.

About 100 supporters, press and campaign staff gathered shoulder to shoulder inside the restaurant. Christie clasped hands, posed for photos and took a sandwich topped with fries, coleslaw and tomato to go.

Corbett, who trails his Democratic opponent Tom Wolf by double digits in recent polls, described Christie as a good friend, fellow prosecutor and fellow competitor.

“We're trying to send a message out to the people of Pennsylvania and the people of the United States that we can keep our taxes down and make ourselves more competitive,” he said.

Christie praised Corbett's record on low taxes and private sector job creation.

“He's a much tougher competitor than Ed Rendell was, I can guarantee you that,” he said.

About 10 minutes before the governors arrived, protesters gathered across the street from the restaurant and held neon “One Term Tom” signs. An exchange of chants ensued when Corbett supporters attempted to drown them out with “four more years.” The chant quickly turned to “no more years” from the protesters.

LaSaine Latimore, 68, of the Hill District said she opposes Corbett's refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and disapproves of his plans for public education funding. Corbett, she said, “seems to be looking out for those who have a lot of money,” and not all Pennsylvanians.

“We want to know he's listened to us,” she said.

Wolf, a York County businessman who put up $10 million of his own money to win the primary, spent Friday in Philadelphia, including attending an endorsement event with the Service Employees International Union.

Christie is the most competitive contender in a hypothetical presidential race with Democrat Hillary Clinton among Pennsylvania voters, according to a poll this week from Quinnipiac. Leaning against a wooden four-top table covered in paper menus and a $5 tip, Christie stressed that's not why he came to Pennsylvania.

“They won't be talking about Chris Christie in this race, they'll be talking about Tom Corbett,” he said.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at mdaniels@tribweb.com or 412-380-8511.

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