CHESILHURST, N.J. (AP) — The mayor of a rural South Jersey town that has seen additional state aid under Gov. Chris Christie has become the third Democratic mayor to throw support behind the popular Republican.

Mayor Michael Blunt of Chesilhurst in Camden County endorsed Christie on Wednesday. He called the governor a man of his word for following through on a promise to hold a town hall in the 1.6-square-mile community in 2011. A lifelong Democrat, the part-time mayor acknowledged that Christie has been good to the borough, though it did not support him in his first gubernatorial run in 2009.

“Gov. Christie has done so many things for the borough of Chesilhurst, and his administration, I would be crazy not to support someone who puts the food on the table of the borough,” Blunt said at borough hall, with Christie on hand to receive the endorsement.

Democrats in Trenton pointed to Chesilhurst as one of a handful of communities across the state set to benefit from an increase in property tax relief aid in Christie’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Chesilhurst also was one of six distressed municipalities to receive $200,000 in transitional aid the previous year.

Blunt said his borough needs businesses to locate in the borough to provide a tax base.

Democratic mayors in Sea Bright and Harrison also have endorsed Christie. Harrison is another of the five towns in line for more state aid next year.

On Tuesday, East Brunswick Mayor David Stahl announced a decision to switch parties and run for state Senate as a Republican in the district now represented by Christie challenger Barbara Buono of Metuchen. The progressive Democrat’s candidacy has been backed by organized labor, including the state firefighters’ union. She has to give up her Senate seat to run for governor.

Christie, who took no questions after the event, said support from Democratic communities like Chesilhurst doesn’t happen overnight. He said he’s been working with the mayor for three years to establish a relationship. He made similar comments when accepting the endorsement recently of another traditionally Democratic group, the Latino Action Network.
Chesilhurst, a community of 1,600 residents including a sizable African American population, carries symbolic meaning for Christie as one of three towns across the state that Tom Kean did not carry in his 1985 gubernatorial win.

“The fact that I actually might be able to win one of the towns where my great mentor fell just a little short in 1985 would be a good and gratifying talking point between he and I on Nov. 5,” Christie said of Kean, who Christie credits for getting him started in politics.

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