TRENTON, N.J. – Chris Christie was elected New Jersey governor less than two years ago on a promise to fix a fiscally broken state. It’s a pledge he says he won’t walk away from until it’s fulfilled.

The first-term governor announced Tuesday that he would rebuff a cadre of Republican suitors and sit out the 2012 presidential race rather than join an unsettled field seeking the GOP nomination.

His reason for sticking around: Too much unfinished business.

“I have a commitment to New Jersey I simply will not abandon,” Christie told reporters packed into his outer office to hear the announcement the country had been buzzing about for a week. “I asked for this job. I fought hard for this job. It never felt right to me to leave now.”

Christie said he believed he had caught the eye of Republicans from New York to California during his first 20 months on the job by closing back-to-back budget gaps, imposing tax-growth limits and reining in public worker benefits. However, New Jerseyans still pay higher property taxes than residents of any other state, unemployment remains a stubbornly high 9.4 percent and the pension and health care systems for public workers are dangerously underfunded.

“The governor clearly understood that he cannot run for president when his own house isn’t in order,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono said.

Even Christie acknowledges a lengthy “to-do” list that he says will keep him focused on his home state indefinitely.

“It was going to be difficult for the governor to get anything done in terms of his policy objectives if he was not going to be here,” said political scientist Patrick Murray of Monmouth University.

“He does have a job to do here,” Murray added. “The longevity of his political career depends much more on him winning re-election in 2013 than taking a shot at running for president.”

Tops on his list is overhauling the education system, an ambitious agenda that includes scrapping lifetime teacher tenure, instituting merit pay in public schools and tying teacher compensation to student achievement. A seven-bill package has been sent to the Legislature.

Despite Christie’s claims of working with legislators of the opposite party to get his policies enacted in New Jersey, Democrats who control both houses of the Legislature may be in no mood to cooperate with the outspoken governor. Democrats have said they aren’t too keen on advancing his merit pay proposal or his push to eliminate seniority protections for teachers.

Christie’s more immediate task is to lend his star power to fellow Republicans up for election to the Legislature in November. But, with a new legislative district map that was not redrawn to his liking, there are few districts where races are competitive and Republicans can advance.

Murray says Christie’s fundraising prowess will mostly be banked until 2013, when the governor will face voters directly.