For the first time in more than 15 years, a Republican governor has been elected to lead New Jersey, as Republican challenger Chris Christie edged out Democrat Gov. Jon Corzine Tuesday evening in the highly anticipated state gubernatorial elections.

According to the final numbers, Christie garnered 49 percent of the popular vote to Corzine’s 44 percent. Independent challenger Chris Daggett trailed with about 7 percent.

Joining Christie in Trenton next year will be the first ever lieutenant governor for the state of New Jersey, Kim Guadagno. The last Republican governor to sit at the helm and serve a full term as governor of the traditionally blue Garden State was Christine Todd Whitman between 1994 and 2001.

Corzine telephoned Christie at his Parsippany Hilton hotel headquarters at about 10:30 Tuesday evening to concede the race after more than 70 percent of all state precinct voting results showed Christie firmly ahead. Shortly afterwards, Corzine addressed his camp of supporters from his East Brunswick headquarters.” I want to thank all of you for your hard work, loyalty and support,” he said. “I plan to work with the new Christie administration for a smooth transition.”

For the past several months, pollsters said the race between Christie and Corzine was a virtual dead heat–with only a few, if any, percentage points separating the two. Corzine received several endorsements in recent weeks from national political heavyweights–most notably President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. However, the power player backings did not manage to sway the majority of voters to the governor–many of whom remained disenchanted with living in the Garden State.

Corzine was unable to deliver on a 2006 campaign promise to lower property taxes. New Jerseyans continue to pay the highest property taxes in the country, and the state remains one of the most expensive places to live. Some contend that this remained the most critical issue against the current administration. To that end, Corzine revamped the states’ popular Homestead Rebate program. For the past several years, the program provided homeowners and renters with a cash-back bonus once a year. However, this year marked the first year that thousands of renters across the state were excluded from the program.

Some political pundits called the race between Christie and Corzine one of the most contentious and acrimonious campaigns in years. Throughout, the candidates repeatedly discussed allegations of ethics violations, questionable awarding of state contracts, nepotism, obesity, incompetence and greed.

Christie, a former state prosecutor, is credited with cracking down on statewide corruption. It was Christie’s focus on certain activities that led to the public downfalls of Newark Mayor Sharpe James; Orange Mayor Mims Hackett and State Sen. Wayne Bryant, each of whom served or are currently serving time in federal prison. Christie was also instrumental in the corruption sting this past summer that led to the resignations of Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III and Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell.

In his acceptance speech to throngs of supporters on Tuesday, Christie vowed to get to work immediately to start rebuilding the state. “I will bring jobs back our state and make New Jersey an affordable place to live,” he said. “I will get us back on the right track.” Christie will be sworn in as the 55th governor of New Jersey in Trenton in mid-January.