New Jersey Catching Glimpses of Post-Christie Era

TRENTON (AP) -

As Christie pursues the Republican nomination — and increasingly spends time in the first primary and caucus states of New Hampshire and Iowa — early signs are emerging that suggest what New Jersey’s political future might hold: its first-ever lieutenant governor is more frequently taking on a role as acting governor and lawmakers are increasingly dropping references to the 2017 election into their rhetoric.

No one has officially declared candidacy and Christie insists he hasn’t ceded his duties to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, but it’s clear that jockeying for the governor’s office is underway.

Guadagno has previously said it would be disingenuous of her to say she has not considered running in 2017 but that she’s focused on her duties as lieutenant governor.

The first person to hold the lieutenant governor’s post since its creation, Guadagno is now more than a year into a second term. She’s found a niche, traveling the state to discuss bringing jobs to New Jersey and leading panels aimed at addressing issues like military base closures.

“The way we set this up for the first time was so that we were completely together on every issue,” Guadagno said. “We have one communications office; we have one policy office, one briefing office, one scheduling office. We all work together to make decisions in the governor’s office and so I don’t see any difference quite frankly.”

Christie’s White House bid has even prompted some Democratic lawmakers to suggest 2017 isn’t soon enough for a change: State Sens. Raymond Lesniak and Loretta Weinberg are planning a long-shot bill that would require governors to step down if they run for president.

It’s a sign, Seton Hall associate political science professor Matthew Hale said, that the state’s Democratic politicians are beginning to look beyond Christie.

“I don’t think he’s going anywhere,” Hale said. “But it tells you how much people are chomping at the bit to get rid of him.”