New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may have the most to gain among those with the potential to take on cabinet positions in the administration of president-elect Donald Trump, but one of his longtime political allies back home has nearly as much on the line—Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno’s likely gubernatorial bid in 2017 will be summarily doomed to failure unless she can present herself to the Democratic-leaning state as a moderate incumbent, and Christie’s exit for a seat at Trump’s right hand is her best chance.
Despite her recent bucking of Christie on the successful ballot question that dedicated funds from the state’s recent gas tax hike to its ailing Transportation Trust Fund, Guadagno reassumed her longstanding role as Christie’s ribbon-cutting functionary at a Veterans’ Day ceremony in Wrightstown, where the Lieutenant Governor did not make herself available to the press.
Meanwhile, Christie has said that he and Trump have not discussed his place in the adminsitration, and others in the one-time real estate magnate’s circle are reportedly closing in on the positions many have called for the governor: former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has expressed his interest in serving as Attorney General, while Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel has been offered the chance to take Christie’s place as the leader of Trump’s transition team. Trump’s campaign CEO Steve Bannon, of the far-right news operation Breitbart, is on deck for White House chief of staff.
Though Christie told the Today Show that he and Trump have not discussed his place in the administration, any appointment at all would be a step up from his dismal 19 percent approval rating in a recent Rutgers poll and a reputation bruised by weeks of unflattering testimony in the Bridgegate trial that saw two of his former appointees found guilty on all charges in the infamous Fort Lee lane closure scandal.
If Guadago is going to have a prayer in the contest to succeed Christie once his term us up in 2018, she will need to make some grave calculations as to whether she needs to distance herself from Trump, or accept the national GOP’s line on their unconventional 2016 nominee. Christie’s unpopularity at home could be an albatross, but so could her failure to embrace Trump during his campaign if the state party changes its largely critical attitude toward the former reality TV star.
With the commentariat calling the 2017 gubernatorial election the Democrats’ to lose, these are the potential replacement lieutenant governors and running mates that Guadagno might consider if Christie does take an early exit.
Kelly Yaede, the Mayor of Hamilton – The Republican mayor of one of the state’s biggest swing municipalities, and someone who would stand to move up if Guadagno lights on her as her running mate.
Jack Ciattarelli, State Assemblyman – A moderate Republican, a fellow candidate for the Republican nomination, and a vociferous critic of Christie’s involvement in the Trump campaign. Ciattarelli has said that he will not continue his own campaign if he faces a Republican incumbent in the primary.
Bill Spadea, NJ 101.5 FM host – A friend of Gudagno’s with the radio station that gave her a platform to break with Christie on the gas tax ballot question. The popular radio personality could give her reach.
Randy Brown, Mayor of Evesham – A formerly Democratic convert and the mayor of one of the state’s most dependably Republican towns in its most dependably Republican county of Burlington, Brown would be able to bring his PAC “One Team, One Vision, One New Jersey Political Action Committee” to the table.
Chris Brown, State Assemblyman – The well-liked Republican Assemblyman has distinguished himself as the fiercest opponent of the failed plan to expand casino gaming outside of his district, which encompasses Atlantic City. Could bring Guadagno important sections of heavily Republican Atlantic County.
Mike Doherty, State Senator – A man whose enthusiasm for Trump presaged even Christie’s, Doherty would be an excellent choice if the Lieutenant Governor wants to change course on the president-elect. Doherty said Friday that he intends to run for reelection and not for governor himself, but one never knows.
Harry Robbins, Mayor of Lakehurst – The mayor of a Bergen County town with one of the smallest percentages of registered Democrats in the state.
Albert J. Kurpis, Mayor of Saddle River – Kurpris’ Bergen County town is one of the most dense with independent voters.
John Crowley – A one-time frontrunner when Christie had the chance to appoint a replacement for the late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, the biotech executive would make an accomplished choice if he wants to reenter the ring.
Joe Piscopo – The wild-card. The comedian announced his intention to run for governor back in October, and would make a good choice if Guadagno wants to forgo the political wrangling by choosing a well-liked outsider.