Deadline for lieutenant governor selection not as close as presumed

*UPDATE: The Governor's Office announced at 4:12pm today that Gov. Corzine signed the lieutenant governor legislation this afternoon. Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells also certified the results after the publication of this story. All gubernatorial candidates have 30 days from today to select a running mate.

The Secretary of State's office says that the deadline for picking a lieutenant governor has not yet been set, giving Governor Jon Corzine and Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie almost a month longer than originally thought to pick their running mates.

Since the primary, the buzz about who the major party candidates will pick for the number two spot has been based on the presumption that it will have to be done within 30 days of that election – on or before July 2. After all, the 2006 amendment to the New Jersey State Constitution creating the new office reads that the selection “shall be made within 30 days following the nomination of the candidate for election to the office of Governor.”

But when a candidate wins a primary – even by convincing margins, as both Corzine and Christie did – he or she is not automatically the nominee. Before Corzine and Christie officially get that status, Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells has to certify the June 2 primary results. That has not happened yet, although she may certify them as early as today.

A bill that won final passage in the legislature last night spells out the deadline more clearly. According to the law, the candidate for lieutenant governor “shall be selected by the candidate of that party nominated for election to the office of Governor within 30 days following the certification of the candidate for election to the office of Governor.”

“The clock has not started to run if [Wells] has not certified” said Department of State spokeswoman Susan Evans.

But wait – it gets more complicated. Until the Governor actually signs the legislation into law, the deadline does not technically exist.

“It’s kind of like a big circle… Until [Corzine] signs that legislation, there is no guideline,” said Evans.

Independent candidates who just had to submit petitions by June 2nd will be held to the same rules as those affiliated with political parties.

Whether Corzine and Christie will make use of their newfound time is an open question.

A source deeply involved in Gov. Corzine’s reelection efforts said that his campaign had been operating under a July 2 time frame to make the pick but that they were not happy with the announcement bumping up against the July 4 holiday, when the public will be more focused on their vacations than state politics. The campaign, which apparently has not settled on a running mate yet, is considering pushing the announcement back.

A spokesperson for the Chrsitie campaign could not immediately be reached for comment. Deadline for lieutenant governor selection not as close as presumed