Not Just a Second Banana

Twenty lieutenant governors and seconds-in-command succeeded to governor from 2000 thru November of 2009. Several of the largest states by population are lead by former lieutenant governors. An average of one in every four governors first served as lieutenant governor or first in line of succession. A study showed no other city, state or Congressional office is more successful than the office of lieutenant governor as a springboard to governor.

Bill Halter, Brad Owen, John Cherry, Becky Skillman, Barbara Lawton, Casey Cagle, Peter Kinder, Walter Dalton and James ‘Duke’ Aiona. Their names may not be familiar to you, but they are America’s last line of defense when a state’s chief executive is no longer able to lead.

They are the greatest of unknown Americans: the Lieutenant Governors.

New Jersey long scoffed at the idea of having an LG. Why have an orderly transition in the case of a gubernatorial vacancy when you can have the Senate President also be the Acting Governor? You’re saving a paycheck and office space. Plus, you won’t have to keep redecorating Drumthwacket.

While Chris Christie is becoming New Jersey’s 55th governor in January, the truly historic news is that Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno will be the first Lieutenant Governor in the history of our state. Never before has New Jersey had a permanent second-in-command, and only time will tell how that will change our politics.

The most exciting aspect of New Jersey having an LG is that New Jersey has never had a scandal involving an LG. We’ve never had federal law enforcement agents storm an LG’s office and carry away computers. No LG has ever been caught in a sex scandal, taken a bribe, or hired people for no-show jobs. It is the cleanest office in New Jersey.

While we’ve had all sorts of elected officials go to prison, no New Jersey LG has ever been behind bars.
Clean slate, so far.

Also in 2010, New Jersey will be able to take its rightful place in one of the nation’s most prestigious organizations, the National Lieutenant Governors Association. When the NLGA meets in Washington, D.C. in March to take care of important lieutenant governor business, Kim Guadagno will be there to make sure that New Jersey’s voice is heard.

What do you think the conversation is like at these meetings? “My governor lets me have full run of the mansion when he’s away, and he gave me the code on the remote control so I can watch all of the pay-movie stations.” “When he’s got a lot of meetings, my governor let’s me take his limo wherever I want to go.”

Actually, according to the NLGA’s website, lieutenant governors are making big news. Michigan LG John Cherry was highlighted for his outspoken support of the state’s new multi-species hunting package. Now, people in Michigan can get pre-approved to hunt for all sorts of animals, not just elk and deer but turkeys too. Missouri LG Peter Kinder is passing out gold, silver and bronze medals to people who take part in the “Your Heart is in Your Hands” healthy food and exercise program. North Carolina LG Walter Dalton even started a charity drive to get shoes to needy children by holding a “barefoot” press conference.
Important work for all.

So I now call on my fellow New Jerseyans to give their full support to Kim Guadagno as she looks to make her mark among the other great Americans now serving as Lieutenant Governor. And take her rightful place at the NLGA annual conference in Mississippi on July 27th-31st, 2010 at the Beau Rivage Resort.
Not Just a Second Banana