Republicans have a chance to take control of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in January, when Christopher Christie takes office as governor. Right now, Democrats have a 3-2 majority on the board that regulates the natural gas, electricity, water and telecommunications and cable television industries. But Commissioner Frederick Butler, a former Executive Director of the Assembly Democratic office, is on holdover status and Gov. Jon Corzine has not renominated him.
There was some talk earlier this year that Corzine would give the seat to Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Fanwood), but Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean (R-Westfield) reportedly refused to sign off on her. Butler, a Somerset County resident, is unlikely to return since State Sen. Christopher Bateman (R-Branchburg) is unlikely to sign off on his nomination. To prevent Christie from an early takeover of the BPU, Corzine will need to nominate a candidate from a county where Republicans have no senatorial courtesy.
Traditionally, the new governor gets to designate a BPU President, who holds cabinet status. There is no guarantee that the incumbent, Jeanne Fox, who faced a tough confirmation hearing last year, will step down. If she does, and if the Christie doesn't get to fill Butler's seat, the new governor will have to choose between Republicans Elizabeth Randall and Nicholas Asselta for the presidency.