- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Gov. Chris Christie is not the only New Jersey politician thinking about his next job.

While Christie is spending much of his time in New Hampshire and Iowa running for president, the jockeying for his current job has clearly begun back home - and not just because there’s a chance he won’t complete his term.

Here’s a look at developments in the run-up to the 2017 governor’s election.

___

WHY NOW

Christie is approaching the halfway mark of his second term as governor.

No matter how he does in the presidential race, he’s forbidden by the state constitution from running for governor in 2017.

Somebody has to replace him and there’s plenty of interest in the position already.

“You really need a long planning time,” said Peter Woolley, a political scientist at Florham-based Fairleigh Dickinson University. “Part of that is planning out your fundraising strategy, part of that is trying to figure out who your real friends are.”

Those who go on to be governor generally have major name recognition before their runs. In a state divided into the New York City and Philadelphia media markets, that can be hard to come by, even for legislative leaders.

The way Woolley sees it, New Jersey Democrats, which control both chambers of the Legislature, have a deep bench but no clear leader among its elected officials, while the Republicans have fewer potential candidates - but one of them is better known.

___

AN ANNOUNCEMENT, SORT OF

State Sen. Ray Lesniak, a Democrat who was first elected to the state Legislature in 1977, let it be known last week that he won’t be running for his seat again in 2017.

“I’m definitely not running for re-election to the Senate,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press - as he told other media outlets. “It’s governor or bust, so to speak.”

That doesn’t mean Lesniak, 69, is definitely running.

But he’s giving it heavy consideration, thinking about what kind of competition would be best for him.

“The more candidates in, the better,” he said. “I will be able to capture groups of people around the many issues I’ve been championing.”

Lesniak is one of the state’s leading legislative liberals on social issues, has long advocated for environmental protection and is a prime supporter of legalizing sports gambling.

___

THE DEMOCRATIC PICTURE

Lesniak has gone a step further than other possible candidates in declaring his intentions, but the actions of several others in his party indicate they could be running.

Last week, state Senate President Steve Sweeney held a news conference to pitch his idea for funding government workers’ pensions - proposing a national solution to a state problem.

Philip Murphy, a former U.S. ambassador to Germany who has never held elective office, last year launched a political action committee, New Start New Jersey, and he has said he’s considering running for governor next year.

John Wisniewski, a state Assemblyman and co-chairman of the legislative committee that investigated politically motivated traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge, has a campaign website that shows ambitions beyond his district.

And Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a rising star in Democratic politics, has faced criticism from some council members in Jersey City for acting more like a candidate for governor than the mayor.

___

A COMING OUT

On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, has long been a regular at ribbon-cuttings and other events. But in the past few months, she has more often taken questions from reporters.

She’s said that she may consider running and that her role in New Jersey has not changed with Christie spending much of his time out of state on the presidential campaign trail.

A Republican Assemblyman, Jon Bramnick, has held events and announcements outside his district in the past year.

Woolley says another possible Republican candidate may have the name-recognition edge over all of them. That’s Tom Kean Jr., a state senator who has run for the U.S. Senate and whose father was governor in the 1980s.

___

Follow Mulvihill at https://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide