- Associated Press - Saturday, November 12, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s reversal of fortunes thanks to President-elect Donald Trump’s victory could soon leave New Jersey with a new governor.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is in line to succeed the two-term Republican incumbent if he leaves for an administration post in Washington. Christie was replaced on Friday as the chairman of Trump’s transition team by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, but could still wind up in a job in Washington.

“I am prepared to serve as governor should Gov Christie become part of the new administration,” Guadagno said in a statement this week. “That’s what lieutenant governors do.”

If Christie does leave before his term ends in January 2018, he will leave one of the country’s most powerful governorships to Guadagno.

Christie has record-low approval at 20 percent and suffered a blow when two former allies were convicted last week in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure case.



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WHO IS GUADAGNO?

She was elected with Christie in 2009 as the state’s first lieutenant governor. Before serving in the Christie administration, she was elected Monmouth County sheriff. Like others in Christie’s circle, she has a legal background, having served as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. She was born in Waterloo, Iowa.

The lieutenant governor position was created in 2010 by voter referendum advanced by Democrats in charge of the Legislature.

Before the position was created, the state Senate speaker took over for any departing governor. That happened after Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman resigned in 2001 when President George Bush appointed her to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and in 2004 when Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey resigned in scandal.

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WHAT’S HER RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRISTIE LIKE?

David Wildstein, who pleaded guilty to being the architect of the political revenge plot, testified that Christie and Guadagno have had conflicts.

“I remember being told at least once that she was frozen out,” Wildstein said.

Bridget Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff who was convicted, testified that the relationship was “stressful.”

“There were times where she was kind of put in a box (by Christie) and wasn’t permitted to do a whole lot,” Kelly said. “She wasn’t allowed to see his schedule.”

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HAS SHE DISAGREED PUBLICLY WITH THE GOVERNOR?

Not much, and not until recently. Guadagno broke with Christie over his support for Trump after a video was released showing him making sexually aggressive comments about women, including saying he could grab women by their private parts.

Guadagno also recently broke with the governor over a ballot question to dedicate the gas tax to transportation. Christie favored it, but Guadagno came out opposed to it because she said it was a backdoor way to authorize billions in debt. The question succeeded, despite her opposition.

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WHY DISAGREE WITH THE GOVERNOR NOW?

Guadagno is considering a 2017 run for governor and Christie is deeply unpopular in New Jersey after the Bridgegate trial, a 23-cent per gallon gas tax increase and his own presidential run that kept him out of the state for much of 2015. Showing some distance from her unpopular running mate of two terms could help differentiate her from Christie in voters’ minds.

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IF SHE BECOMES GOVERNOR, WILL THAT HELP OR HURT HER CHANCES IF SHE RUNS FOR GOVERNOR?

If the governor steps down soon, she could have almost a year in the state’s top elected office. Ben Dworkin, the director of the Rebovich Institute of New Jersey Politics, said the opportunity to govern gives her a high-profile platform and greater visibility. Guadagno has not officially said if she’s running, but already the race is underway. Democrat Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Obama administration ambassador, is running, as is Republican Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli.

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