A funny thing is going on in New Jersey. The state’s response to the massive snowstorm is being overseen by Democratic state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, in the role of Acting Governor — because both Republican Gov. Chris Christie and his Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are vacationing out of state at the same time.
Until this past year, New Jersey did not actually have a lieutenant governor, with the state Senate President taking over in case of a vacancy or temporary absence of the governor. In 2005, New Jersey voters approved a ballot question to create the office of lieutenant governor, with it being filled by the victory of the Christie-Guadagno ticket in 2009.
But in the midst of the snowstorm, Christie is on vacation with his family at Disney World in Florida, and Guadagno and her family are in Mexico.As the Bergen Record reports, this has one Democratic state senator calling foul:
“We clearly made a mistake if we created the office lieutenant governor and wasted money if the lieutenant governor is not going to be here when the governor is out of state,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union). “It’s being handled very well by Sen. Sweeney, but you have to really question the purpose of the office.”
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak defended their absence, and pointed out that in fact Guadagno does not currently receive a separate pay as lieutenant governor — she was separately appointed to be Secretary of State, and receives her pay for that office:
“It’s a big snow, definitely, but the world is not coming to an end,” said Drewniak. “We are a northeastern state and we get snow – sometimes lots of it like this – and we will get through it just as we always do.”
Last week, Sweeney told the paper of his surprise acting governorship: “I was in shock. There was no way in the world I thought they would let that happen. I’m sure whoever did the scheduling had a heart attack.”
That said, Sweeney also made clear that he would not sign bills or take other actions that Christie would not have done: “I wouldn’t do that to him. The guy is going on vacation with his family, and I’m not going to ruin it by creating mischief.”
And as a special bonus, Lesniak — the Democratic politician complaining about how Christie and Guadagno are in Florida and Mexico — is also himself in Florida.