By John Celock
New Jersey’s lieutenant governor has officially taken steps to confirm her long anticipated entry into the 2017 race for governor.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) filed paperwork with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission Thursday to create a campaign committee for a gubernatorial run, according to reports. The move comes as Guadagno has moved in recent months to distance herself from term-limited Gov. Chris Christie (R), who is one of the most unpopular governors in the country.
Guadagno’s entry in the gubernatorial contest confirms speculation that has been around since her and Christie were reelected in 2013. Guadagno, the first lieutenant governor in New Jersey history, has been a frequent presence around the state at local Republican Party events since she was first elected in 2009 and she has gained a base of support with local GOP activists around the state.
Guadagno’s service as lieutenant governor has been centered largely on economic development and serving as New Jersey’s secretary of state. As secretary of state, Guadagno serves as the state’s chief elections officer and is in charge of tourism, the arts, volunteerism and archives. In the economic development role, Guadagno has been a liaison to businesses looking to relocate to the Garden State. Guadagno has also been a frequent presence at economic and tourism related events around the state.
Guadagno has gained visibility in recent years, given her role as acting governor when Christie leaves the state. Christie has frequently left the state in his second term in pursue his national political ambitions. During this time, Guadagno has stood in for Christie at a variety of events, including being the first on the scene during last year’s train crash in Hoboken, when Christie was in Washington when it first occurred.
Guadagno, the only woman running for governor in the country in 2017, enters the Republican primary as the likely frontrunner in a race that will put her against Assemblyman Jack Ciaterrelli (R) and several minor candidates. The GOP primary winner will face the winner of the three-way Democratic primary between businessman Phil Murphy, Assemblyman John Wisniewski and state Sen. Ray Lesniak. Murphy, who has the backing of Democratic Party leaders is viewed as the frontrunner in his party’s primary.
Guadagno, a former federal prosecutor, has been in elective office for 12 years, starting her political career as a town commissioner in Monmouth Beach. In 2007 she briefly sought a state Assembly seat before successfully seeking the post of Monmouth County sheriff. She left the sheriff’s office after two years to become lieutenant governor.