By John Celock
A week after his party was reduced to it’s lowest membership in the state Assembly in decades, a new poll shows that a majority of New Jersey residents believe Gov. Chris Christie (R) should resign if he continues as a presidential candidate.
A Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday shows that 51 percent of those surveyed believe Christie should resign as governor, while 45 percent believe he should continue in office. The poll also found Christie in fourth place among GOP presidential candidates in New Jersey with eight percent of the vote. The poll showed that 63 percent of those surveyed believe his campaign is distracting him as governor, while 55 percent disapprove of his job performance. The poll comes two years after Christie was easily reelected to a second term.
The poll comes in a line of polls that have shown Christie’s popularity in New Jersey dropping as his pursues his national ambitions. In last week’s election, Republicans lost four seats in the state Assembly, including three in largely GOP districts, a loss many are attributing to a voter rebuke of Christie.
Christie has not indicated any desire to resign the governorship as he continues to run for president. On Monday, Christie was present in Trenton, signing and vetoing a series of bills. During the course of 2015, he has delegated various public duties, including bill signings to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R), who becomes acting governor when Christie leaves the state.
If Christie were to resign now, Guadagno would become New Jersey’s governor until a special election was held in November 2016 for the remaining year on Christie’s term. A 2016 special gubernatorial election would change up New Jersey politics, speeding up the already competitive 2017 gubernatorial race. On the Democratic side, state Senate President Steve Sweeney, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and former ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy have been campaigning statewide for over a year, while state Sen. Ray Lesniak and Assemblyman John Wisniewski have indicated they are considering bids. On the GOP side, Guadagno and Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick are both considered likely candidates.
A 2016 race would allow all state legislators and Fulop to seek the governorship without sacrificing their current offices. If unsuccessful in keeping the governorship, Guadagno would not be able to return to the lieutenant governorship, as a new lieutenant governor would be elected in the same special election.
The winner of a hypothetical 2016 race would also, under New Jersey’s term limits law, would also be able to serve a maximum of five years, until the 2021 election.
A Christie resignation would boost a Guadagno gubernatorial run, allowing the state’s first lieutenant governor, the ability to boost her profile as governor. Guadagno, a former Monmouth County sheriff, has largely kept a low profile, focusing on economic development and her duties as New Jersey’s secretary of state, which include overseeing tourism, elections and the arts. She is well known in GOP circles for attending local party events around the state.