New Jersey Copes With Blizzard Without the Governor -- or His Backup

New Jersey residents voted in 2005 to give their state a lieutenant governor after a period when the state had five governors in five years. So even though New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is on vacation in Florida while his state is getting pounded by a blizzard, there should be no executive vacuum in Trenton.

But Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno -- the very person who's supposed to serve as a backup when the governor is out of town, unable to complete his term or is otherwise incapacitated -- is away on vacation, too. That's prompting critics to say the state's top two officials could have planned their vacations better. Certainly, their timing couldn't have been worse.

Guadagno, the first person to hold her office, is -- like Christie -- a former federal prosecutor. She also served as sheriff of Monmouth County. Her responsibilities include the Division of Elections, economic development, arts, tourism and cultural programs. Surely, Guadagno could easily add snow removal to her list of core competencies.

Airports Closed, Casinos Open

"Whether it will hurt him at all obviously remains to be seen, though I doubt it," says Darryl Isherwood, editor of the website PolitickerNJ, which is often critical of Christie. "Some [Democratic] lawmakers, though, have started grumbling this morning that both Gov. Christie and Lt. Gov. Guadagno are out of the state at the same time. One lawmaker asked why we were paying $140,000 per year for a lieutenant if she was out at the same time as the governor."

New Jersey's response to the snow storm is being coordinated by Acting Governor and State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, who has declared a state of emergency. Schools are closed, as are Newark International and Atlantic City International airports.

But Atlantic City's casinos, which have suffered during the past few years due to the recession and the growth of gaming in neighboring Pennsylvania and Delaware, are open for those hardy souls willing to brave the elements. As the Press of Atlantic City noted, ". . .casino representatives reported strong occupancy rates and a festive atmosphere as people were eating, drinking and gambling inside while the snow was piling up outside."

Snow Can Bury Unwitting Politicians

Forget balancing budgets: The real third rail of American politics -- particularly at the local level -- is snow removal. Botching a blizzard response can have serious political consequences because, unlike the budget deficit, winter storms have an immediate impact on people's lives, regardless of their sex, race, creed, economic status or sexual orientation. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels came under fire for not using salt during a December 2008 snowstorm because of environmental concerns. A year later, Nichols was defeated in the primary. Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty also got blasted for the city's inadequate response to back-to-back winter storms earlier this year. Fenty likewise lost his bid for reelection to a primary challenger.

"Look, it was a massive amount of snow," says Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovitch Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University. "We have never had a lieutenant governor. . . . It helps that this is Christmas week because a lot of people were off anyway. People hold their may mayors to a different level of responsiveness for snow removal than from the governor."

Christie remains fairly popular with New Jersey residents, though his approval ratings slipped under 50% in the latest Quinnipiac University poll. His popularity may help cushion the governor from any criticism he might get for going to Disney World while many New Jersey residents are having trouble keeping the roofs over their heads. Christie also remains a rising star within the Republican Party.

Perhaps, though, this will provide him -- and his absent lieutenant -- with a good lesson in the need for contingency planning.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Timing Your Spending

How to pay less by changing when you purchase.

View Course »

Economics 101

Intro to economics. But fun.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:
Hello Dolly


January 04 2011 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Hello Dolly's comment

Pelosi has nothing to do with this story, nitwit!

January 04 2011 at 9:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Who are we kidding here. This is 2010, everyone takes a vacation. We got a little snow in NJ, 8-20 inches. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars for highway maintenance, they have there job to do, they get paid for it. What do you want the governor to do, shovel your driveway? The president is on vacation in Hawaii, should we mock him while people are overseas in uniform getting killed, I don't think so............

December 28 2010 at 5:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sal8110's comment

WTF? The gov. should be here in a time of crisis, jerk weed! The president and the soldiers overseas have nothing to do with this story, jack wagon!

January 04 2011 at 9:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I find this article to be simply an attack piece on a Republican governor who is doing an outstanding job trying to repair the damage done by an out of control Democrat regime. I would gladly take this governor and replace the useless idiot we have in Annapolis, MD.
While it was not a cool move to have the Gov and Lt-Gov on vacation the same time, I am confident that will not happen again. However, as you can see, the state still managed to get along as the next politician in line stepped up to the plate and did a good job.
As to the defeat of Nichols, I am not familiar with him but I feel certain that his defeat at the polls was about a little more than not dumping salt on the street. As to the defeat of Fenty in Washington, DC, he lost his seat becasue he did too good a job as mayor - not becasue of a snow fall. His very liberal opponents attacked him for anything - even his choice of School administrator. Funny thing, she was doing a great job standing up to the union bosses and other miscreants, moving excessive administrators back to the classroom, holding teachers accountable, and getting rid of incompetent teachers.... all of which upset the Dems and others of their ilk. Snow had nothing to do with his loss!
As to Governor Christie's poll numbers slipping to a little under 50%, so what! Obama's rating is now under 40%.
As to the criticism of Gov. Christie for taking a vacation now (While BO is away on his 10th vacation this year - all at the expense of the working people!), there really is no room for such criticism. I am sure both the Gov. and Lt-Gov are paying their own way.

December 27 2010 at 9:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mustangdad2000's comment

Unbelievable! Comparing the pres. with the gov. is like comparing apples and oranges!

January 04 2011 at 9:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just returned from visiting relatives in Somerville area and could not believe the fact it took me five hour to get from Woodbridge to Wall township. At the time I left, it was sunny and bright and we had only at the most 5 inches of snow last night. What did I know?
The drive was filled with blocked major highways or exit ramps but some of the side local roads were passible. What shocked me most was that 195 to Rte 9 was really bad and from the practically non existant Parkway exit ramp onto 138 into Belmar was not plowed 'at all' totally closed and impassible still with at least two feet of snow. Was the Trenton contingency was on vacation?
Now today was cold and blustery but it was very sunny. There hadn't even seemed to be an attempt to plow it. Along with exit ramps along the Parkway and along 195 being closed not to mention that Rte 35 South and Rte 71 were impassable in sections even though the sun had been out all day.
Funny thing is the A&P parking lot was cleared perfectly in Wall along with other stores in the area. Also Belmar Blvd was perfect, thank you very much to whoever cordinated that plow job. Glendola section of Wall was perfect along with Farmingdale area Rte 35 north from there,a good route to get out.
Granted this was an enormous storm and a state of emergency but who is running the ship? At least the major arteries should be open by now. God help anyone trying to get to a hospital, RT 33 was blocked for 3 miles to the Rt 34 traffic circle at four in the afternoon.
Also I observed tons of tow trucks driving around and doing private driveways but very few crews doing major roads. WHERE WERE THEY? Couldn't help but wonder if there was a 'work slowdown' due to lay offs and down sizing amoung the road crews. In previous years those guys were just great and worked their butts off. Saw so few today. This was really bad.
Could it be that the towns are not coordinated or possibly the mayors and town committee men were all on vacation.
I have never seen anything like this before. Twice I was on major blocked roads and private persons got out of their cars and shovelled across 'grass mediums' to open a path.

December 27 2010 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've worked in customer service my entire life and the most important rule you had to follow (no matter where I worked) was that you and your backup could never, never schedule the same time off. Hope the gov and lt gov are enjoying their vacations. Maybe NJ will realize they really don't need either one.

December 27 2010 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Roni's comment

Actually, Roni, you really do becasue if Gov. Christies had not come along, with the guts and determination he has displayed, New Jersy might have been totally bankrupt by this time next year ... leaving no customer service jobs for you, and no state employees to plow the snow.

December 27 2010 at 9:31 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I like Christy, I think he has some good ideas and some guts to do what he is doing. And one day he might be a great a candidate for President. But, like he has said, he's not ready for that. This is one of those examples of why he isn't. Doubtful this will harm him and more likely this will be a lesson he learns about being an executive. Obviously, as a fiscal guy, he may come back and dump the Lt. Gov. position to save the taxpayers 140k of what appears to be superfluous payroll.

December 27 2010 at 3:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I'm a democrate but also a life-long Jersey Girl. I had issues with his pay freeze for teachers (thinking that meant no pay but then I learned it was simply not a raise so that is no longer an issue) but generally like what he is doing as a governer. Snow happens and the guy in charge now, that sweeney dude, is doing really well at keeping people safe. I think the only change should be requiring businesses to pay hourly employees who would loose either pay or a vacation day for not coming in during unsafe conditions. There are low income hourly employees who went to work because they need the money that shouldn't be there. No businesses should be open never mind if the job necessary or not. Police and Plowers are all the people who should be at work today.

I didn't even know we had a leutenant Gov. If Christy really wants to fix the state budget that particular job might not be neccessary since the State Senate President is doing a great job so maybe the plan should be he takes over when Christy is away. To be fair to Christy, he has a young daughter home for Christmas break so it's a good time for family time, he's not neglecting his dooties.

December 27 2010 at 3:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Fran's comment

Just realized my 18 month old son't distraction made me spell duties wrong.

December 27 2010 at 3:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply