Christie details how he informs Guadagno he's leaving the state

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is left to run the state when Gov. Christie leaves for any amount of time.
New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno is left to run the state when Gov. Christie leaves for any amount of time. (MEL EVANS / Associated Press)
Posted: September 21, 2011

For an overnight trip out of state, she gets an official letter from his attorney. For two hours in Philadelphia or Manhattan for lunch, she gets a phone call.

That is Gov. Christie's practice for notifying Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno that she is in charge of New Jersey, as elucidated by Christie at a news conference Tuesday.

This somewhat mundane formality became a politically charged issue after a secret Christie speech in Colorado came to light this month. On Monday, State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen), who lost her bid for lieutenant governor on Gov. Jon S. Corzine's ticket, introduced a bill to formalize the notification process.

"Guys, understand what this is, it's all politics," Christie said. "All of a sudden Loretta Weinberg is concerned about this. Jon Corzine was overnight in New York four nights a week, five nights a week, I never heard her be concerned about it."

He added: "That's OK, I understand, she would really love to be lieutenant governor, and she's not. And so every chance she gets to kind of stick it to me, she does."

Voters in 2005 created the position of lieutenant governor to help clarify the line of succession. Guadagno, a Republican like Christie, is the first to hold it.

Weinberg said Tuesday that she was not bitter about not being the state's No. 2, and was pleased a woman was in the position.

"That was just a typical playground response . . . it made me laugh," she said of Christie's comments.

She said Corzine lived in Hoboken when he was governor. "If Chris Christie knows that the governor [spent] four nights a week in New York, it'd be interesting to know how he knows that," she said.

Weinberg's proposal would mandate that legislative leaders be notified any time a successor is designated to take over the state for any amount of time. The notification would happen a full day before the successor is given the oath of office, the bill says. The state constitution says someone else must wield authority whenever the governor leaves the state.

One issue with the bill, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said, is that Guadagno does not take such an oath each time she becomes acting governor. The state constitution does not require her to do so. Weinberg said she didn't know that and would be willing to delete that provision.

Second, Christie's chief counsel already notifies legislative leaders when Christie leaves the state overnight, which Weinberg said she also was unaware of.

According to 26 letters provided to The Inquirer on Monday night after an open records request for all written notifications of the transfer of power, Christie's chief counsel, Jeffrey Chiesa, copies legislative leaders of both parties when he notifies Guadagno that she is running the state.

Christie said his policy requires a letter for overnight trips and a phone call for day trips. On three occasions, a letter was sent when Christie was going out of town for just a few hours. And on two occasions, Christie said, Chiesa failed to send a letter for overnight trips to Washington. In both of those instances, Christie noted, the trips were on Christie's public schedule, which is distributed to reporters.

"This is kind of silly," Christie said. "There's other reasons why people care about this, but none of it has to do, believe me, with the substance or continuity of government."

The "other reasons" could include Christie's growing national prominence, including speculation that he could run for president and growing demand for him to travel to speak to conservative audiences.

Using the same word as Christie, Weinberg also called the controversy "silly," but said it was important for residents to know whether the governor is meeting with influential and deep-pocketed political fund-raisers, as he did in Colorado in June with David and Charles Koch.

"He's invited on these trips because he's Gov. Chris Christie, not Mr. Chris Christie," Weinberg said. "So it seems to me, because he's invited as Gov. Chris Christie, unless he's ashamed about the event he's going to, he would be open and transparent about where he's going and why he's going."


Contact staff writer Matt Katz at 609-217-8355, mkatz@phillynews.com, or @mattkatz00 on Twitter. Read his blog, "Christie Chronicles," at philly.com/christiechronicles.

 

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