New Jersey’s ‘acting governor’

NEW JERSEY’S ACTING GOVERNOR…. I’m generally uninterested in coverage of the snowfall in the northeast, but I noticed several reports noting that New Jersey’s acting governor is using every available resource to address the snow-related problems.

And then it occurred to me to question why on earth an “acting governor” is making these decisions.

New Jersey will remain in a state of emergency throughout rush hour Monday as crews try to clean up still-treacherous roads, acting Gov. Stephen Sweeney said.

“We really want people to stay off the roads and give us a chance to clean them up,” he said from Gloucester County, in a part of southern New Jersey which wasn’t hit as hard as the northern side of the state. “We were hammered … This was a very difficult storm to deal with.”

Sweeney, a Democrat and president of the state Senate, declared a state of emergency Sunday evening and activated the National Guard. While Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are out of state, Sweeney is filling in as the state’s chief executive.

Apparently, New Jersey’s lieutenant governor left for Mexico last week. Gov. Christie was told yesterday that the state was likely to get slammed by a blizzard, but he nevertheless got on a plane and headed to Disney World in Florida.

Ironically, state officials only recently added the office of the lieutenant governor, so New Jersey wouldn’t be without a chief executive in the event of an emergency during a gubernatorial absence. That apparently didn’t work out well — both Christie and Guadagno took off at the same time.

I don’t want to be too harsh towards Christie here. The governor and lieutenant governor deserve vacations just like everyone else, and it’s not at all unusual for folks in the Northeast to take some time off in warmer climates this time of year. For that matter, as far as I can tell, the acting governor is doing everything right, so it’s not as if New Jersey is suffering because Christie and Guadagno left town before trouble hit. Had either or both of them stuck around, the state response to the storm would likely have been identical.

But there are political appearances to consider — Christie was told about the impending blizzard, and bolted for Florida anyway — and it’s hard to predict how the public will react. At a minimum, the image of Christie as a hands-on, take-charge chief executive will probably take a hit.