Gubernatorial candidates to name lieutenant governor picks

July 25, 2017 | Politics
Phil Murphy is expected to announce former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver as his choice for second in command.

The New Jersey governor’s race is about to be re-shaped by the selection of running mates. Friday’s the deadline for the leading candidates vying to replace Chris Christie to let their choices be known. Democratic contender Phil Murphy’s scheduled a news conference tomorrow. Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron has the news today.

Aron: Mary Alice, Murphy has chosen former Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver as his lieutenant governor candidate. He wanted someone who can govern right away if need be, and in Oliver he’s gotten that. She was Speaker of the Assembly from 2010 to 2014 and understands the State House.

Her selection works on a number of levels: she’s a woman and an African-American from a county with a substantial African-American population. She resides in East Orange, and her selection is aimed in part at pleasing Essex County party leaders, who were feeling left out of the power positions in a Murphy government scenario.

She is a strong personality and can be a fiery campaigner. Like Murphy, she leans progressive. As one Murphy supporter noted, Oliver is a serious person who’s “been around the block.”

Murphy detractors say she might be hard to govern with, given her independent streak. And they say the public sector unions aren’t happy with the role she played in pension and benefit reform in 2011.

Let’s turn to the Republican side now.

We’re hearing — and Politico is reporting today — that Kim Guadagno will announce Carlos Rendo as her pick later this week.

Rendo is the mayor of Woodcliff Lake in Bergen County and an immigration attorney. He was born in Cuba and is the only Republican Hispanic mayor in the state. Selecting him is clearly an effort by Guadagno to swing Latino votes her way.

Rendo was a major Marco Rubio supporter in last year’s presidential race, so his selection represents another step by Guadagno away from Chris Christie, who ran in that race, and won’t mend any fences either between Guadagno and Donald Trump.

Rendo has strong ties to Hudson County, though he lives in Bergen. One Republican said today, “He is very dynamic.” Another said, “He’s a small-town mayor. She needs to pull a rabbit out of a hat, and he’s not a rabbit out of a hat.” Mary Alice?

Williams: Michael, is balancing a ticket the main or only reason behind the selection of a running mate?

Aron: It’s a strong part of the reason. You want to appeal to as many sectors of the electorate as you can. But in Murphy’s case, you want to make sure that your government is balanced should you win. If Murphy wins next year, there’s likely to be three white men of Irish descent in three power positions — a governor, Murphy, the Senate President Steve Sweeney and very possibly a new assembly speaker, Craig Coughlin of Middlesex County. So you have one eye on the election, and another eye on governing a year form now.