N.J. considers public funding for primaries if a governor leaves office early

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a measure that would make public campaign funds available for primary election campaigns if a governor leaves office early.

The law allowing candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to participate in New Jersey’s public financing program does not extend to primary election campaigns if a special election were needed to fill the governor’s position.

Whether the lieutenant governor could serve out the term depends on how soon the office became vacant, said Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic.

“Whether you wait until the next regular election really depends on the calendar. If you’re already within the year as we were with [former Gov.] McGreevey, there was no special election as we were when Governor Whitman left to go to EPA,” he said. “If there’s two years left on a term or three years left on a term, you’d have a special election.”

Whelan says the legislation does not come in response to speculation that Gov. Chris Christie might leave office early to run for president, Whelan said.

The bill was prompted by the need for a special election last year to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Frank Lautenberg.

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