During this year’s State of the State Address, Governor Chris Christie stated that whether or not he runs for President, he will remain governor and be back to give next year’s speech. However, let’s say, hypothetically, that the Governor decides to step down early. It’s happened before, most recently with former Governors Whitman and McGreevey. It could happen to future governors. If a gubernatorial vacancy occurs now, the Lieutenant Governor would assume the Office of Governor. But only under certain circumstances would the Lieutenant Governor serve the duration of the gubernatorial term. Unlike a vacancy in the office of the President, when the Vice President takes over for the remainder of the term, the Lieutenant Governor completes the term only when a little over a year is left on the term. In every other circumstance, a special election must be held.
The next regular election for governor is scheduled for November 2017. If the Governor were to leave office within 60 days of the 2016 general election, the Lieutenant Governor would assume the office and serve out the term.
However, if the Governor were to leave office prior to 60 days before the 2016 general election, then a special gubernatorial election would be required.
With respect to a special election for governor, there are gaps in the statute and the State Constitution that must be addressed by the Legislature.