The Republican governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate could have named a replacement to serve the remaining 18 months of Mr. Lautenberg’s term.
But on Tuesday, Chris Christie, New Jersey Gov., called for a special election in October under the pretext that a new elected is needed immediately, after the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
“I firmly believe that the decisions that need to be made in Washington are too great to be determined by an appointee for a period of 18 months,” Mr. Christie said during a news conference Tuesday in Trenton.
“We must allow our citizens to have their say over who will represent them in the Senate the majority of the next year and a half. The people of New Jersey deserve to have that voice.”
At a press conference this morning, Chris Christie announced that the special election will actually take place a few weeks earlier, on October 16.
The decision means the state will have two statewide elections three weeks apart.
Because, as Christie explained, the price tag of holding the election on a different day pales in comparison to the value of having a senator in Washington represent the people of New Jersey for those three weeks. Christie may have ulterior motives, of course, reports the New York magazine.
The decision to hold a separate special election drew quick fire from both parties, with Democrats and Republicans alike calling it a self-serving move.
Republicans privately fumed that Christie failed to give the party a helping hand by refusing to appoint one of their own to the seat until 2014.
Democrats suggested that he refused to schedule the election for Nov. 5 because it would have brought more Democrats to the polls and hurt his chances to score a gubernatorial-contest blowout against state Sen. Barbara Buono, writes the NY Post.
New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, a Democrat, knocked the announcement, saying that it was fueled by Mr. Christie’s own political self-interest and not what’s best for the taxpayers who will pay for the special election that could run as high as $24 million.
“I’m very disappointed the governor has chosen to be so transparently political and waste taxpayer money on a special October election,” Ms. Oliver said.
“The November general election date is what’s best for taxpayers and voter turnout. It’s unquestionably the best option, but Gov. Christie has chosen to put partisan politics and his self-interest first.”
However at a news conference, Christie didn’t answer the big question of whom he’ll appoint to the seat in the meantime, but said he has a list of possibilities in his head and he is still weighing his options, says the Huff Post.
Christie today declared that the parties will pick their respective candidates in a primary on Aug. 13, and the winners will compete in a special election on Oct. 16 to serve out the remainder of Lautenberg’s term.
He said he would allow his appointee to run for election this year if desired. The October election will fill the remainder of Lautenberg’s term, which expires in January 2015.
“I will not give you any indication of who is on the list, what their gender is, what their political party is,” Christie said.