Saying he wanted to give voters “a choice and a voice in the process,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie scheduled a special election in October to fill the seat vacated by the late Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, a move that risks worsening strained relations with national Republican activists, but which carries several political advantages for him at home. Republican strategists in Washington had hoped Christie would skip a special election and appoint a strong candidate who would fill the seat until the regularly scheduled 2014 election. That would give the appointee the advantage of incumbency and would have given Republicans their best chance to hold the seat in a heavily Democratic state. But Democrats were certain to go to court if Christie did not call an election this year, creating a battle as Christie runs for reelection. New Jersey law is ambiguous about how to fill vacancies in the state’s U.S. Senate seats, and a court might have overturned a decision to skip a special election.
Christie justified his decision as in the best interest of the state’s voters in ensuring their voice is properly represented in Washington as soon as possible.
“I firmly believe that the decisions that need to be made in Washington are too great to be determined by an appointee for the next 18 months,” he said at a news conference in Trenton.
Christie said he would make a temporary appointment of a senator who would serve until the election is held Oct. 16, but that he had not yet decided on his pick. He indicated he would probably choose a fellow Republican to replace Lautenberg, a Democrat.