New Jersey’s Supreme Court will weigh in on Governor Chris Christie’s decision to hold a special election Oct. 16 to replace deceased U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg. The justices put the case on a fast track today, ordering briefs by June 17 and final responses by June 18, acting state courts administrative director Judge Glenn Grant said in a statement. The move follows a lower appeals court decision yesterday that there’s no legal obstacle to holding the vote 20 days before the general election, when Christie’s on the ballot seeking a second term.
“They obviously think this is a matter of great public interest and they want to weigh in,” Peg Schaffer, chairwoman of the Somerset County Democratic Committee and the driving force behind the challenge to the special election, said in a phone interview.
Scheduling a separate vote for senator allows the Republican governor to avoid appearing on the ballot below a Senate race in which a popular Democrat such as Newark Mayor Cory Booker may be the candidate, drawing more Democratic voters. Christie holds a lead of more than 30 percentage points over the Democratic candidate, state Senator Barbara Buono, in recent opinion polls, and a large margin of victory may help his party pick up seats in the Legislature.