While the state’s highest court killed off a challenge to the special election to fill New Jersey’s empty U.S. Senate seat, the Christie administration may be facing other hurdles as counties line up for state money needed to pull off the October polling. Gov. Chris Christie earlier this month called for a special election to be held Oct. 16 to fill the seat left vacant by Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s death. The move survived two court rulings in a Democratic challenge to Christie’s authority, and on Thursday the state Supreme Court put the matter to rest, saying it would not hear the challenge. But there’s a lingering issue of money. New Jersey’s 21 counties are realizing there’s little in their coffers to pull off a primary election and two general elections this year. And they want assurances from the state that they’re going to be paid, promptly and in full, for any expenditure they couldn’t have possibly planned for. “This could have horrible consequences,’” Bergen County Freeholder Chairman David Ganz said. “It will affect every county in the state, unless they have money to pay for these elections.’”
The county’s seven-member freeholder board — split 4 Democrats to 3 Republicans — unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday authorizing its attorneys to file a complaint, asking the state Superior Court to ensure the state reimburses the county before the end of the calendar year for the estimated $3.2 million cost of holding the elections.
Ganz said on Thursday that the cost of a regular November general election had been built into the current budget. But no one could have anticipated a special election just 20 days before the regular election, and the money simply isn’t available, he said.
If the state does not reimburse the county for its costs before the end of the calendar year, a series of fiscal dominoes could fall, leaving the county no choice but to bond for an emergency appropriation, Ganz said.
“It would just cause a financial mess,’’ Ganz said. “We just don’t have a spare $3.2 million laying around.’’