A New Jersey appeals court is mulling the merits of a last-minute legal challenge to Gov. Chris Christie’s call for a U.S. Senate special election this October, even as the race for the seat last held by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg has quickly taken shape. A three-judge panel is expected to decide soon how to proceed with a legal filing that asks for the interim senator to be selected during the state’s regular election on Nov. 5, rather than by holding a special election on Oct. 16, as requested by Mr. Christie. Both sides in the case concluded filing briefs Wednesday. The Appellate Division has yet to announce whether it will hold oral arguments for the case. The governor said he wants the special election to be held to allow voters to fill the seat as soon as possible. In November, all state lawmakers are up for election, including Mr. Christie. The Republican is seeking re-election against Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono. Marguerite Schaffer, chairwoman of the Somerset County Democratic Party—and a Buono supporter—filed the case pro bono on Friday, arguing that the special election would confuse voters unaccustomed to voting on a Wednesday or just before a statewide election.
She also contended candidates didn’t have enough time to meet the deadline to file to run in the race, and that the special election would be unnecessarily expensive. The Aug. 13 primary and Oct. 16 election are estimated to cost $12 million each.
About a dozen public interest and minority groups filed briefs in support of the petition, and Rep. Frank Pallone issued a statement on behalf of the legal action—though he is running in the special election.
Among Democrats, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Rep. Rush Holt, state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and Mr. Pallone filed petitions to run for the Senate seat. Tea party activist Steve Lonegan is expected to face Piscataway doctor Alieta Eck among Republicans.
In a response filed Tuesday, the Christie administration argued that since six contenders filed petitions for the seat, candidates did in fact have enough time to gather signatures. It dismissed as “speculative” the notion that the special election would suppress voter turnout, and argued that state law grants the governor ultimate authority over when to fill the vacancy.