Governor Christie’s decision to fill New Jersey’s U.S. Senate seat through an October special election is “bad for democracy,” the Democrat running against him said today. She and other Democrats on a state Senate committee voted today for two bills aimed at combining special and general elections. One bill would move this year’s general election — currently scheduled for Nov. 5 — to Oct. 16 to coincide with the special election. The other would prohibit the governor from holding a special election to fill any future Senate vacancy. Instead, the governor would have to appoint someone until the seat is filled in a general election. The appointee would have to belong to the same political party as the person who previously held the seat.
The October special election has drawn the ire of Democrats, who say that holding two elections so close together will decrease voter turnout. Christie says he is trying to give the voters an elected representative as soon as possible.
“I think it’s not only a cynical move, it’s self-serving, it’s dishonest and it’s irresponsible,” state Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, said at the hearing. Buono is running for governor against Christie in the November election.
The October election will cost $12 million, according to the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services.
Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said the special election is lawful and is beneficial for the voters.
“The Governor followed the law as established by the legislature and ensured New Jersey voters would have a voice and a choice — in both a primary and general election — in selecting the next U.S. Senator for New Jersey. That’s what the law provides and the way it should be,” Drewniak said.
The special election will fill the seat vacated by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat. Christie has appointed his former attorney general, Jeff Chiesa, a Republican, to occupy the seat until that election.