Potential U.S. Senate candidates scrambled to muster support as Democrats considered a legal challenge to the special election Governor Christie set for October and questions grew about the $24 million price tag, with one lawmaker pushing to move up the November election. With the primary over and the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s funeral behind him, Christie will soon decide on his appointment for the vacant seat, sources close to the governor said Wednesday. During his Tuesday news conference announcing the special election, Christie indicated he wanted to have a replacement in Washington, D.C. next week when Congress debates immigration reform. A spokesman for Newark Mayor Cory Booker said volunteers were out collecting signatures Wednesday, but would not say whether the Democrat would announce a run. Only one person has formally declared his candidacy for the August primary – former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, a conservative Republican. And some potential candidates have already taken themselves out of the running, Republican Sen. Tom Kean Jr. and Sen. Kevin O’Toole both said they are focused on winning reelection to their state offices. Democrats, meanwhile, are still exploring going to court to block the special election.
“The state party is considering its options in filing suit to challenge the governor’s decision on the timing of the election in August and October,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the outgoing Democratic State Committee chairman. “We will make a decision before the end of the week.”
Delaying his announcement and allowing for an election in November would have put the U.S. Senate race at the top of the ticket as the popular Republican asks voters to give him a second term. In a state where there are 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, having a popular Democrat at the top of the ticket could have helped Christie’s challenger, Barbara Buono, a Middlesex County state senator who lacks name recognition.
Rick Hasen, a professor and election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, said politicos across the country saw Christie’s special election decision as self-beneficial.
“I believe elites were dismissive of the governor’s statement that this was not a political decision,” Hasen said. “It is hard to see the good government rationale in terms of expense and potential voter confusion of holding two elections just a few weeks apart.”