In a decision with implications for his own re-election this fall, the next presidential campaign and the GOP in Washington, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday called for a special election to be held this year to choose the successor to the late Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Christie announced at a press conference that he had opted against appointing a successor to Lautenberg to serve until the 2014 election, and scheduled a general election on Oct. 16. The primary will be held in August. Christie also said he would appoint an interim senator to serve between now and November, though he explained that he had not decided on that temporary appointee yet. With this decision, Christie is potentially helping create the conditions for a big win in his re-election contest against Democrat Barbara Buono this November. Without a contested Senate campaign happening at the same time as his own re-election, turnout among Democrats is likely to be far lower, allowing Christie to run up the margin of victory in a race he is already a big favorite to win. That, in turn, could make him look like a more formidable presidential candidate in 2016 should he choose to run.
The governor argued that a special election is the fairest choice to quickly fill the open seat. “This is about guaranteeing the people of New Jersey both a choice and a voice in the process,” Christie said. “The right thing to do is to let the people decide, and let them decide as soon as possible.”
The primary will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 13 – a decision Christie stressed would take the choice away from party bosses. “I will not permit the insiders and a few party elites to determine who the nominee of the Republican Party and the Democratic party will be,” Christie said.
The governor was openly defiant that such a strategy was the reason for his decision, saying he followed the letter of the law to let the people pick, and political calculations played no role in his timetable.