New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has decided to hold a special election in October to elect a successor to Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died Monday. The primaries will take place in 70 days, August 13, with a general election October 16. It is unclear whom Christie will appoint to serve until then, but it appears clear that Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who had already announced his intention to run in the election scheduled for 2014, will run in the special election.
The last Republican senator from new Jersey was elected in 1972, so Democrats are confident they can hold on to the seat and their narrow 55-45 Senate majority. The more contested election will be the Democratic primary, which unlike the 2014 election will likely have members of the House on the ballot since the short election allows them to challenge Booker for a potential promotion without risking their House seats. Although whoever is elected will serve for only a year, he or she will have a critical advantage going into the 2014 election.
Booker is the clear front-runner, but many suspect Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone will also enter the primary. According to FEC filings, Booker has $1.6 million cash on hand as of March 31. Pallone has $3.7 million, and Holt has $790,000.
“For several months now, Mayor Booker has been taking the steps necessary to run,” Booker’s office said in a statement, “but he will make an official announcement at the appropriate time.” With only 70 days to campaign before the special election, Booker’s fundraising efforts have gone into overdrive. On Monday, the mayor will host a young Hollywood fundraiser where tickets will start at $150.
Although Governor Christie had the option of appointing a replacement to serve until the scheduled November 2014 senatorial election, he instead chose to call for a special election and appoint a replacement to serve in the short interim. "The issues facing the Senate are too important and too vital not to have an elected representative," said Christie. "I favor the people selecting who represents them, not me."
This appears to have been the ideal outcome for the governor, since appointing a replacement for the entire remainder of Lautenberg’s term would have been controversial. Had he chosen a Republican, Democrats would say the seat belonged to their party. If he had chosen a Democrat, it could upset the governor’s party as he considers a run for the White House in 2016.