Gov. Chris Christie has made his first decision on replacing former Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died on Monday. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Christie plans to call a special election in October to fill the unexpired term. The decision prevents the election occurring in November, which could have complicated Christie’s reelection effort. The decision is likely to be controversial.
Holding a statewide elections, both primary and general, outside the regular election calendar will impose significant costs to the state. It is expected to cost the state $24 million. While the decision may be negative for taxpayers, it has a positive result for Christie.
With the election in October, it ensures the Governor won’t share a ballot with presumptive Democrat nominee Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). The popular mayor of Newark has been planning a run for the Senate and his presence at the top of the ballot could have boosted Democrat turnout. While Christie would still be expected to win, he likely wouldn’t run-up the victory margin he hopes will be a selling point for his anticipated campaign for the GOP nomination in 2016.
Christie’s decision was complicated because of conflicts in New Jersey law. It was unclear whether the election should be held this November or, because Lautenberg’s death was just a day before the primary for that election, in November of 2014. The decision threads the confusion to Christie’s political benefit.
The decision also means that Christie, if as expected, appoints a Republican to fill the vacancy, the GOP will have an additional vote in the Senate for just 5 months. Still, in those 5 months the Senate will consider significant issues like immigration, judicial nominations, debt ceiling and the budget.