POLITICS: Campaigns

Chris Christie sets special election to pick Lautenberg successor

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Congress,Politics Digest,New Jersey,David M. Drucker,Campaigns

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that he is scheduling a special election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg for Oct. 16, likely disappointing Christie's fellow Republicans in Washington.

Christie intends to decide by next week who to appoint to replace Lautenberg, a Democrat who died Monday, until voters pick a successor. The new senator may begin work in Washington by next week, said Christie, added that he is partial to appointing a Republican to the Democratic seat.

National Republicans were hoping Lautenberg's replacement might serve for the next 18 months -- until the regularly scheduled 2014 midterm elections. That could give the Republcian replacement a chance to establish himself in the Senate and gain an advantage over Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat and the favorite given New Jersey's liberal moorings.

But Christie, a potential 2016 presidential contender, said delaying the election until next year would deprive New Jerseyans of representation too long at a time when Congress is debating momentous issues like immigration reform.

Critics charged that the Aug. 13 primary election and Oct. 16 would cost New Jersey as much as $24 million and said Christie is spending the money rather than have the special election affect his own bid for re-election in November. Christie dismissed his critics.

"I can't worry about some of the nonsense that gets written," Christie told reporters during an afternoon news conference. "We're not going to be a penny wise and a pound foolish around here."

Christie's decision to call an October special election, less than a month before New Jerseyans were already scheduled to head to the polls to vote in the state's off-year elections, has been deemed the best political move for his re-election -- and for Republicans running for state legislative office.

Christie said that delaying was not an option under state law.

"I've deemed it advisable ... and we're having a special election and that's the end of the discussion," he said.

ddrucker@washingtonexaminer.com

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