When Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., died earlier this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had three choices on replacing him: 1) appoint a Republican to fill out Lautenberg’s term through 2014; 2) call a special election in November that coincided with his own re-election; or 3) schedule a special election sometime before his own re-election.
Nationally, most Republicans likely would favor the first option because it would result in one less automatic “yes” vote for President Obama’s agenda in the Senate.
Fiscally, the state of New Jersey would have preferred the second option, because it would have saved the state an estimated $12 million by holding two elections at the same time. Instead, Christie chose option number three, which benefits no one but Chris Christie.
Running up the score
Christie is already up by more than 30 points over his 2013 re-election opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono. But that lead apparently isn’t big enough for Christie, who is worried the immensely popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker, D, could drive up Democratic turnout if the Senate race shared a ballot with the gubernatorial contest. By keeping the elections separate, Christie has probably bought himself at least another five-point cushion in the final outcome. But that cushion is coming at a steep price to New Jersey taxpayers.
Pressed to justify his decision to hold two separate elections, Christie first claimed his hands were tied by state law. But later in his press conference, Christie admitted that by simply delaying his official writ announcing the election, he could have had the elections on the same day if he really wanted. When asked if he was at all concerned about the cost of his decision to taxpayers, Christie replied, “I don’t know what the cost is, and quite frankly, I don’t care.”
That is not a statement that is going to play well in any 2016 Republican primary.
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