A special election to replace former New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who passed away on Monday, will be held in October, following an August primary, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday.
The primary will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 13, and a general election will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Christie had to choose the date to hold the election, and still has to choose an appointee to fill Lautenberg’s seat until the election. Both decisions are seen as risky political decisions that could affect his re-election race later this year, and his possible presidential run in 2016. If he appoints someone too conservative to hold the seat, he could be seen as trying to pander to conservative grassroots; if he appoints someone more moderate or liberal, the Republican primary voters might penalize him for it in 2016. If he held the election at the same time as his gubernatorial election, his Democratic opponent for governor could benefit from the coattails of a strong Democratic Senate candidate.
Christie’s decision puts the special election three weeks before Christie’s own re-election.
He could have waited and held the election during the 2014 general election, but Christie said he felt that was too long to wait given the crucial issues being dealt with by the Senate.
“The citizens of New Jersey need to have an elected representative to the United States Senate and have it as soon as possible,” he said, saying that the decisions being made by the Senate were too critically important. He cited immigration reform, for instance, which is expected to begin being debated later this week.
“I firmly believe that the decisions that need to be made in Washington are too great to be determined by an appointee for the next 18 months,” he said.
“Whoever it’s going to be … should be nominated by a primary of the people and voted on by all the people of the state of New Jersey,” he said.
The governor said he had not yet determined who he would appoint to fill the seat in the interim until October. He declined to say whether the person would be a Democrat or a Republican, saying he would pick someone “on the merits” — and not on any other criteria.
“I do have a preference for one party over another, so that might color my judgment a little bit,” he noted, but repeated later that he would not specify the party or any other detail about the person.
“I do have a list in my head” of possible candidates, Christie said, promising to make a decision quickly.
“I don’t dawdle,” he said.
He denied that decisions was in any way a political decision meant to help him with either a presidential run or a gubernatorial run.