TRENTON – U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s death this week leaves Gov. Chris Christie in the position to name his replacement, but the governor’s nominee will only serve a few months.
Christie called for a special election to replace Lautenberg on Oct. 16, which means a primary will be held on Aug. 13. The special election could cost up to $24 million, which left some suggesting that it should be held in November.
State law on the succession issue is ambiguous, with two separate statutes addressing it with conflicting language. One interpretation would have allowed the governor to name a replacement to serve until a special election in November 2014.
“I want to have an elected senator as soon as possible,” Christie said. “I think it’s vitally important.”
Christie has not settled on a successor for Lautenberg, but is expected to announce his pick later this week.
While New Jersey has not elected a Republican senator since 1972, most believe that Christie will choose a member of his own party to fill Lautenberg’s seat until a special election is held. State Sen. Joe Kyrillos, who ran against and lost to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez last year, is one possibility being mentioned. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, former Gov. Tom Kean Sr., state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., and Assemblyman Jon Bramnick are other Republicans that observers believe could be considered.
If Christie decides to honor the preference of voters who elected a Democrat to represent them in the U.S. Senate, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone and U.S. Rep. Rush Holt are potential choices. Booker and Holt had both expressed interest in running in 2014 when Lautenberg announced that he would not seek a sixth term back in February.
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