Voters Oppose Special Senate Election Scheduling Due To Cost

NEW BRUNSWICK — More than three quarters of New Jersey voters believe Gov. Chris Christie made a bad call when he scheduled a special election to replace the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg just three weeks before this year’s general election, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.

The cost is estimated around $24 million, including both the Aug. 13 primary and the Oct. 16 special election, but that figure could have been cut in half if Christie had combined the special election with the Nov. 5 general election. Just 12 percent of New Jersey voters agreed with Christie’s decision to hold separate elections when informed of the cost.

“There is virtually no support for holding a special election given the price tag,” said David Redlawsk, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll and professor of political science at Rutgers. “Republicans are upset because many had hoped an appointed Republican would serve until November 2014. Democrats don’t like it because they expect it will lower turnout in the November 2013 election, leading to an even bigger win for Christie and the possibility of Republican legislative gains. And voters will have to keep track of two separate elections, remembering that the special election is on a Wednesday, not a Tuesday.”

Candidates have until 4 p.m. today to file their petitions to run in the primary, but the poll asked Democrats and independents about their preferences among those expected to enter the race. Newark Mayor Cory Booker was the choice of 55 percent, while U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt garnered support of 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who just announced her plans to run, was not included in the poll.

“Even with Oliver in the race, Booker is currently the odds-on favorite,” said Redlawsk. “Booker has the most visible statewide profile by far among the Democrats running, and name recognition is critical in such a short campaign. At the same time, we surveyed registered voters, and special election turnout is notoriously difficult to predict. We shouldn’t write anyone off just yet.”

Because the Republican field had not established itself at the time the survey was conducted, that race was not polled.

Results are from a poll of 888 New Jersey adults conducted statewide among both landline and cell phone households from June 3-9 with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.  The Democratic primary ballot test includes a subsample of 364 registered Democrats and Democratic leaners with a margin of error of +/- 5.1 percentage points.

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