By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
“While we’re saddened by his passing and will look to the rest of the week to remember his life and his service, I know that Sen. Lautenberg wouldn’t want the people of New Jersey to go without a voice in the United States Senate,” Gov. Chris Christie said.
With that, Christie announced he will appoint someone to fill Lautenberg’s seat by next week, then hold a special primary election in mid-August and special general election in mid-October.
He said election law would allow him to have put it off for a year, but a Senate seat is too important to be held by an un-elected appointee for 18 months.
The people must decide their nominees quickly, he said, and their senator.
“This is simply non-negotiable to me,” Christie said. “I will not permit the insiders and a few party elites to determine who the nominee of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party will be. A primary election is necessary. The people must choose.”
Christie could also have set the election on the same day as this November’s gubernatorial election, but with Cory Booker likely to run for Senate for the Democrats, that might not have been in Christie’s interest.
He dismissed the suggestion that self-interest played any role in setting up his timetable.
“I mean unless I delayed my decision for another 10 days, and that’s irresponsible, and I wouldn’t think it’s right for the people of New Jersey. They’re gonna start debating immigration reform next week. It’s not right for me to sit and wait for people to do it. I would have had to wait quite a period of time and also take the dates out to their end dates not their inside dates,” Christie said.
As for who he’ll pick to go to Washington, he hinted it’ll be a Republican.
“I’m gonna pick the person I believe to be the best person. Then that person is gonna determine whether they want to run for the seat or not so I’m not looking for any particular person,” Christie said. “I’ve seen all these stories about two buckets of people — the placeholder people and the people who are candidates. There’s one bucket of people as far as I’m concerned.”
The governor, his wife Mary Pat and older son Andrew voted this morning at EMS headquarters in their town of Mendham.
Today’s primary election has been all but buried by the Lautenberg story and the chain of political decisions it has set up, as the governor alluded to at his press conference later.
“The primary election will be on Aug. 13, the general election will be on Oct. 16, so for all of you who were bored with the governor’s race, I have now solved your problem,” Christie said.
Christie’s action was quick, decisive, but will draw Democratic criticism.