Gov. Christie’s announcement that state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa would temporarily take over the late Frank Lautenberg’s seat in the U.S. Senate is causing ripple effects in New Jersey’s political landscape. To discuss the repercussions for state and federal elections, NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider spoke with Brigid Callahan Harrison, Professor of Political Science & Law at Montclair State University.
Harrison described the Christie’s decision as evidence of the governor’s enormous political talents.
“I mean he avoided now getting involved in an inter-party squabble couple months before his own election chance,” she said. “No matter who he selected if he had chosen someone who was going to be on the ballot he would have alienated 4 or 5 others who wanted that seat, and they’re all up for legislative district elections. He wants to make sure they’re all pulling for him as well as their legislators.”
Speculation about Republican candidates became suddenly subdued after the Chiesa announcement, Harrison observed.
“Yesterday, we were talking about all kinds of candidates from state Sen. Kyrillos, state Sen. Tom Kean, Jr., a couple of different members of the Assembly,” she said. The wrinkle for those gentleman, she added, would be that they would have to relinquish their “really safe” legislative district seats in order to run.
It’s a completely different story on the Democratic front. Heavy hitters like Cory Booker, Frank Pallone and Rush Holt have already made their intentions known.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver coyly indicated to Mike Schneider that she would run.
While Oliver is very well-known in her district, Harrison said that it’s uncertain if she has what it takes to win against the Mayor of Newark.
“I don’t know that if she has either the financial resources, the street organization or the name recognition that Cory Booker brings to the table,” according to Harrison. “The reality is that it would be an uphill battle for anybody against Cory Booker. He is a national figure, and in many circles, he’s viewed like a rock star. He already has $2 million in the bank right now and that’s only second to Frank Pallone who doesn’t enjoy the same kind of name recognition that he has.”
Going back to the selection of Chiesa as a temporary placeholder in the U.S. Senate, Harrison the governor was motivated by his own political interest.
“He’s doing it for political reasons despite the populous spin that he is trying to put on it,” said Harrison. “It’s costing taxpayers $1.2 million a day for Mr. Chiesa to be in the Senate for 20 days including weekends.”