Tag Archives: New Jersey

A 2014 Senate Re-Set?

As we’re just coming through the off-election year July 4 break, it’s a good time to examine the progression of the current Senate and House political picture. Today, we look at the Senate landscape.

As we know, the current Senate’s party division stands at 54 Democrats and 46 Republicans, with the GOP “renting” the New Jersey seat until voters in the Oct. 16 special election choose a permanent replacement for the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D). Though Gov. Chris Christie (R) appointed Republican Jeff Chiesa to serve in an interim capacity, the fact that the new senator didn’t choose to run for the seat leaves the GOP prospects to also-ran candidates who don’t have a realistic chance of defeating the eventual Democratic nominee. This being the case, in order for the Republicans to overtake the Democratic majority, a conversion swing of six seats still is necessary.

Of the 35 Senate seats that comprise the 2014 election cycle, we can segment the competition into three groups of three and two groups of two, for a grand total of 13 political situations that will determine the new majority’s complexion. Right now, the remaining 22 campaigns appear to be safe for the incumbent senator, or his party in the case of open New Jersey and Nebraska (Republican Sen. Mike Johanns retiring).

The three groups of three contain the nine Democratic seats that are fielding varying degrees of competition. All should be strong conversion opportunities, but only six realistically appear that way today.

First Group of Three: D to R

The first group contains the seats most likely to move from Democrat to Republican. The open contests in West Virginia (Sen. Jay Rockefeller retiring) and South Dakota (Sen. Tim Johnson retiring) look to be locks to move Republican in the persons of Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV-2) and former Gov. Mike Rounds (R-SD). Democrats have yet to recruit a West Virginia candidate and they are already into the second tier in South Dakota. The third state in this category is the open Montana seat (Sen. Max Baucus retiring) where Republican prospects are growing. Though he could quickly up and enter the race without any pre-announcement fanfare, former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) is  Continue reading >

New NJ Senate Candidate May Change Things

NJ State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver

NJ State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver

The New Jersey Senate special election candidates submitted their ballot qualification petition signatures to the state’s Division of Elections, and one of the individuals filing was a bit of a surprise.

State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) began publicly mulling entering the race just over the weekend, and yesterday she did just that. As the sitting leader of one of the state’s two legislative chambers, and in a situation where everyone knows she will continue in this position even if losing the Senate race, Oliver should be able to raise enough money to compete.

If she can successfully mount a challenge, Speaker Oliver has the potential of hurting Newark Mayor Cory Booker. As the second African-American candidate in the race, Oliver cutting into what should be a solid base vote for Booker could bring all of the Democratic candidates into contention.

Also filing signature petitions yesterday, as expected, were representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6) and Rush Holt (D-NJ-12). One thousand valid signatures from registered voters are required. Holt, in fact, appeared in person at the Division of Elections office in Trenton to deliver petitions containing more than 3,000 signatures.

Republicans Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, NJ, and physician Alieta Eck also filed, but neither is expected to be major competition for the eventual Democratic nominee. Therefore, the Aug. 13 Democratic primary vote will effectively elect the next US senator.

Two polls were quickly put into the field, but  Continue reading >

Christie Appoints Chiesa; Holt Joins the Race

Gov. Chris Christie

Gov. Chris Christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) yesterday appointed Attorney General Jeff Chiesa (R) to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) who was laid to rest on Wednesday. Chiesa is a long-time associate of the governor’s, having served with him in a law firm and Christie’s US Attorney’s office before being appointed attorney general. Chiesa said he will not enter the special election, therefore he will serve only through the conclusion of the short special election cycle now scheduled for Oct. 16.

Also yesterday, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) sent an email message to supporters announcing himself as a candidate in the New Jersey special Senate election and asking for help in collecting the 1,000 valid registered voter signatures to qualify him for the ballot.

In his email, Holt said his reason for running “is simple.” He believes that he is “… the best candidate to continue the passionate advocacy for progressive values that Sen. Lautenberg exemplified.”

As you will remember, Gov. Christie scheduled the 2013 vote to replace Lautenberg despite the seat being in-cycle during 2014. The governor is now taking political heat because he is spending $24 million in taxpayer dollars to hold a special vote just three weeks before the regular Nov. 5 statewide election, when Christie himself faces the voters. His motive in not joining the two elections is clearly to avoid an increased turnout from Democrats desiring to elect their Senate nominee, and who would likely vote for gubernatorial nominee Barbara Buono while in the voting booth.
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NJ’s Christie Takes Action

Only a day after New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) passed away, Gov. Chris Christie (R) held a news conference earlier this afternoon to announce his Senate succession plans. While saying he had the legal authority to appoint a successor to serve the balance of Lautenberg’s term, the governor instead called a special election, saying that “18 months was too long a time for an appointed senator to serve.”

Therefore, within the legal time constraints of calling the special election today, the nominating vote will be Aug. 13, with the special general senatorial election following on Oct. 16. The regular general election, featuring Christie himself, is Nov. 5.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker will run for the Democrats. Likely entrants are representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6) and Rush Holt (D-NJ-12). Since the US House members will not have to risk their seats to run in the short special election, some of the Republicans might also enter the race.

Christie’s move is a good one for his own campaign. He allows the people a vote, but avoids a spike in Democratic turnout because the special Senate vote will not conflict with his election.

The governor also said he will soon appoint a replacement to serve until the special election concludes. He stipulated that he will not put a “caretaker” condition upon his eventual selection. Therefore, the person he appoints could also run in the special election.

New Jersey Confusion

New Jersey

New Jersey

Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) death yesterday illuminated another ambiguity in the New Jersey Election Code. At stake is whether Gov. Chris Christie (R) is forced to schedule a replacement special election this year, or whether his interim appointee can carry serve the remainder of Lautenberg’s current term.

The last time the state had a Senate vacancy occur outside a regular election period was in 2002, when Sen. Bob Torricelli (D) ended his post-nomination re-election bid due to campaign finance irregularities. Six weeks away from the ’02 general election, Torricelli was under heavy media pressure. Several incidents of potential illegality were coming to the forefront, and polls were showing him dropping behind GOP challenger Doug Forrester. With party leaders clearly understanding that the seat slipping through their fingers, Torricelli was forced out. Even though the Garden State election law seemed clear that the time for changing nominees had long since passed, the New Jersey Supreme Court allowed the Democrats to replace Torricelli. The man they had waiting in the wings to do so was none other than former senator Lautenberg, who had retired just two years earlier.
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