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.
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. Continue reading >
New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University, as part of their March 4-10 Garden State survey (702 registered New Jersey voters; 323 Democratic primary voters), studied the upcoming 2014 open Senate race. Their findings present good news for Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) and suggest that both Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6) have quite a bit of ground to close if they intend to enter the race. Of the two, Pallone is likely to run, while Holt’s candidacy is only a possibility.
According to the FDU results, Booker would lead Holt and Pallone 50-7-4 percent, respectively, if a Democratic primary vote were held during the present period. With such a wide spread, either or both of these potential candidates will have to create a negative image of Booker if they are to substantially gain on him. Typically, big city mayors don’t do particularly well in statewide electoral contests normally because the voters not residing in the largest city, and particularly so for rural voters, often have a negative image of big city politics. Therefore, we can expect to see serious questions raised about the city’s government and state of the local economy before Democratic voters go to the polls in June of 2014.
Booker is in equally good shape for the general election. The only potential GOP Continue reading >
In a development that was generally expected, New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election next year. The senator is 89 years old, meaning he will be 90 at the time of the 2014 general election and 96 if he were to fully serve his next term. Though Lautenberg’s job approval numbers are good, his age is viewed as an overwhelming negative within every voter group.
This is actually the second time Lautenberg will retire from the Senate. Originally elected in 1982 he served three consecutive terms, choosing not to seek re-election in 2000. Two years later, however, when then-Sen. Bob Torricelli (D) was forced from the Democratic ticket due to scandal, the party leaders chose Lautenberg to replace the departing incumbent just a month before the 2002 election. He went on to score a 54-44 percent victory over Republican businessman Doug Forrester.
Sen. Lautenberg was subsequently re-elected in 2008, a 56-42 percent win over former Rep. Dick Zimmer (R-NJ-12) after defeating Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ-1) 59-35 percent in the Democratic primary. In all, Lautenberg, upon completing what will now be his final term in the Senate, will have served five non-consecutive six-year terms.
Despite his age, the senator was adamant, until yesterday, that he had not made a decision about seeking re-election. Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s statements saying that he wanted to run for Senate in 2014 clearly irked the incumbent, but the polls were unmistakable in positioning Lautenberg as a double-digit underdog if the two men were to face each other in the Democratic primary. Continue reading >