Tag Archives: Sen. Frank Lautenberg

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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Sen. Lautenberg To Retire … Again

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.
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Lautenberg Attacks Booker

Just after a new Quinnipiac University survey (Jan. 15-21; 1,647 registered New Jersey voters; 616 Democratic primary voters) gave Newark Mayor Cory Booker a 51-30 percent lead over Sen. Frank Lautenberg in a hypothetical Democratic primary pairing, an awakening incumbent struck back. The senator, who most believe will retire rather than face what appears will be a very divisive party primary against Booker, responded to the mayor’s semi-offensive in a key interview.

Speaking with a National Journal reporter, Lautenberg said of Booker, “He’s got a lot of work to do — a lot of work that should have been done and hasn’t been done [with reference to solving the city of Newark’s problems]. The senator went onto say that Newark is a “city in desperate need of attention.” He further said that “maybe if the mayor can solidify the fact that he wants to improve Newark by being there, things would be different. But he’s free to do as he wants to do.”

Lautenberg will be 90 years old before the next election, which polling shows is a decided negative among all voter segments. Booker has said both that he does not want to challenge Lautenberg, but has the desire to run for the Senate, and in 2014.

The early sparring suggests that this would be a divisive primary if it were to occur, but the most likely course of action still points to Lautenberg, perhaps reluctantly, deciding to retire.