WASHINGTON – Faced with a politically perilous dilemma with far-reaching implications, New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday ordered an October special election to fill the senate vacancy created by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a decision Christie said was rooted in a desire to quickly deliver his state a senator elected by the people. But the decision drew charges of political maneuvering from both ends of the political spectrum.
Nebulous state election laws suggested the timing of the election to replace Lautenberg could come in either 2013 or 2014. Democrats pressed Christie to hold the election in November, to coincide with state elections, including Christie’s. But Christie said his priority was to have an elected senator in place as soon as possible.
Observers and party strategists were quick to note that Christie’s decision is good for his own electoral prospects. By holding an October election, Christie does not have to worry about the threat of a top-flight Democratic Senate contender ginning up the party base and collaterally breathing life into the campaign of his opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono. Polls show Christie leading Buono by a wide margin.