Christie faces tricky task in filling N.J. seat

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s options for appointing a replacement for the late Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg include Tom Kean Jr., the minority leader of the state Senate and the son of a former governor.

The Republican bench in New Jersey, a blue state, isn’t particularly deep and Mr. Kean would have the advantage of name recognition if he wanted to run for a full term. He won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 2006 but was defeated in the general election by Democrat Bob Menendez.


SEE ALSO: Frank Lautenberg was last WWII veteran in Congress; N.J. Gov. Chris Christie to pick replacement


But there’s also a potential problem — there’s friction between Mr. Christie and Mr. Kean.

The governor “does not like Kean Jr.,” said a New Jersey political operative familiar with the governor’s thinking.

Among the governor’s other options are Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, and Joe Kyrillos, a Christie ally whom the Republicans nominated for the Senate in 2012.

Some have suggested that Mr. Christie could even appoint the elder Mr. Kean, 78, as a caretaker senator until a special election is held. He served as governor from 1982 to 1990 and is still held in high regard by many New Jerseyans.

Mr. Christie also could appoint himself, although that move seems unlikely. He’s running for re-election, and moving to Washington would almost certainly hand over the governor’s mansion to the Democrats.

In addition to appointing a temporary replacement for Mr. Lautenberg, who died Monday, it’s up to Mr. Christie to decide on the timing of a special election.


SEE ALSO: GOP sees reasons for optimism in 2014 for Senate; retiring or vulnerable Democrats open door


New Jersey election law isn’t clear on the matter, with two statutes conflicting.

One statute says that if a vacancy occurs more than 70 days before the next general election (in this case, it does), then it will be filled in the next general election.

Another law says that the next general election will be the date of the special election only if the vacancy occurs more than 70 days before the primary. With this year’s primary set for Tuesday, that doesn’t apply.

Under the second provision, the election would not be held until November 2014, unless Mr. Christie calls for an earlier special election.

If Mr. Christie decides to hold the special election on Nov. 5 of this year, it could throw a wrench in the plans of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who had already announced his candidacy for Mr. Lautenberg’s seat and is viewed as the Democratic Party’s front-runner.

If the election is held this year, the state Democratic committee would pick the Senate nominee, rather than leaving it up to the voters. Among the other Democrats who are said to be interested in running are Reps. Frank Pallone and Rush Holt.

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