Christie’s Calculated Rush for a Special Election

The special election has two beneficiaries: Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Christie himself.

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Mel Evans / AP

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listens to a question during a news conference, June 4, 2013, in Trenton, N.J.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s decision Tuesday to hold a special election in mid-October to fill the open seat vacated after Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s death Monday has two beneficiaries: Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Christie himself.

A complex web of conflicting election laws could have delayed a special election until November 2014 or stacked a Senate race onto an already crowded November 2013 ballot.

Instead, Christie called for the special election three weeks earlier, on October 16, saying at a press conference, “This is about guaranteeing the people of New Jersey both a choice and a voice in the process.”

Republicans had hoped Christie would delay a vote until 2014, allowing Christie’s likely-Republican temporary appointee to serve through the end of the current Congress. “I firmly believe that the decisions that needs to be made are too great to be determined by an appointee for a period of 18 months,” Christie told reporters. “We must allow our citizens to have their say.” Instead, the appointee will serve through the special election. “I do have a list in my head,” he said of his decision to select a temporary appointee. “You all know me. I don’t dawdle.”

Though the Republican governor denied that political reasoning played a role in his decision, the timing of the special election clearly benefits the first-term governor, guaranteeing him top-billing in the November election where he is likely to cruise to a second term against state Sen. Barbara Buono.

It also benefits Booker, who was already planning to run for Lautenberg’s seat next year, by keeping him off the same ballot as Christie. The two outsized Garden State lawmakers have gone to great lengths to avoid running afoul of each other over the past several years, and they share high statewide favorability ratings.

Running on the same ballot, but for different offices, would inject uncertainty into each of their political calculations this year.

The byproduct of Christie’s decision is the addition of two more expensive statewide elections this year—a primary on August 13, and the special election two months later—that will cost the state as much as $24 million. Democrats are already criticizing the governor for making a politically motivated decision that costs taxpayers money.

“Governor Christie might not know or care how many millions of taxpayer dollars his special election gambit will waste, but the people of New Jersey certainly do,” said Democratic Governors Association Executive Director Colm O’Comartun in a statement. “Christie should do the right thing, protect New Jersey taxpayer dollars instead of his own political career, and hold the Senate election on the same day as his own.”

But that might have meant facing Buono at a moment when booker’s name also on the ballot, though in a different race. And that would have drawn African Americans to the polls on the same day that Christie faced re-election. It is unlikely that Christie would have captured many of those votes.

As for the cost, Christie said he was unconcerned about that, even as he reassured local officials that the state will pick up the tab.

“The costs associated with having the special election and primary, in my mind, cannot be measured against the value of having an elected member of the U.S. Senate,” he said. “I don’t know what the costs are and quite frankly I don’t care.”

44 comments
marfar
marfar

Christie MUST LOSE this upcoming election. He HATES children who attend public schools and that is reprehensible. His actions SCREAM out loud and the good people of New Jersey should act wisely and shut him down. 

mpc
mpc

Chris Christie has managed to pull the wool over the eyes of NJ voters for far too long.  He needs to be defeated in November.  I know that people feel it's not possible to defeat him, but that's not true.  Barbara Buono is more experienced than he is and she is not a bully.  She's a very well-qualified candidate, and we need to get behind her and get her elected. 

Christie twists everything to make himself look good.  He lies and manipulates.  He criticized Corzine because property taxes rose 6% under Corzine.  But under Christie, they've risen 16%!  He only wants to talk about Sandy.  So what -- he did his job!  But while our unemployment was and still is one of the highest in the Nation, he was flying all over the country campaigning for right-wing politicians, to ensure his name was a household name. 

What about the no-bid contract for the Sandy cleanup?  He hired a company who contributed handsomely to his campaign.  If a Democrat did that, he would be all over them.  With our counstruction workers out of work for so long that they are not even counted in the unemployment rate any longer, he couldn't find someone from NJ to handle the cleanup?

He is privatizing the Lottery to plug a budget hole and then brag about it.  But what about the future?  The NJ Lottery is doing fine -- it's a money maker!  What about the Mom and Pop stores who sell the tickets and make some money?  What about the employees?  He doesn't care about them -- just what he wants, when he wants it.  The two companies interested in buying it are not even from the US -- one is from Australia, the other Canada. 

And our income disparity -- it's one of the highest in the Nation as well.  He doesn't want his rich friends to be taxed, but balances his budget on the backs of the middle class and the workers.  His commercial brags that he has had four balanced budgets.  Wake up NJ, it's THE LAW -- you MUST balance your budget!  It's HOW Christie has chosen to balance it that is a problem.

He took ONE BILLION DOLLARS out of education in FY 2011 and replaced it this year with ONE MILLION -- then he brags that he has more education funding than anyone.  But the BILLION has never been replaced. 

He lies, he twists and he manipulates. New Jersey voters need to wake up and see the real Chris Christie.  When he doesn't want to answer a question, he attacks the person who asked it.  Why people think that is funny, I'll never know. 

I am voting for Barbara Buono.  And I will volunteer to help her as well.  Other pols have won with grass roots campaigns, and I hope she will too.

patriciaann989
patriciaann989

Having lived in New Jersey for all of my life (52 years) I find Christie's popularity inexplicable.  What has he done that's so great?  Made nice-nice with Obama so he could get federal funds?  So what?  Christie has raised property taxes at a much higher rate, much faster than even Corzine did.  Now Christie wants to spend an extra $24M so he doesn't have to have Corey Booker's name on the poll?  Is Christie for real?  How much more in property taxes do we have to pay so Christie doesn't have to share with Corey Booker?  Chris Christie is not a fiscal conservative that's for sure.

notLostInSpace
notLostInSpace

Perhaps it is just a fair compromise (omg, call the cops).  It helps Booker, a Dem, win. It helps Christie win.  Both were expected to win anyway.   It is very good and fair to the state because they won't have to live with a lame duck for a long time.   The downside is the cost.    All compromises have cost.  But what does the cost mean anyways, isn't that in reality stimulus?  Putting money into peoples pockets to spend somewhere.  Not such a big deal in that light. 

sjeffh
sjeffh

Wait, did that say the choice was between an extra $24 million election or an existing election three weeks later? Not so brilliant...

DrBillyKidd1
DrBillyKidd1

You have go to understand that Christie has a population made up of 43% non-Caucasians. He does not want to rouse them up and get them all down there on the day his name is on the ticket. Solution: Get Cory Brooker into the Senate seat so everyone is happy and when they come to the polls in November, if they come at all. Really a brilliant move.

fitty_three
fitty_three

Getting sane Republicans in office is almost as important as getting Democrats to support Obama.

DannyRoss
DannyRoss

Legislators write laws that benefit politicians, not the people who are not politicians but who are affected by them.  If there is ambiguity in the law, be assured that at some point in time, some politician wanted to appoint a protege to office in a way that was not allowed under prior law.

AdamWill
AdamWill

I'm kind of blown away that he can get away with setting an election three weeks before another election.  How does he justify that?

I'm a liberal, and generally, I'm not going to want conservatives in the governor's house or the Senate.  I don't know how I'm 'supposed' to feel as a liberal about this.  Good for our Senate chances? Bad for our governor's mansion chances? Happy that we don't have the GOP in the Senate until 2014 as he could have done...


But as a human being with common sense... how is it ok to run an election just a few weeks before another election, rather than merging them?  How is there any justification for that?  I get the selfish political explanation, but from a financial, logistical, and logical view, it seems nuts, and I don't know how it can happen. If Christie wanted to just be a crass partisan, he could have delayed until next year and called it the fiscally responsible thing to do, so I'm not even accusing him of anything nefarious.  I just really don't get it.

tommyudo
tommyudo

It must be the right decision, because the GOP grass roots Right are going ape s**t over it, and already telling Christie to kiss off any thoughts about 2016.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Any locals here that can shed light on, from an outsiders view, Christie's personality change.

He went from petuantly refusing to go along with the ARC tunnel and getting caught lying about NJ's failure to receive Race To The Top funding and now he has completely tanked his RNC Keynote (was he Keynote or just prime time?), respected the federal aid after the storm, and now appears to take the highroad with the Senate opening.

Doesn't seem like the same guy.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Give the man his due, that was some nice threading of the needle.

sacredh
sacredh

Politically, it makes a great deal of sense. By having the election so soon, Christie can appear to be above partisan politics because he's not letting a member of his own party have the seat for 18 months. It's a shrewd move.

MrObvious
MrObvious

He wants to run in 2016 and don't want to make the base mad OR any potential moderates or Dems that might relect him and then possibly vote for him. A choice to keep the water calm(er).

marfar
marfar

@patriciaann989 

I believe bullies are always 'liked', but only for a time.  His time IS UP..  People think that because he helped New Jersey folks with money due to Sandy was amazing, HOWEVER, anyone who was governor during that emergency would have DONE the SAME, EXACT thing.   CHRISTIE HAS DONE NOTHING EXTRAORDINARY...  nothing at all.

jmac
jmac

@sjeffh He's a so-called "deficit hawk" - until he isn't.  Sound familiar?  it's the history of the Republican party.  

jmac
jmac

@DrBillyKidd1 Brilliant if you don't mind spending millions, especially after you've cut educational programs. 

 "I don't know  what the cost are and  quite frankly I don't care."    Spoken like a true macho Republican who's running for office and doesn't want  anyone ciphering votes from him.  

marfar
marfar

@fitty_three 

Nah, at this point, we have to get Democrats into office. Gotta get rid of Chrustie.

mpc
mpc

@fitty_three OK, the key word is "sane" -- name one!  It surely is not Chris Christie.  If he gets a second term, watch how fast NJ goes downhill.  He wants us to be a right-to-work state, and that means that everyone's wages go DOWN --everyone but his millionaire friends.  Everything will be privatized -- it's proven that privatization does NOT work.  He will privatize to plug his budget holes and we will be left with the mess when he moves on.  He's no good for NJ

mpc
mpc

@AdamWill 

He's hoping that the people who will come out and vote for Booker will stay home 20 days later!  It's a slap in the face. He's basically saying they're too lazy to vote twice, and everyone should show him by coming out in droves.   What about people who can't get off from work? He only cares about his numbers.  And he wants to get control of the legislature so that he can really ruin NJ and kill the middle class.  He needs to lose in November.  He has not done one thing for NJ.  He's full of hot air.  Nasty hot air!

bryanfred1
bryanfred1

He's splitting the baby.  Appointing a Republican to replace Lautenberg until the next Senate election in 2014 would have Democrats screaming for his head and made his job as governor that much tougher.  He's not really giving anything up here; a Democrat would probably win the seat no matter when the election was held.  Meanwhile, scheduling the special election on the same day as state races would have potentially jeapordized his re-election by attracting more Democrats to the polls to ensure one of their own replaces Lautenberg.  So he's being self-serving without being TOO self-serving.  It seems unnecessary to me; everything I've read puts both Booker and Christie comfortably in the offices they are seeking (NJ-ites feel free to correct me if the races are closer than I've heard).

DannyRoss
DannyRoss

@tommyudo The pictures of Christie with his arm around our Dear Leader have already taken care of 2016. 

dwainwr123
dwainwr123

@Paul,nnto , I'm from New Jersey, and there is no personality shift.  Christie only cares about Christie, and he never apologizes.  By having a special election in October, its bad for the GOP, but good for him.  It saves him from having to make a controversial appointment (Republican replacing a liberal Democrat), and it benefits his own election by not forcing him to share the ballot with senate candidates.  Christie is popular in New Jersey, and the GOP senate candidate would have got coattails from Christie in a November election, but Christie could care less about that.  It's all about Christie.

Ivy_B
Ivy_B

@Paul,nnto My guess would be all the incredibly positive press he got from the way he dealt with Hurricane Sandy and his bromance with Obama over it, all of which made him more attractive in a heavily Democratic state. After he wins re-election and is term limited, I expect to see the "teachers are paid too much" guy come back.

bryanfred1
bryanfred1

He's probably one of a handful of presidential candidates who can attract votes not only from independents, but from some left-leaning voters as well.  Not sure if it will play out that way, but the calculus of how many far right voters he'd lose relative to centrist voters he's gain makes for some interesting watching.

mpc
mpc

@jmac @DrBillyKidd1   He says he will find the money to pay for it -- just lay off a few more cops and teachers.  One of the talk shows says he could put 49 teachers to work with that money -- but that's not his priority.  He just wants to be the big boss with the big mouth

AdamWill
AdamWill

@bryanfred1 Yeah, I get it, I guess, if there would be a huge backlash for waiting.  But I still think it's absolutely nuts to spend the money on two elections within a few weeks of each other, and I can't believe it's even allowed.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@DannyRoss

I think you've made a mistake. No, make that two mistakes:

1. North Korea is that way 

2. Cutting off your nose to spite your face leaves you without anything to detect your own stench: Christie is the only person you have that's electable.

marfar
marfar

@dwainwr123 @Paul,nnto 

New Jersey people should stop being so blind, because Chrustie will do damage that they would never imagine.  It's not good to be so dumb.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@dwainwr123 @Paul,nnto  Thanks, I had no doubts about his motivation. The same as most politicians, I suppose.

I was speaking more to his demeanor, which as Ivy speculates, my revert after re-election and lame duck status. 

marfar
marfar

@Ivy_B @Paul,nnto 

As I said before, anyone, man or woman, who was Governor of New Jersey during the Hurricane Sandy crisis would HAVE DONE THE SAME THING AS CHRUSTIE DID.  Let me repeat, Chrustie DID NOTHING EXTRAORDINARY.  

marfar
marfar

@bryanfred1 

I know many republicans who are voting democrat to get rid of Christie.  They are completely tired of his antics.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@bryanfred1 The catch is the lost right wing votes are the ones he needs to get on the ballot. 

See above, a simple photo with BHO eliminated Christie for a not insignificant part of the republican base. 

Fine by me, but that's no way to run a political party. 

marfar
marfar

@fitty_three @DannyRoss 

Chrustie is NOT ELECTABLE.  He's not DELECTABLE.  He's a LARGE SIZED BULLY who needs the smack-down.  

ANYONE, anywhere, will be an improvement than Chrustie!

fitty_three
fitty_three

@mantisdragon91

Wow. I wish I had read this before I commented above. I wonder just how many other people have been thinking the very same thing?

Spot on!

SaveUrth
SaveUrth

@Paul,nnto @bryanfred1 -- 2016 is still a ways off.  Christie still has a shot at the GOP nomination.  He has name recognition, the press seems to think he's okay and Republicans across the country select the nominee:  Christie could roll up a lot of votes in "Blue" states and find a way to the nomination.  Time will tell.