New Jersey Dem: We'll take Christie to court if special election isn't this year

Christie is reportedly reluctant to appear on the same ballot as Cory Booker

By Jillian Rayfield

Published June 4, 2013 1:52PM (EDT)

A top Democrat in New Jersey has threatened to take Gov. Chris Christie to court if he does not call the special election to replace Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died on Monday, for this year. “It needs to happen in November,” said state Senate president Stephen Sweeney. “I know there is some conflicting information, but you cannot disenfranchise voters for 17 or 18 months.”

Sweeney added that if Christie doesn't call it for this November, “We’ll take it to court.”

The Star-Ledger explains the dilemma:

Democrats believe state law requires the governor to hold the special election in November, but Republicans believe they can wait until next November, an argument supported by the research arm of the Legislature.

Christie is reportedly wary of the prospect of appearing on the same ballot as Cory Booker, who was planning to run when Lautenberg retired in 2014 anyway. Booker, who is very popular in the state, could potentially energize the Democratic base and cut into Christie's lead in his own race for reelection, set for November.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Christie, whose popularity soared after Hurricane Sandy, is so eager to avoid appearing on the same ballot as Mr. Booker, according to Republican insiders, that he is considering two alternatives to a November election for Mr. Lautenberg’s successor. Each carries a potential political cost, and the dispute could easily be challenged in court.

The option that is being pushed by many in Mr. Christie’s own party would be to name a Republican to hold the seat and then delay an election on a replacement until 2014. This would give his national party an unexpected gift: a reliable vote in the Senate — for a year and a half, at least — from a state that has not elected a Republican to the upper house in 41 years. But it would also open Mr. Christie up to allegations of sidestepping the electoral process.

Another option, according to the Times, is for Christie to set a primary in August, and then hold the general special election in October.

Jillian Rayfield

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at

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2013 Elections Chris Christie Cory Booker Frank Lautenberg New Jersey