Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey says New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is guilty of "debilitating stupidity" in calling for a special election to replace late Sen. Frank Lautenberg.
"This is what really rankles conservatives," Armey told CNN's Jake Tapper. "There's not a Democrat governor alive that wouldn't have seized the opportunity to appoint a Democrat senator.
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"All Christie had to do is appoint a Republican. Now I put it down as debilitating stupidity, because the first rule of politics is don't lose the friends you already have for the friends you're never going to get."
Republicans and Democrats alike are slamming Christie for scheduling a special election in October just three weeks before the regularly scheduled general election, in which Christie will stand for re-election.
Many Republicans had hoped that Christie would have chosen to appoint a Republican to the seat and postpone an election until November 2014, and not risk losing the seat to Democrats in a state where they outnumber Republicans by 700,000 registered voters, The New York Times reported
An appointment would also have given a Republican the benefit of incumbency in 2014.
Donald Trump told Newsmax on Tuesday that Christie should appoint popular former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean to the Senate seat, asserting that he is "liked and respected, which is a rare combination."
Democrats for their part are accusing Christie of squandering money on a $24 million special election when the state budget is under stress.
Party leaders even distributed a list of the budget cuts Christie has put through that could be restored with that $24 million, including $10 million cut from after-school programs and $12 million in charity care at hospitals.
They also accuse Christie of scheduling the election to further his own political fortunes.
His advisers privately conceded that adding the Senate vote to the Nov. 5 general election risked energizing Democrats, according to The Times.
Popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker has indicated he would run for Lautenberg's seat and he might have drawn more young and black voters to the polls for Christie's Democratic challenger, Barbara Buono. Christie's goal is reportedly not just to win in November, but to triumph by a huge margin to demonstrate his ability to win as a Republican in a blue state and position himself for a run for president in 2016.
"Governor Christie’s decision places partisan politics above electoral participation," Bill Holland, spokesman for the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, said in a press release.
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"Holding an election a mere three weeks before an already scheduled general election promises to decrease turnout, especially among those who already lack a voice in government. Moreover, he’s asking taxpayers to foot the multi-million-dollar bill instead of using the funds to address New Jersey’s persistent jobs crisis."
New Jersey's largest newspaper, the Newark Star-Ledger, also slammed Christie. Its editorial board wrote that the governor made a "shameless move" in scheduling the special election.
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