Chris Christie won't "poke a stick in the eye" of the Republican Party by appointing someone outside the GOP mainstream to fill Frank Lautenberg's Senate seat, Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman tells Newsmax.
Republican Whitman served as governor from 1994 to 2001, then went on to become administrator of the EPA for two years during the George W. Bush presidency. She is also a bestselling author and now runs her own consulting firm.
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Garden State Gov. Christie now has to appoint a new senator to replace Lautenberg, who passed away on Monday. In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Tuesday, Whitman was asked how she would handle the situation if she were in Christie's place.
"I suspect I would have been thinking about it for some time because it's clear that the senator has not been healthy, and the possibility that this might occur has not been outside the thought process," she says.
"[Christie] has been thinking about it, pondering about it for a while or at least from time to time. I would not and he will not call a special election. He will in fact appoint someone. And then it comes down to does he just want a placeholder or does he want to put a Republican in there who could be competitive for the seat a year from now.
"He would probably want to put a Republican who would be competitive in the seat and that gives him a wide variety of choices within the state. He could take his Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, he could take the last Republican senatorial candidate Joe Kyrillos, he could take Tom Kean Jr. who's in the state Senate and has of course wonderful name recognition with his father. He has a host of choices within the Republican Party in the state."
Whitman asserts that Christie would not be running "any risk at all" if he appoints a Republican to the Senate even though the voters in New Jersey elected a Democrat, Lautenberg, to the seat.
Appointing a Republican "would be expected of him," she says.
"You certainly would not expect a Democratic governor to appoint a Republican. That's just not usually what you see happen. It was the presumption that people were voting for the person, not necessarily just the party.
"Certainly if he does want to think about running for the presidency — and right now his focus is as it should be on the state of New Jersey — he would certainly want to appoint a Republican to that seat, not a Democrat.
"I would hope that whoever is appointed is not just a lockstep person who puts party above policy, that they would be someone who would think through the issues and decide based on what they believe is in the best interest of the people of New Jersey. That might not always go along with what some in leadership might want but it probably would most of the time.
"I don’t think he would take someone who would obviously antagonize leadership. He's not going to go out of his way to poke a stick in the eye of the Republican Party. He is a Republican and he believes in basic Republican values.
"He's a fiscal conservative. He wants someone who reflects those values. He's actually very socially conservative as well, more than I am. So he would pick someone who shares those values, but those are not paramount. What's paramount to him is someone who could be an effective leader and who can help get the fiscal house in order. That is the most important challenge facing not just New Jersey, but the country as a whole."
Asked about her remembrances of the late Sen. Lautenberg, Whitman tells Newsmax: "He was someone who was just enormously dedicated to public service, whether it was his time in the military or his time in the Senate. He was passionate about the issues that he took up and he fought for them vigorously.
"Sometimes that landed us on the same side of an issue and sometimes it didn’t. When you're on the other side, he was a formidable opponent. But he believed deeply in all the causes that he espoused.
"We were working on the same side of an issue when he died, which was on chemical site security, trying to ensure that we have proper safeguards in place for the literally thousands of places around the country that have very problematic or very volatile chemicals and to prevent the kind of disaster we saw in West, Texas, not too long ago."
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