Christie's Costly Decision on NJ Senate Seat Defies Move to Consolidate Elections

Image: Christie's Costly Decision on NJ Senate Seat Defies Move to Consolidate Elections

Wednesday, 05 Jun 2013 10:55 AM

By Melanie Batley

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he doesn't care about the cost of a special election to fill the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg's seat, but that wasn't what he said last year when he signed a bill moving all local elections to November.

"This bipartisan tool-kit bill finally gives real pathways for school boards or voters to move district elections to November, providing the bright prospect for both local government savings and increased voter participation in the process," Christie said at the time, according to The Weekly Standard.

Related: Bolton Says Decision to Hold Special Election 'Mind-Boggling'

On Tuesday, however, Christie appeared to reject his own call for consolidating elections to save money when he scheduled a special primary for Aug. 13, to be followed by a special general election Oct. 16, to replace Lautenberg.

"I don't know what the cost is and I quite frankly don't care," Christie said after announcing his decision, according to The Trentonian.

By some estimates, the special election could cost New Jersey taxpayers as much as $24 million, The New York Times reported, causing a few political observers to wonder why Christie would not call for the Senate election to be held a few weeks later on Nov. 5, when Garden State voters will decide whether to return Christie to a second term.

Critics of Christie's decision also accused him of playing politics with the special election in an attempt to guard his own position at the top of the November ballot. He could have appointed a Republican to take over the seat long held by a Democrat until the 2014 election, but calling a special election ensured that a Senate race would share space with this November's gubernatorial ballot and help drive more Democrats to the polls.

"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," Colm O'Comartun, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, said 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," O'Comartun said.

In defense of his decision, Christie insisted the people of New Jersey, not him, should choose their next senator, and they should do it as soon as possible.

"I want to have an elected senator as soon as possible," Christie said. "There's no political purpose to this. The political purpose is to give the people a voice."

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