Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman says she didn't expect Gov. Chris Christie to call for a special election to replace late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, but believes the move could help Republicans in the long run.
"It was a surprise to me, I didn't think he'd do that, but I take him at his word. He says he wants to have the public have a choice and get this position filled as quickly as possible because of the seriousness of the issues facing the Congress," Christie told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"And if he appoints somebody, we will certainly end up in a lawsuit and this takes it away from that."
Republicans are angry over Christie's decision to hold a special election, with some suggesting he is placing his own interests ahead of the party and making it easier for Democrats to make political inroads.
Whitman — who served as governor of the Garden State from 1994 to 2001 and previously was President George W. Bush's Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency — isn't convinced.
"[If] Republicans who are upset about it, stop to think a little bit — it could also help the Republicans in the legislative races," she said.
"Because it won't bring as many Democrats out as there would be if there was a Senate seat on the ballot at the same time."
Whitman also is sure that Christie wouldn't further infuriate Republicans by choosing a Democrat to temporarily fill Lautenberg's seat until the election is held.
"I don’t think he’s going to do that . . . He's a Republican, you've got to remember he's a fiscal conservative, he is socially conservative – a lot more social conservative than I am," Whitman said.
"He won't do that and he's not going to go out of his way to poke a stick in the eye of the Republicans. That's not his mission here."
She said Christie's first responsibility is to the people of New Jersey and that's the reasoning behind his decision.
"He can't worry about what the Republicans in Washington want him to do or don't want him to do or think what's in their best interests," she said.
"In what's in the best interests of the state and he clearly has said that he believes the best interest of the people in the state of New Jersey are to have – and I agree with him on this – is to have somebody in the Senate as soon as possible representing the state.
"It would be difficult for someone who was appointed for just the interim year because there would be lawsuits and their legitimacy would be questioned constantly and that would make it difficult for them to serve so he has balanced all these things."
Asked by Steve Malzberg whether she would be willing to fill Lautenberg's seat for the few months until the special election if Christie asked her to, Whitman straddled the fence.
"You never [say no] because people don't believe you anyway, so you might as well you say you'll answer the phone and who knows what your answer would be," she said.
"But it would be a tough thing to do for a few months because that's all you have. You're there to represent the people of New Jersey, that's important, and you'd never overlook the importance of that. You should never discount the importance of being able to serve the people."
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