A Governor's Appeal to Bipartisan 'Vox Populi'

Senator Frank Lautenberg
Senator Frank Lautenberg

All politics is local, except when it’s not.

The death of the long-serving Democratic Senator from New Jersey Frank Lautenberg was national news for any number of reasons not the least of which was the record of Lautenberg’s lengthy service for five terms and his battles on such issues as gun control, the establishment the age of 21 as a national legal drinking age.

Lautenberg died from pneumonia after having announced that he was suffering from stomach cancer. At the time of his death, he had already announced that he would not be running for re-election.

His death began a bout of electoral and political jockeying, but the results of which would have national implications. Lautenberg’s death left the popular (with New Jersey voters if not Tea Party diehards) Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie with the opportunity and in fact the duty appoint a replacement, which, no question about it, will probably be a Republican. But he also had the opportunity to delay holding a special election until next year, a time period which might have given the GOP replacement choice—not yet named—a leg up on any 2014 election, incumbency often being a boon.

But Christie chose instead to hold a special election in October, preceded by a primary election, the sum total of which has the effect of costing quite a bit of money and negating the GOP advantage. The popular Newark mayor Cory Booker has already announced some time ago that he would run for the seat.

A positive way of looking at Christie’s decision is that, like a lone flower blooming in a long winter, it might be a tentative sign of the rebirth of bipartisanship, an olive branch, or maybe it’s just Christie’s maverick nature. It’s hard to tell, of course, and might be a naïve conclusion to draw, but these days you can never hope enough and should never hope too much.

A less likely outcome could be that Christie might appoint a Democrat—the New Jersey Democrats insist they are entitled to the seat—but that might be going too far even for a man whose new best friend appears to be Tea Party bête noir President Barack Obama.

In any case, no Republican has been elected to the Senate from New Jersey since 1972—the moderate and popular Clifford Case. Lautenberg won his seat in 1982 and had served in the Senate since 1983 with a brief two-year hiatus.

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Sat, 25 Oct 2014 02:18:03 -0400

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