New Jersey governor, Chris Christie has a conundrum. When Democratic Senator, Frank Lautenberg, passed away today at the age of 89, the strategy for a 2016 run for the White House became complicated.
The scenarios are multi-faceted, and each one has benefits and possible pitfalls.
Christie is up for reelection, and at the present time has a comfortable lead. However, the decision of who will replace Lautenberg could affect his favorability rating, and the eventual outcome of the gubernatorial election.
“It’s no mystery that Senator Lautenberg and I didn’t always agree,” Christie said Monday of the liberal Democrat. “In fact, it probably is more honest to say we very often didn’t agree, and we had some pretty good fights between us over time, battles on philosophy and the role of government.”
His first problem is with conservatives. If Christie decides not to appoint a true right winger, he could face problems with support if he chooses to run for the presidency in 2016.
In addition, there are two New Jersey state laws governing special elections. Both offer a complex decision for the governor.
One statute says: “if a vacancy shall happen in the representation of this State in the United States Senate, it shall be filled at the general election next succeeding the happening thereof, unless such vacancy shall happen within 70 days next preceding such election.”
That means that the likely date will be in November.
Another statute says: “If the vacancy happens within 70 days of the primary that precedes the next general election, the special election will be held at the second succeeding election.”
New Jersey’s primary is Tuesday. Under the terms of the second statute, the election would not be held until 2014, and the winner would serve a full six year term.
Both place the burden on Christie for choosing the date of the special election.
It appears to be a foregone conclusion that putting off a special election until 2014 would be to the advantage of Governor Christie. But the move could induce a higher turnout of Democratic voters, especially with the possibility of Newark Mayor Cory Booker adding his name to the ballot.
Another issue is a possible legal challenge by state Democrats. If Christie chooses a conservative replacement for the next 18 months, charges may be filed by liberals declaring Christie denied the intent of the state’s voters, who had elected a Democrat to the seat.
Democratic state party Chairman John Wisniewski tells CNN that “it’s a slap in the face to New Jersey voters not to have a say in who represents them for a year and a half.”
Christie insiders believe he will lean towards a 2014 special election. But, if that is the case, who will he choose to represent the state for the next 18 months?
His Republican choices have little favorability with the Democratic majority. He could even appoint Booker, but the fallout from the choice of a Democrat could increase the separation of Christie and the staunch conservatives in the Republican Party. This choice is extremely doubtful.
Christie has oft been criticized by his own party. First because of the relationship he shared with President Obama after Super Storm Sandy destroyed much of the New Jersey coastline. When the House of Representatives failed to take timely action to secure federal aid for the people of his state, he lambasted House Republicans. And the ire of the right has been increased by Democratic endorsements for his reelection as governor within his own state.
Somehow, I believe the governor will rise above the challenges before him. He appears to have the charm, charisma, and determination to attain whatever his future goals may be.
Chris Christie and 2016 may become a reality. If polls taken displaying the popularity of others in the GOP continue to show low numbers for most, ultra-conservatives may not be able to stop him.
The Guardian Express