Speculation, confusion surround steps in seating Lautenberg successor

    It’s not clear just when an election will be held to fill the U.S. Senate seat from New Jersey left vacant by the death of Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

    Seton Hall political science professor Matthew Hale says Gov. Chris  Christie has some latitude in scheduling an election to fill Lautenberg’s unexpired term.

    “The law says specifically that it will be the next general election, which would be in November of 2013,” Hale said. “The statute also says it could be the one after that, which would be November 2014. Or it says the governor can do a special election.”

    If there is a challenge to the date for the election, the courts may have to sort it out.

    The governor can appoint a temporary replacement for Lautenberg until an election is held.

    Speculation on his possible choice includes Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and state Sens. Tom Kean and Joe Kyrillos.

    One name that’s not circulating is that of New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney who said Monday he has no plans to run for the seat.

    “No, I’m not considering this. What I’m considering right now is dealing with the state budget, dealing with elections for the Legislature,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “As the Senate president, I have a responsibility to my colleagues to try to bring them back, and I’m going to work real hard for that.”

    Hale and Sweeney both expect Christie will appoint a Republican to fill Lautenberg’s seat until an election is held for the unexpired term.

    “I think it’s pretty much guaranteed that he’s going to name a Republican. To do otherwise would destroy his possibility of running for president,” Hale said. “He needs to make sure that, as a Republican, people know he’s a Republican, and this a way to do it.”

    Christie and his advisers may be looking to appoint someone to the Senate seat who might be able to beat Democrat Cory Booker, the popular Newark mayor who has said he will run for the seat in 2014.


    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal