“Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., the last World War II veteran serving in the Senate, died due to complications from viral pneumonia at 4:02 a.m. Monday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell, his office announced. He was 89 years old.
The Democrat had health problems in recent years and had missed several Senate votes in the first months of the year. He had the flu and missed the Senate’s Jan. 1 vote to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of rising taxes and falling government spending, then missed several votes two months later because of leg pain.”
This creates an interesting situation in New Jersey politics. Governor Chris Christie, who is running for reelection this year and is a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has to appoint someone to fill the seat until a special election can be held. Does he appoint a Republican who he thinks can hold the seat, or does he appoint a Democrat to fill a vacancy left by a Democrat?
Also, when should the special election be held? The most obvious answer would be the general election date in November, but that could create some problems for Christie. Right now he leads his Democratic opponent Barbara Buono by double digits, and there is no indication that the situation is likely to change before the election.
The catch is that a popular Democratic senate candidate could provide a boost to Buono if the senate election is held on the same day as the governor’s race. Newark Mayor Corey Booker is widely expected to run for the seat, and he is currently very popular in New Jersey and around the country.
Could Booker give Buono a boost? Maybe, but I don’t think it would be enough to make her a serious threat to Christie. The smart move would be for Christie to appoint a Republican to the seat and hold the special election in November. That way, the Republican senate candidate would get some of Christie’s coattails and would stand of a better chance of keeping the seat.
But New Jersey politics are unpredictable because, well, it’s New Jersey.