Christie Holds Keys to Lautenberg Succession

The Monday morning death of Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., shifted the race to replace him into overdrive, with an imminent appointment of an interim senator and the potential for a special election this November.

There’s significant confusion over the state’s election law statute: Either a special election would be held this fall concurrent with the regularly scheduled state elections, or in November 2014, when Lautenberg’s seat was up anyway.

Party strategists are anxiously awaiting a decision from Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who will be on the ballot for re-election this fall. Along with appointing a successor to Lautenberg, who died following complications with viral pneumonia, Christie is tasked with deciding the timing of the special election.

The decisions before the governor carry significant political weight — for the makeup of the Senate and Christie’s own political future — and leave plenty of questions going forward.

Will Christie appoint a caretaker or someone who would seek the seat permanently? Will he appoint a Republican or a Democrat? Would he schedule a special election in which a Democrat will be heavily favored on the same day he faces re-election, especially if a Republican would otherwise get to hold the seat for an extra year?

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