The special Senate election to replace longtime Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who died on Monday at the age of 89, will be held in October, Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., announced on Tuesday.
At a press conference in New Jersey, Christie said the primary race would be held on August 13 and that the special election would be 64 days after that, on October 16. State statute, he said, "provides for the governor of New Jersey to make this decision if the governor deems it advisable to have a special election."
"I deem it necessary," he said. "We have to move swiftly to fill this seat."
Christie said the state will pick up the costs of the special election, which will take place just weeks before his own gubernatorial re-election in November. Christie, who is expected to win re-election easily, dismissed the notion that he could defray costs to the government by having both elections on one day, or that he is driven by political motivations to hold them on separate dates. In fact, he argued, "the option to have [the special election] on the general election is not an option" under state law.
According to the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, the costs of a special primary election and a special general election would be approximately $11.9 million per election.
"In the end, the cost associated with having this special election... cannot be measured against the value of having an elected representative in the United States Senate," he said. "There's no political purpose to this."
Christie said he will appoint an interim senator next week to fill the seat until the October 16 election, but that he has not yet determined who that will be. He did note that Lautenberg's death did not come as a "shock" to him given his prior illness, and that "I do have a list in my head."
"I'll make a decision relatively quickly," he said. He declined to identify who might be on that list, other than that it is comprised of "more than 1, less than 100" people. He also pointed out that, "I do have a preference for one party over the other, so that may color my judgment a little."
Christie, who has built his gubernatorial career on a policy of sweeping budget cuts and union busting, insisted that money is not an object to him when it comes to carrying out democracy.
"I don't know what the cost is and I quite frankly don't care.
We're not going to be penny-wise and pound-foolish around here," he said. "The gun has been fired. It's time to go."
Christie's decision allows him to run in November without the possibility that a high-profile Democrat - such as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who was already running in next year's general election to replace Lautenberg, or Rep. Frank Pallone, who is expected to jump in the race - will drive up Democratic turnout due to the special election. It also appeases Democrats who didn't want to see a Republican appointed to a longstanding Democratic Senate seat for 18 months.
The winner of the October 16 special election will fill the remainder of Lautenberg's term, which expires in January 2015. The regularly scheduled election to fill the full six-year term for that seat will take place as originally scheduled in November 2014. Candidates in this year's special election - winner and losers - are eligible to run again for the full six-year term.
Lautenberg had been ill for weeks leading up to his death, and was largely absent from the Senate barring appearances for a few critical votes. His funeral will be held on June 5 at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, where Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and others will eulogize him. On June 6, he will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Lautenberg was the Senate's last living World War II veteran.