(Roger Stone) – I like Chris Christie. Maybe it’s the Jersey thing, but I like his bluntness and confidence. I wrote on these pages that it was wrong to exclude him from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year.. But I am astonished by the decision he has made regarding the seat of late Senator Frank Lautenberg, who was the oldest member of the U.S. Senate when he died early Monday.
Lautenberg beat patrician Republican and Vogue editor Millicent Fenwick, who smoked a pipe and wore pearls, by saying she was too old for the job, yes, that Frank Lautenberg. The Governor has called for a special primary and special election prior to the November 2013 elections. This will cost New Jersey taxpayers $24 million. If, as the Governor insists, it is essential to fill this seat by election as soon as possible, then scheduling the election this November 2013 , only 19 days after the date he has selected for a special election ,is the right course.
If the Governor, savvy politician that he is, does not want the charismatic Cory Booker (Mayor of Newark and Democratic Senate nominee presumptive) on the ballot this November so that the Governor’s victory in his reelection is not diminished by a bigger win by Booker, there is a simple thing to do.
It’s called the “Full Nick Brady”. When Harrison “Pete” Williams (No, not the one who said Menendez was playing with hookers in the DR) was convicted for his role in ABSCAM, then Governor, Thomas H. Kean appointed banker and George Bush chum Nick Brady, a Republican to the unexpired term. The seat was filled by…Frank Lautenberg! Brady declined to run.
The appointment of New Jersey Attorney General Jeff Chiesa looks like cronyism. Governor Christie had a chance to make real statement but didn’t.
Former Governor Tom Kean would have been such a pick.Tom Kean’s two uncles were both U.S. Senators from New Jersey. Congressman Robert W. Kean, a wily legislator, friend of Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon, ran for this seat. True public service is in the Kean family blood. Tom Kean Sr. served his country as co-chair of the 9-11 Commission. Governor Tom Kean was a pioneer for civil rights and equality. He practiced the art of inclusion. Now his country calls again. Governor Christie would be lauded by Republicans and Democrats alike for this choice.
If Christie really wanted to better position himself for the 2016 primaries he would appoint former New Jersey Superior Court judge Andrew Napolitano to the Lautenberg seat. Senator Kevin O’ Toole would be the first Korean American U.S. Senator in American history. Former Senator and New York/New Jersey Deputy Executive Director of Port Authority, Bill Baroni would also be a history-making choice. Former New Jersey Attorney General David Samson, who has served both Democrats and Republicans in his public career. These are able men.
Lieutenant Governor Kim Guardagno would be another history-making choice for New Jersey since Millie Fenwick didn’t make it to the U.S. Senate and veteran-Republican Congresswoman Flo Dwyer talked about running but never did.
Governor Christie has excellent choices but in calling a $24 million election he hands a cudgel to his 2013 Democratic opponent Barbara Buono. Filling this seat with an interim appointment and filling it at the already scheduled November, 2014 election when the current term expires, was the right course.
There is some legal ambiguity about how the seat of Senator Lautenberg must be filled. The New Jersey Supreme Court decision in the replacement of Frank Lautenberg to the vacancy caused by the withdrawal of Robert Torricelli on the Democratic Party ballot, in clear violation of the law, shows that in New Jersey the law is what the Governor says it is. Since Democrats don’t want a special election either, and Booker would rather run next November than this hot coming August, who would challenge Christie if he filled the seat with an interim Senator and let if be filled by election in November or 2014?