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Special Senate election: More candidates



Spotlight on New Jersey: Steve Lonegan

The special Senate election in New Jersey might be more interesting than anyone suspected. Here’s the latest on why we might (or might not) need a special Senate election, who might run in it, and whom Governor Chris Christie will send to the Senate in the meantime.

Mr. Ciesa goes to Washington

Today, at about 1:45 p.m., Governor Christie named his attorney general, Jeffrey Ciesa, as interim US senator. (Jenna Portnoy and Paul Mulshine at The Star-Ledger of Newark covered Christie’s press conference.) To understand how shrewd a move this was, remember: Jeff Ciesa has worked with and for Chris Christie for twenty-two years. Jenna Portnoy traces their relationship: from associates at the law firm of Dughi and Hewit in Cranford (1991), to the Office of the US Attorney for New Jersey (2002-2009), then as chief counsel to the governor, and more recently as attorney general of New Jersey.

Mr. Ciesa will not try to qualify for the primary for the special Senate election. So he will not compete or “split the vote” with Steve Lonegan (or anyone else). Paul Mulshine took pains to point that out.

Why hold a special Senate election?

Chris Christie called a special Senate election for his own benefit. Or did he?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a town hall meeting in Union City, New Jersey, February 9, 2011. The woman in blue seated behind him to the right is New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. Seated in the left hand corner are (left to right) Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer (partially obscured by the podium), and Union City Commissioners Maryuri Martinetti and Tilo Rivas. Photograph: Luigi Novi, CC BY 3.0 Unported License.

That is a matter of heated dispute. Two of the most prominent Tea Party activists in New Jersey, Dwight Kehoe and Nick Purpura, agree: Chris Christie could and should have named a prominent conservative as interim Senator for eighteen months. Any Democratic governor, sitting where Christie sits now, would have done the same. Kehoe described an “aggregation of treachery and betrayal” that he says has been going on for eleven years. He pointed out that Frank Lautenberg, who held the Senate seat until he died Monday, only got that seat because the Democrats substituted him for the disgraced Senator Robert G. Torricelli in 2002, though the law said it was too late.

Purpura went further: he called Christie a “Democrat-lite Trojan horse.” Purpura explained his reasoning to CNAV, reasoning that paralleled Kehoe’s. To wit: Barack Obama came to see Christie last weekend. Anyone remotely familiar with the Senate would have known that Frank Lautenberg was critically ill, indeed agonal, even then. Purpura and Kehoe believe Obama gave Christie some sort of marching order: appoint Cory Booker to the Senate from New Jersey.

Whether such a conversation ever took place is speculative. What isn’t speculative is that Christie has lately taken large campaign donations from prominent Democrats and their allies. They include some of Obama’s biggest “bundlers.” They even include George Soros, who once said he would despair of the United States ever being a civilized country if George W. Bush won re-election in 2004. (Bush did, but Soros bided his time.)


Dick Armey of FreedomWorks said much the same. He called Christie “debilitating[ly] stupid.” Said he:

Don’t lose the friends you already have for the friends you’ll never get.

Armey has a point. Barack Obama, we now know, made a deal with Bill Clinton: endorse me, and I’ll let you choose the next Democratic National Chairman and even endorse Hillary Clinton in 2016. Obama then reneged on both deals. If Obama were the only deal-maker, Christie would be a fool to make a deal with him. But Obama is not the only deal-maker. George Soros, some say, outranks him.

Doff the tin-foil hats, says Paul Mulshine. For one thing, he says, the law forces a special Senate election. Under New Jersey law, governors do not blithely appoint interim Senators for a year and a half. Mulshine acknowledged the law was not clear. But, he said, the Democrats would sue. And a judge would call the special Senate election promptly for November 5. A perfect set-up for Cory Booker, the best Democratic candidate, to juice the turnout for Democratic candidates, including State Senator Barbara Buono, who is running against Christie for governor.

So instead, Christie called the special Senate election and moved it three weeks up. Says Mulshine: “That had the Democrats fuming, [because] they rightly concluded Christie…outsmarted them.” Outsmarted by making sure Cory Booker could not juice the turnout for anyone but Cory Booker.

Nick Purpura is not satisfied. (Neither are other Republicans in and out of New Jersey, according to Ms. Portnoy.) The point remains: Christie did not even try to name a Republican to the US Senate for the next year and a half. Indeed he delayed calling the special election for a full day, and left that much less time for people to qualify. Of course, he knew Cory Booker’s Newark machine could hand him a thousand signatures with a single phone call. Republican candidates might not be so able.


Or are they?

Special Senate election primary: a crowded field

Steve Lonegan, shown here addressing the Tea Party, is qualifying for the special Senate election.

Steve Lonegan addresses protestors at the Philadelphia Tea Party Protest on April 18, 2009. Photo: User “Surfsupusa”/Wikipedia English, released to public domain

Steve Lonegan, of course, said yesterday he would start gathering signatures. He was the first candidate of either party to announce. Cory Booker announced himself before the day was out.

Jarrett Renshaw began following the special Senate election since Christie called it. From the articles he and others have published thus far, CNAV can say this much:

  • Frank Pallone (D-6th), who had thought of running for Senate as a Democrat, has stood down. Maybe. Renshaw hasn’t mentioned him since yesterday, but he’s on Matt Friedman’s list of those “considering” a run.
  • Rush Holt (D-12th) will not stand down. Matt Friedman covered his announcement this morning. (The news of Rush Holt’s run shocked Purpura. He fully expected every Democrat to stand down and clear the field for Booker.)

  • Assemblyman Jon Bramnick did stand down. So did Michael Doherty, who endorsed Lonegan. So also have Senators Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth). Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Union), and Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), and Representative Leonard Lance (R-7th).

  • In addition to Pallone, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) has someone gathering signatures for her already. Beth Mason, who once ran for Mayor of Hoboken, is thinking about it, too.

  • Joe Plumeri, owner of the minor-league Trenton Thunder, dropped hints of running in the Republican primary. He has had no content in the last twenty-four hours.

  • Exclusive: Activist Nora Craig sent an e-mail to supporters at 4:53 p.m. today, urging support for yet another Republican: Dr. Alieta Eck, director of the Zarephath Health Center. Nick Purpura contacted Ms. Craig and confirmed to CNAV that Dr. Eck is seeking to qualify for the primary.

  • Richard T. Luzzi, a long-time member of The Morristown Tea Party, withheld any endorsement, according to a message that reached Purpura at 5:30 p.m. today. Instead he will put the question of endorsement of a Senate candidate to a vote of TMTP members, for either Mr. Lonegan or Dr. Eck.

The candidate field for the special Senate election will probably thin out Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. That is the deadline, according to New Jersey election law, for qualifying petitions for the special primary. The primary will take place August 13, and the general election October 16.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

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