Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday proved his detractors right: that his personal political ambitions trump the needs of New Jersey's citizens.
Following the death Monday of his state's U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, Christie caused ire on both sides of the aisle with his decision to call a special election for October 16--just three weeks before the regular November election--at an estimated cost of $24-million to taxpayers. A primary will be held August 13.
Christie's hypocrisy is astounding. Less than a month ago he vetoed an early-voting bill saying its $23-million price-tag was too costly. But now he's justifying spending a million more to hold an unnecessary special election. And with good reason. Newark's Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, who's seeking Lautenberg's seat, is extremely popular with blacks and young people, neither of whom tend to appreciably vote in midterm elections. Considering that New Jersey is a solid blue state with 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, Christie's fear is that a November Senate election would energize these groups and alter his plan to win re-election by a huge margin, a result which would materially boost his 2016 presidential cache. To the contrary, a narrow victory would demonstrate vulnerability against Democrats.
Additionally, in December 2009, in response to the question of how he'd replace a United States Senator, NJ's Hypocrite-in-Chief replied, "I don't think any responsible governor at this point would call for a special election that would cost $10 million." So by his own words, Christie is now acting irresponsibly. Or even worse, since he's just blown $24-million.
Republicans had wanted Christie to appoint an interim Senator for the remainder of Lautenberg's term--until the November 2014 election--which would've given the placeholder and the GOP almost a year and half as incumbents to raise cash and mount a successful campaign for the regular six-year term. With the U.S. Senate in an unprecedented state of polarization and gridlock, where the Democratic majority has had to count on every single vote (including twice summoning the ailing 89-year-old Lautenberg to Washington) in order to get any measure past Republican opposition, a bankable 18-month red vote would've been invaluable ammunition for conservatives. And given that it's been forty years since the state has elected a Republican Senator, it's easy to understand the GOP leadership's anger and frustration yet again at Christie...who certainly didn't win any points after what they viewed as his bombastic post-Sandy suck-up of President Obama.
When asked by reporters about the cost of the special election, Christie, in typical contentious fashion, barked "I don't know what the cost is and I quite frankly don't care." This comes from the self-proclaimed budget-busting fiscal hawk who's cut $12-million in hospital charity care; $10-million from urban after-school programs; and almost $9-million in college tuition assistance programs. That's $31-million cut from the poor, middle-class and minorities. Democrats, are you listening? If you're smart you'll cram that nifty little "I don't know/I don't care" soundbite into every '16 campaign ad imaginable. To be sure, the most-effective way to sink a candidate is with his own words.
Feeling the heat, Christie disingenuously explained his decision:
"The issues facing the United States Senate are too critically important and the decisions that need to be dealt with too vital not too have an elected representative making those decisions who was voted on and decided on by the people of this state. These decisions should be made by an elected official who represents the will of voters of New Jersey."
In a much-anticipated announcement Thursday, Christie named Republican state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa to serve as interim Senator. If he was truly so concerned with "the will of voters" he could've appointed another Democrat. So much for the will of the people...