Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey had a straightforward choice in filling the Senate vacancy left by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg on Monday. He could have added the Senate race to the general election on Nov. 5, the day he is up for re-election in what is expected to be an easy glide into a second term. Instead, he called for a special election on Oct. 16, a Wednesday, with a primary on Aug. 13— a schedule that might give him a small political advantage but at considerable and needless cost to state taxpayers.
Christie's assurances Tuesday that his decision was all about giving voters a "choice and a voice" sounded utterly hollow. The only reason to have a separate Senate election is to make certain that no well-known Democrat — very likely Mayor Cory Booker of Newark — will be on the November ballot, possibly luring to the polls more Democrats and minorities, who might also vote for Christie's lesser known Democratic opponent, Barbara Buono, a state senator from Middlesex County.
The special primary and election will cost New Jersey's battered state budget about $24 million. The governor, who has highlighted his budget-cutting image in this campaign, scoffed at putting a price tag on such worries. He explained that "we're not going to be penny-wise and pound-foolish" when it comes to this Senate seat. New Jersey voters would do well to suggest that he remember that phrase the next time he rejects a minimum-wage increase or tax break for low-income residents.