Gov. Christie has called a 1:30pm press conference with speculation heavy he’ll use it to name a successor to Lautenberg. Promoted by Rosi
Senator Frank Lautenberg’s passing gives New Jersey Governor Chris Christie an opportunity to burnish the “bipartisan” credibility he has so carefully built. Or he can show himself to be a partisan more interested in helping his party than respecting the people’s will.
Every analysis I’ve seen up ’til now has named Republicans Christie could appoint, but for 40 years the voters of New Jersey have repeatedly sent Democrats to the United States Senate. That means roughly every voter 58 an under has been part of elections that sent only Democrats and no Republicans to the US Senate.
If there were occasional Republicans in there, then replacing an individual Senator named Lautenberg with a Republican named Kyrillos or Kean might make sense. But there are none, and the will of the people is clearly to send Democrats to the Senate, regardless of the individual. The electorate has clearly spoken in saying that they do not want Republicans representing them since Clifford Case won reelection in 1972.
There was one other Republican Senator, Nicholas Brady, but he was appointed by Governor Tom Kean Sr. in April 1982 to replace the corrupt Democrat Harrison Williams. Senator Frank Lautenberg won that seat in the 1982 election. Here’s where we get to the good part.
Brady, a Republican, could have held his seat through to January 2009. But he resigned the seat so Lautenberg, a Democrat, would have additional seniority over other freshman Senators. Brady and Governor Kean but aside partisanship to recognize the will of the voters and provide seniority to help get more for the people of New Jersey. Instead of just following the normal calendar, Brady and Kean gave a member of the opposing party extra authority to enact his policies.
That’s what we should get from Chris Christie now, a recognition that a regular majority voters of New Jersey clearly want Democrats in this position. But there’s no reason for Christie to help Democratic candidates Cory Booker or Frank Pallone in their efforts by appointing them to the position. Christie shouldn’t be asked to harm his own party’s chances in the November election, but he also shouldn’t use the death of a great man to give his party a leg up.
Instead he should make an appointment of a Democrat who will not run for the position, who will gain nothing but a few months in the job and a title. It doesn’t matter who, but the gesture will say a lot about the real Chris Christie.
To do otherwise would be to reveal that all his bipartisan activities have been for show.