Judges reject objection to Christie decision on U.S. Senate special election; say governor acted properly

The appellate division of the state Superior Court has ruled against the plaintiffs and judged that Gov. Chris Christie acted properly when he decided to hold a special election on Oct. 16.

The court cited NJSA 19:27-6, which provides that if a vacancy occurs in the the U.S. Senate the election shall take place at the general election next succeeding unless the vacancy occurs within 70 days next preceding the primary election prior to the general election.

“Without question, the Governor was authorized to call a special election in this circumstance, where the vacancy occurred one day prior to the primary,” the court’s decision reads.

The decision was a blow to a group championing the argument that the U.S. Senate special election should occur on the same date as the Novmber general election for governor.

The law firm of Shain, Schaffer and Rafanello last Friday filed for emergent relief in the court, objecting to the decision by Christie to hold the U.S. Senate election on Oct. 16.

Attorney Peg Schaffer, who is chair of the Somerset County Democratic Committee, said she believes the time frame chosen by the governor is defective and designed to suppress the vote and wanted the U.S. Senate general election moved to Nov. 5, on the same day of the gubernatorial general election.

She also sought relief in the interest of saving the state $12 million in costs associated with the special election.

The plaintiffs listed in the filing included Marie Corfield, a candidate for the Assembly in the 16th District; Joe Grillo and Joseph Danielsen.

Subsequently, other groups, including New Jersey Citizen Action, joined the cause to overturn Christie’s decision.

But the three-judge panel ruled 3-0 in favor of the Governor.

“The result was entirely expected,” said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak. “Governor Christie followed the law as established by the Legislature and ensured New Jersey voters would have a voice and a choice – in both a primary and general election – in selecting the next U.S. Senator for New Jersey. That’s what the law provides and the way it should be.”

The plaintiffs’ attorney acknowledged the loss.

“You win some you lose some,” said Schaffer. “I don’t think the statute reads that way. They interpreted broader executive power than I think was intended, but these are smart judges and this is how they interpreted it.”

She didn’t rule out appealing.

“We have to regroup to see if we want to take this to the Supreme Court,” she said.

In the aftermath of the judges’ ruling, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono again panned Christie’s decision to hold the special Senate election on Oct. 16 following an appellate court’s ruling this evening that he acted properly.

“Regardless of the outcome of the court’s decision, holding an election on a Wednesday in October is a cynical decision by Governor Christie that will disenfranchise voters,” Buono said in a statement. “He chose to waste $24 million of taxpayers’ money: money that could have been spent restoring programs Christie cut, like Planned Parenthood centers, after school programs designed to keep children safe, and the Child Advocate Office. As the governor himself said in 2009, ‘I don’t think any responsible governor at this point would call for a special election that would cost ten million dollars.’ The governor should do the fiscally responsible thing and move the election to November.”

"I don't think what he's doing tonight, the method by which he's doing it helps to build a trustful relationship."
—Gov. Chris Christie reacting to President Barack Obama's speech on immigration reform.