NJ special election: Christie sets Oct. 16 date to fill Frank Lautenberg's Senate seat.

Christie Sets Special Election Date to Fill Lautenberg's Senate Seat

Christie Sets Special Election Date to Fill Lautenberg's Senate Seat

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June 4 2013 2:31 PM

Christie Finds a Third Option for Senate Special Election

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is up for reelection in 2014

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

And we now have a date for the special election to fill the late Frank Lautenberg's Senate seat: Oct. 16. The New York Times with the instant analysis:

The move was expected to draw criticism from Democrats in the state, arguing that such a move by Mr. Christie, a Republican, would amount to squandering taxpayer money to protect his own political ambitions. A special Oct. 16 ballot means the choice of a new senator will not overshadow the race for governor, which will now remain at the top of statewide ballots in November. Republicans in the state are counting on Mr. Christie, who has been hoping that a landslide re-election victory will help propel a possible run for president in 2016, to draw his supporters to the polls, helping Republican candidates for the state Legislature and for many local offices.

Thanks to some poorly written state statutes, Christie potentially had at least two other options when it came to setting a date for the special election: He could have delayed an election until November 2014, allowing him to appoint an interim senator of his choosing (spoiler: a Republican) that could have complicated the Democrats' already difficult math in the Senate. He also could have set the special election for this November, when he is up for reelection. Republicans preferred the first option for obvious reasons, while Democrats had their fingers crossed for the second in hopes that a Senate contest—something that would have drawn more Democrats to the polls—would slow what now appears like Christie's march to another term as governor of a blue state.

Christie will still need/get to name a temporary fill-in. He said Tuesday that he hasn't decided on who he'll pick, but made it pretty clear they'll have a big R after their name. "I do have a preference for one party over another, so that may color my judgment a little," he said.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.