Bloomberg News

New Jersey Voter Groups Back Suit Challenging Election Date (1)

June 11, 2013

Ten New Jersey organizations filed court papers backing a challenge to the decision by Republican Governor Chris Christie to hold a special election on Oct. 16 to replace U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, who died last week.

New Jersey Citizen Action and the New Jersey Black Issues Convention were among those supporting a June 7 lawsuit claiming that voting within 20 days of the Nov. 5 general election will reduce turnout and cost an estimated $12 million. New Jersey’s attorney general also will file a response today.

“New Jersey’s election laws aim to provide an orderly process that maximizes participation and minimizes confusion,” according to a brief by New Jersey Citizen Action and New Jersey Citizens United. Christie’s writ of election “violates both the letter and intent of those laws.”

The Appellate Division is weighing an emergency challenge filed by Somerset County Democratic Chairwoman Peg Schaffer as a four-way battle for the Democratic nomination begins. U.S. Representative Frank Pallone and state Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver joined Newark Mayor Cory Booker and U.S. Representative Rush Holt in filing papers to enter the Aug. 13 primary.

“This is going to be a campaign for the heart of the Democratic Party,” Pallone, 61, said yesterday at the state Elections Division offices. “Obviously, I’m in and excited.”

Quick Campaign

The contest took shape after Lautenberg, an 89-year-old Democrat, died June 3, and Christie called for a quick campaign to select a successor to fill out the remainder of his fifth term. The deadline to get on the primary ballot by handing in at least 1,000 voter signatures was yesterday.

Booker, 44, already had been seeking the seat, as Lautenberg didn’t plan to run again next year. The others clarified their intentions more recently.

In the Republican primary, former Bogota Mayor Steven Lonegan is facing Alieta Eck, a physician from Somerset.

Christie appointed his attorney general, Jeffrey Chiesa, to fill the senate seat until the Oct. 16 special election. John J. Hoffman is serving as the acting attorney general.

A survey that offered a first glimpse of the Democratic contest showed 53 percent supported Booker, followed by 10 percent for Holt and 9 percent for Pallone, according to Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

Oliver, 60, of East Orange, wasn’t listed in the poll released yesterday. It showed 23 percent of respondents were undecided with two months to go before the party primary.


The four-month Senate campaign has the potential to drain financial resources for the Democrats and may take “big-name endorsements” from state Senator Barbara Buono, 59, the party’s challenger to Christie’s re-election bid, according to Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey. The Republican leads her by 30 percentage points, the Quinnipiac poll showed.

Once informed of the cost of holding a statewide balloting, at about $12 million, more than three-quarters of respondents said it was a bad idea not to hold the special vote on the same day as the general election, the poll from the New Brunswick-based state school showed. Both should take place Nov. 5, according to 84 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents and 67 percent of Republicans polled.

Schaffer filed the case on behalf of Giuseppe Grillo, Joseph Danielsen and Marie Corfield.

The case is Grillo v. Christie, A-4648-12T2, Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division (Trenton).

To contact the reporters on this story: David Voreacos in Newark at; Sophia Pearson in Philadelphia at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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