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Chris Christie says date for special election isn’t political. Really?

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Mel Evans/AP/File

(Read caption) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, seen here in 2012, announced Tuesday that New Jersey would hold a special election on Oct. 16 to fill its vacant US Senate seat.

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday that his state will hold a special election Oct. 16 for its vacant Senate seat, following the death Monday of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D). Party primaries will be held on Aug. 13.

The timing issue had become fraught, given the politics involved. Lest anyone forget, Governor Christie is a Republican in a blue state – and running for reelection this November and probably for president in 2016. As governor, he has the right to name the date for the special election; his options included Election Day 2013 (Nov. 5), Election Day in November 2014, or another date of his choosing.

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At his press conference Tuesday, Christie said that he believes New Jersey should have an elected senator “as soon as possible.” So that eliminated 2014.

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Efficiency and fiscal prudence might have pointed to Nov. 5, 2013, when voters are already going to the polls for the gubernatorial, state legislature, and other races. But Christie apparently felt that wasn’t soon enough, and opted for a date three weeks earlier.

Or perhaps Christie was worried that the likelihood of having Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) on the ballot for Senate on Nov. 5 would have driven up Democratic turnout and jeopardized his (Christie’s) reelection?

Christie maintained that his decision on timing was not political. But the cost of having a special election just three weeks earlier than the regularly scheduled election will be dear, running into the millions of dollars.

“The state will be responsible for all the costs of this election,” Christie said.

In other words, taxpayers will pick up the bill. Democrats are sure to complain. But Republicans also have cause for unhappiness. Christie says he will appoint a temporary replacement for Senator Lautenberg next week – and he is likely to name a Republican. That Republican could have held the seat until November 2014, making it that much harder for President Obama to get anything through the Senate.

Instead, the temporary senator will be in place only a few months, albeit crucial ones. Whom he will pick is still the parlor game du jour in politics. Most mentioned are former Gov. Tom Kean, his son Tom Kean Jr., state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.