New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he wants to hold a special election in October to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Frank Lautenberg's death on Monday.
The special election would be held on Oct. 16. A primary election would be scheduled for August 13.
"The people need to have a voice and choice," he said. In opting for a primary, Christie said he didn't want "insiders and a few party elites to determine who the nominee of the Republican party and the Democratic party will be."
The move could bring criticism for putting more elections on the calendar, which can be expensive. The state Office of Legislative Services says each election costs the state about $12 million.
The approach would relieve the Republican governor of having to make a treacherous decision about whom to appoint to serve in a seat previously held by a Democrat until a general election in 2014.
Lautenberg had already announced that he was not going to run for reelection in 2014. Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced months ago that he intended to run for the seat.
Christie says he plans to appoint someone to fill the seat in the meantime. He says that, while regrettable, Lautenberg's death was not shocking since he had been ill. The governor says he has already been thinking about some possible interim replacements.
"I am going to be looking for somebody who will be a great US Senator, someone based on their merits," Christie said. "And you know me, I don't dawdle."
New Jersey has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972.
With the Associated Press
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