Who Will Face Cory Booker in New Jersey?

by Richard Brookhiser

A friend from New Jersey writes:

Christie will appoint somebody to succeed Frank Lautenberg, and I’m guessing it will be either Tom Kean Jr. or Congressman Chris Smith (very different politicians). The appointee will have to run in a special to fill the rest of FL’s term. The Democrat will be Cory Booker, who was running for the seat anyway. (FL’s term expires at the end of next year).

Here’s the thing: I’m not sure about this, but I think Christie can order a special BEFORE the November general election. If he can, he will — he doesn’t want Cory Booker pulling out Demo votes in November.

Here’s the other thing: he has to appoint a viable candidate, not a caretaker, right? The question is this: Does he appoint somebody who would be electable, as we define it in NJ? If so, Tom Kean would fit the bill. But he is a Tom Kean Republican, meaning he is moderate to liberal on a host of social issues. But his fiscal record is mainstream Republican. If Christie wants to make a bid for conservative Reps who are suspicious of him, he’d appoint Chris Smith. But I just don’t think Smith stands a ghost of a chance against Booker.

It will be interesting, to say the least. My money is on Tom Kean Jr. — but Tom is so careful and cautious, he may not want to give up his state senate seat. (He didn’t have to do that when he took one for the team last time against Menendez.)

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