PLAINFIELD, NJ - The recent passing of 89-year-old Senator Frank Lautenberg, who fought the alcohol and tobacco industries and championed Amtrak over five-terms as U.S. senator from New Jersey, has left many local Plainfield Democrats hoping for a great voter turnout during Wednesday's special election. The New York Times reported Lautenberg as having been the Senate’s oldest member and last surviving veteran of World War II. Lautenberg gained a high level of influence on the Appropriations Committee.
This coming Wednesday’s race for Lautenberg’s U.S. Senate seat is a highly contested race between Democrat Cory Booker and Republican Steve Lonegan. A recent Monmouth University poll reports Booker as having a double-digit, but shrinking lead over Lonegan.
New Jersey's two elections to fill Lautenberg's Senate seat will not only result in a new Senator, but also in enormous costs for New Jersey taxpayers. The Special Primary Election for the office of U.S. Senate on Aug. 13 and the Special General Election for the same this week could cost the state up to $24 million dollars, according several news sources, and political experts. Non-scheduled elections called special elections are held to fill vacancies created by death, resignation or removal from office.
Whereas the cost of these elections seem to be of major concern for many voters across the state, the most critical concern for Plainfield and other Democrat voters seems to be voter turnout.
Fawn Boone, formerly of Plainfield, a wife and working mother of two school-aged children, did not like the idea of such a huge bill and seemed to be very concerned about potential outcomes of the selected election date. "I don't understand why the decision was made to have the election in October, so close to the November general election," expressed Boone, who now lives in Scotch Plains. “To have it on a Wednesday as opposed to a Tuesday, which most people are accustomed to, could cause an unfavorable voter turnout,” Boone said.
“I’m aware that the voting date is on Wednesday, but I’m concerned that some may not know,” said a local female voter of Plainfield, who asked to remain anonymous. “Perhaps it would be great if family, neighbors and co-workers would call each other to remind each other of the election date.”
In a letter to election officials on July 17, 2013, Robert F. Giles, director of the New Jersey Division of Elections, instructed that all request for reimbursement be submitted to the Division of Elections "as soon as possible to ensure that full reimbursement" can be made by Dec. 31, 2013. Governor Chris Christie has been reported as making it clear several times about his commitment to make sure each county is properly refunded for the expenses they will incur.
At a press conference during the summer, Christie said that he believes New Jersey should have an elected senator “as soon as possible.” Christie, as governor, had the prerogative to choose the date of the election.
Conservative Republican critics of Governor Christie said that he should have chosen someone to serve the the remainder of Lautenberg's term, providing Republicans an improved chance of keeping the Senate seat after the term expires, rather than holding a special election. The Senate seat would have expired in January 2015.