Gov. Chris Christie's administration fought back Tuesday against Democrats who are trying to get a court to move the special U.S. Senate election from the October date he chose to the same day as the November general election.
The state filed papers asserting that Christie was within his legal rights to schedule the election when he did, and that changing course now would be damaging.
“The harms that will flow from the stay that they seek significantly outweigh any purported harms resulting from its denial,” the state government's lawyers said in the filing with an appeals court Tuesday.
The next step in the case will likely be oral arguments, which have not been scheduled.
The Senate seat opened June 3 when Frank Lautenberg died. Over the next few days, Christie appointed then-state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to the seat temporarily and scheduled a special election to finish the term for Oct. 16. The primary is Aug. 13.
Christie's usual critics on both the left and the right complained about the decision, saying Christie would be wasting $12 million in taxpayer money by holding an election just three weeks before the general election. Democrats said he wants to make sure that Christie, who is up for re-election this year, does not have to appear on the same ballot as popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is running for the Senate seat. Some Republicans said Christie is hurting his party by not appointing a Republican until next year and giving the party a better chance at winning the seat then.
Christie has deflected the criticism, saying he was following the law _ which gives the governor wide latitude for scheduling a special election _ and was trying to give voters a say as soon as possible.
The Democrats that sued, including Somerset County Democratic Chairwoman Peg Schaffer, argued in part that the schedule set up would not allow candidates enough time to decide whether to run.
But the administration points out that four Democrats and two Republicans each collected well over the required 1,000 signatures on petitions by Monday and entered the race.
Also on Tuesday, New Jersey Citizen Action and New Jersey Communities United filed briefs supporting holding the elections in November. A group of minority organizations has filed similar papers.