The morbid reality for New Jersey Democrats is that Christopher Christie would appoint a Republican to the United States Senate if Frank Lautenberg, who turns 86 next month, dies in office. That has caused a very real push by Democrats to change the state law before Jon Corzine leaves office. But Democratic sources say that legislation introduced yesterday by Assemblyman John McKeon (D-West Orange) that would require a governor to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy by a member of the political party is not the way they will go; Christie could appoint a friendly Democrat to the Senate – Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac or former Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra, just as an example. Instead, Democrats want to have a little more control.
The most popular plan is the one used in Wyoming, where the state party organization of the party that holds the Senate seat submits three names to the Governor, who is obligated to pick from that list. That's actually consistent with the way New Jersey fills vacancies for some other public offices.
When U.S. Sen. Craig Thomas died in 2007, Wyoming Republicans gave the Democratic governor a choice of three candidates; the governor picked John Barrasso, who went on to win the seat in a 2008 election.
Democrats are also considering a plan that would leave the seat vacant until a special election within 145-160 days. That' similar to the law the Massachusetts Legislature passed in 2004 and repealed earlier this year.
Lautenberg, sources say, doesn't seem to care what the Legislature does about a plan to fill his seat. Instead, he appears to be focusing on running for re-election to a sixth term in 2014.