Then again, you never know what the New Jersey Supreme Court will do

U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg has the best wishes of all New Jerseyans in his battle with stomach cancer.  Doctors treating the 86-year-old five-term Senator say that his lymphoma is treatable and that his prospects for a full recovery are excellent.  Since talk of Lautenberg’s mortality has already crossed the political correctness line, here’s one more thing to consider: the election of Republican Gov. Christopher Christie makes it less likely that Lautenberg would resign his seat, even if his health made it impossible for him to serve.  The United States Senate has never removed a sitting Senator for incapacitation. 

In late 1969, 69-year-old Karl Mundt, a Republican Senator from South Dakota, suffered a stroke.  Despite his disability, he refused to resign and completed the remaining three years of his term without ever returning to the Senate floor.  In early 1972, Senate Republicans, in a relatively close 19-14 vote, took Mundt’s committee assignments. 

When Democrat Richard Kneip was elected Governor of South Dakota in 1970, Republicans pressured Mundt to step down so that the outgoing GOP governor could appoint his replacement.  Mundt declined.  For the final three years of Mundt’s fourth term, his office was run by his wife and his top aide.  If Lautenberg were to become incapacitated, his Chief of Staff, Dan Katz, would effectively be the state’s Senator.

There are a couple of scenarios if Lautenberg does not complete his current term, which expires in January, 2015:

– A vacancy before April 12, 2010 would result in a special primary election on June 8 and a special election on November 2.

– A vacancy after April 12, 2010 and before September 13, 2010 would result in a November 2, 2010 special election, with major party candidates selected by the Democratic and Republican State Committees.

– A vacancy after September 2010 would result in special primary in June 2011 and a special election in November 2011.

Then again, you never know what the New Jersey Supreme Court will do