New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday that the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death this week of Democratic incumbent Frank Lautenberg will be filled by means of a special election in October.
The Republican governor will name a temporary replacement for Lautenberg later this week.
New Jersey Democrats and Republicans will choose their respective senatorial candidates in primaries set for Aug. 13, while the special election is to be held Oct. 16, just weeks before November's scheduled statewide ballot.
"The people need to have a voice and choice," Christie said at a press conference in which he explained his reasons for including party primaries in the special election process.
The winner of the special election will serve the balance of Lautenberg's term, which ends in January 2015.
The decision taken by Christie, touted as a possible presidential hopeful in 2016, had been the object of much speculation, since the governor had to calculate his interests both at the state and national levels.
Christie, a 50-year-old moderate Republican, is very popular in traditionally Democratic New Jersey and is expected to cruise to re-election in November.
Christie's decision to call a special election makes it more likely that a Democrat will win the seat, taking from Republicans the possibility of having an additional vote in the Senate for 18 months, which will not sit well with his party's leadership but does polish his general image as a pragmatic, moderate politician.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker is considered the favorite for taking the Democratic nomination and eventually the Senate seat.
Lautenberg died Monday of viral pneumonia. The last remaining World War II veteran in the Senate was 89. EFE