Corzine could name replacement today

New Jersey Gov.-elect Jon Corzine (D) will likely announce his replacement in the Senate this week, his spokesman, Anthony Coley, said yesterday.

Aides to some of the House members who want Corzine’s seat said yesterday that they had heard the outgoing senator might make an announcement as early as today and that his pick would be Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

Besides Menendez, Reps. Robert Andrews and Frank Pallone, both New Jersey Democrats, have aggressively lobbied for the job.

Corzine was elected governor last month. He takes office next month.

Whoever he picks is hardly guaranteed to serve in the Senate for years to come: The new senator would have to run for a six-year term next November. Before then, Corzine’s pick might face a Democratic primary. Or the new senator might opt out of a Senate race altogether.

One way or the other, the Democratic Senate candidate next year will almost certainly face Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., the son of the former New Jersey governor.

Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), is scheduled to be in Newark today to attend a fundraiser for Kean.

NRSC spokesman Dan Ronayne said the fundraiser would reel in at least $125,000. About 200 attendees are expected to attend the event, at a local hotel.

Kean is aided by his father, who remains a popular figure in New Jersey and who, more recently, took part in the highly visible commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Most recently, the former governor gave his son a brief plug while on “Meet the Press,” calling the state senator a good candidate.

Kean’s campaign manager, Evan Kozlow, declined to say whom Kean would prefer to run against. “If and when Senator Corzine makes his decision, we, like everybody else, will find out,” Kozlow said. “I’m not even sure that will avoid a primary on the Democrats’ side.”

One issue that could affect Corzine’s Senate selection is the voting records of the key House members who have thrown their hats into the ring. While Corzine opposed the Iraq war, Andrews supported it. And while the senator voted against a bankruptcy abuse measure earlier this year, both Andrews and Menendez voted for it.

A Democratic source in Washington called Corzine’s selection process “dignified and deliberate,” adding that “he has not discussed the myriad of factors he is considering.”

Several Hispanic groups have thrown their support behind Menendez, as has one group for Andrews.