By Meghashyam Mali - 06/18/13 11:38 AM EDT
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Tuesday defended his decision to schedule a special election to fill the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D) seat in October, saying it did not benefit him politically.
“I didn’t pick when Sen. Lautenberg passed away,” said Christie in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Democrats say the decision wastes money and that Christie feared holding the Senate election on the same date as the gubernatorial race would drive a higher Democratic turnout, cutting into his margin.
Republicans have also expressed concern about the decision, arguing that the GOP Senate candidate won't be able to ride on the popular governor's coattails.
“We had two conflicting statutes … and the only thing consistent between the two statutes was my right to call a special election. So I called it, and I think it was the right thing to do, and it has been sustained by the courts,” Christie said.
Asked why he couldn’t delay the election until voters went to the polls in November, Christie pointed to the Senate’s busy schedule as the upper chamber weighs a comprehensive immigration reform package.
“We wanted to get somebody down there as quickly as possible,” said Christie. “These immigration debates are going on in real time as we speak.”
Christie tapped state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa (R) to hold the seat until the election.
“I have an appointee down there now whom I have great faith and confidence in, but he’s not somebody that people elected,” he said.
Asked about the extra costs for the special election, Christie responded: “I love the fact that there are people who have been overspending New Jersey’s budget for decades and running us into debt and are now complaining about $12 million for an election.”
“These are the same people who wanted the insiders to pick who the candidates are going to be,” he added.
Rising Democratic star Newark Mayor Cory Booker has announced his bid for the Senate seat and is leading in the polls.
Christie said the election date decision was not made to prevent Booker from being on the same ballot as him.
“It’s not about me, if my margin is larger or smaller if I win on Nov. 5,” said Christie.
“Booker in his race for the United States Senate, he’s going to stand up or down on his own two feet along with the people we have running. And it wouldn’t have mattered to me one way or the other if I’d been on the same ballot as Cory Booker,” he added.
Polls show Christie with a strong lead over Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono in his race.
Christie also defended his decision to attend a Clinton Global Initiative event with former President Clinton to discuss disaster relief efforts.
“We’ve always gotten along very well, and when he called and told me this is what he wanted to talk about, I thought it was a great thing for me to do,” said Christie.
“We had a very substantive conversation about what we did in the aftermath but also how to rebuild,” he added.