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U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Booker returns to NJ Senate race, for now

What happens if Booker drops re-election bid for VP nod?

By David Wildstein, January 13 2020 8:04 pm

Cory Booker’s exit from the presidential race means the start of new speculation about whether he will be selected as the Democratic candidate for vice president later this summer.

New Jersey changed its election law in 2018 to allow Booker to run simultaneously for re-election to the U.S. Senate and for vice president.

With his national campaign over for now, Booker will now resume his focus on his New Jersey race.  He’ll need to raise money quickly, since his Senate warchest was used for his presidential bid.

Booker faces a primary challenge from progressive activist Lawrence Hamm, a former 1970s era Newark school board member who chairs Bernie Sanders’ New Jersey presidential campaign.

The incumbent is expected to win the endorsement of all 21 Democratic county organizations – all 21 county chairs backed him for president – and is the overwhelming favorite to win renomination.

Booker will need to send letters of intent to some counties within the next few weeks to run on the organization line.  That was something he was probably going to do anyway.

The filing deadline is March 30 and the New Jersey primary is June 2.

While Booker can run for both offices, it doesn’t mean he must. It’s conceivable that he could find himself on the Democratic ticket in July and decide to drop out of the U.S. Senate race to focus entirely on his national campaign.

If that happens post-primary, the new Democratic U.S. Senate nominee would be selected by the 113-member New Jersey Democratic State Committee. A candidate would need 49.5 votes to secure the Democratic nomination in the general election.

If that happens, some Democratic House members might run for the Senate seat.  There’s no risk to seeking state party support.

Should Democrats pick a member of the congressional delegation to run for Senate, it would create an immediate vacancy for the House seat.  That would trigger a special convention of county committee members in the district to pick a new candidate for Congress.

It’s also possible that Booker could win re-election to the Senate but wind up leaving the Senate– either because he was elected Vice President or takes a post in a Democratic administration.

In that case, Gov. Phil Murphy would appoint an interim U.S. Senator.

And Murphy would have to decide if he wants to call for a special primary and general election – the way Chris Christie did after Frank Lautenberg died – or run a U.S. Senate special election in June and November.

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