Morris County Republicans will hold a special election convention early next year regardless of whether Michael Patrick Carroll or Heather Darling win the Republican nomination for surrogate.
If Darling wins the primary and general, she would resign her seat on the Board of Freeholders on January 1 to take the oath as surrogate. That would trigger a convention to pick a new freeholder who would serve until Darling’s term expires at the end of 2020.
Carroll is not seeking re-election to his 25th district Assembly seat, so voters will have already replaced him. Still, he would need to resign from the legislature nine days before his term expires to become surrogate.
Those last nine days during the lame duck session are typically of outsized importance.
Republicans would have a chance to send someone to the Assembly to finish the final nine days of Carroll’s term. They have a couple of options:
* Give the new guy a nine-day head start. While seniority doesn’t really factor in the Assembly, the easiest thing to do is give the winner of the open seat the extra nine days.
* Let the new guy miss some tough lame-duck votes. Sometimes politically sensitive issues are left for lame duck. Carroll’s successor might want to avoid them. The Republicans could elect a caretaker –maybe someone like John Sette, a former Morris County GOP chairman and freeholder– to take the tough vote and then leave Trenton forever.
* There could be a consolation prize. If Democrats Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger win the general, Republicans could give their losing nominee nine days in the Assembly. That happened in 1989 after Paul Kapalko lost an Assembly race and then won a special election convention two weeks later to six weeks as an assemblyman.
A completely unrealistic but magnificently entertaining scenario would be if 25th district Republicans decided to send former Gov. Chris Christie to the Assembly for nine days. Christie ran for the seat once and lost the 1995 primary to Carroll.
Christie entered the Assembly race ten weeks after taking office as a Morris County freeholder, saying that he’d accomplished all he could in county office, and it was time to move up.
“I am happy to report that I have already either proposed or brought to a vote six of eight reforms promised during the campaign,” Christie said in a letter to Republican insiders announcing his candidacy. “I have delivered on my promise to bring change to the freeholders in hopes of maintaining your trust and support.”
One of the memorable retorts to that announcement came from legendary freeholder Frank Druetzler, who said that since House Speaker Newt Gingrich needed 100 days to pass his Contract With America that year and that if Christie could do it in 60, he should go to Washington.
Christie finished fourth in that primary, running 2,830 votes behind Carroll.
When he ran for re-election as freeholder in 1997, he finished last in the Republican primary, losing by about 4,100 votes.