Had the New Jersey Legislature passed a bill proposed two GOP assemblymen following the party switch of State Sen. Dawn Addiego earlier this year, the 2nd district could be facing a winter special congressional election for Jeff Van Drew’s seat.
Legislation proposed by Assemblymen Michael Patrick Carroll and Ryan Peters last March would trigger an immediate vacancy if an elected official switched parties.
In Addiego’s case, her switch to the Democratic Party would have let Republicans fill her set through a special election convention. Addiego could have then run in a November 2019 special election for her own unexpired term.
Since Members of Congress can only be elected by voters — there are no appointments — a Van Drew party switch would have allowed Gov. Phil Murphy to call a special election to replace him.
That might have forced Van Drew to to temporarily leave Congress while running to win his old seat.
Under the current law, Murphy had the option of allowing the House seat to remain vacant until November, when a special election would be held concurrently with the 2020 election.
In 1983, Texas Rep. Phil Gramm switched from Democratic to Republican. He resigned his House seat to let the voters approve his change of parties. He won easily, and was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican the following year.