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A chance to put business leadership in Washington

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It wasn't the first thing that many people thought of when the news of Frank Lautenberg's death made the headlines last week, but the longtime senator's start predates politics, and actually was born of his business acumen, when he convinced Henry Taub to let him be the salesman for the company Taub and his brother had just started, a little-known payroll processing business called Automatic Data Processing.

When he went to Washington, however, business went on the back burner. The senator's career in the capital is best known for many causes he championed in areas like pollution, drunken driving, cigarette smoking and gun control. But he remained a strong supporter of business — Lautenberg's crusade for improved transportation infrastructure and Amtrak ensured New Jersey's role as a vital link of the Northeast Corridor, which is critical for commercial investment in the state. And his role in drumming up support for federal relief after Hurricane Sandy devastated the state was critical, however hobbled it may have been as a result of gridlock in Washington.

Our hope, however, is that the candidates who come forward for the fast-approaching special election to fill Lautenberg's seat bring a strong understanding of the business climate to the table as they campaign. New Jersey business owners have plenty to complain about at home when it comes to high taxes and an unfriendly business climate, even though things are improving, but there's plenty that needs reforming on the national scale, too. We need someone who understands, for instance, problems with corporate tax policies and the challenges health care reform poses for business owners. In addition, New Jersey needs a fighter who is committed to attracting more of the tax money we send to Washington back here — an area where the state has been underperforming for years.

It's hard to not be cynical about Chris Christie's decision to hold a special election in October to fill this position, instead of saving a reported $12 million by hosting it in November. Blame politics for that one. And given the governor's pro-business stance, it might have presented a huge opportunity to have a long-serving, appointed senator representing the state. But since we're stuck paying for a special election, we hope we get the business-first candidate we deserve in Washington.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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