The U.S. Senate will add another Republican to its ranks--at least until New Jersey voters have their say in October.
During a press conference in Trenton on Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie announced he would appoint New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa to the seat left vacant by Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s death.
Chiesa, a Bound Brook native, will not run in the Oct. 16 special election. He will assume office on Monday, cutting the Democratic majority in the Senate to 52-46.
“In the last few days, it became clear that Chiesa was the best person for the job,” Christie said.
Christie said the two met Monday night, along with Chiesa’s wife Jenny, to discuss the possibility. Chiesa, a self-described conservative Republican, accepted Christie's offering of the Senate appointment with a text message saying, “I’m in.”
Before becoming the state's attorney general in January 2012, Chiesa was employed as an attorney in private practice. From 2002 to 2009, he worked New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office, where he led the prosecution of former state Sen. John Lynch. Chiesa and his wife have two children.
With members of Congress wrangling with an immigration bill in recent days, Chiesa voiced his support for border security measures during the press conference announcing his appointment.
“The first thing we need to do is make sure borders are secure,” Chiesa said. “That’s because of the background I come from. Beyond that, these issues are all new to me. I’m going to have to get down there and meet with my colleagues. I’m going to make decisions that are best for the people of the State of New Jersey.”
Christie and Chiesa have not discussed specific pieces of legislation.
"If Jeff calls me at home and asks me what to do on a specific piece of legislation, I’m going to hang up,” Christie said. “I have enough to do here.”
The governor defended his call for a special election, faulting the state legislature for the conflicting statutory guidance on filling vacancies.
"There was no perfect decision here. It was my decision that the people should have the right to make that choice. Everyone will debate the political effects until we know what they are, and then everyone will be a genius in hindsight," Christie said.
Candidates have until Monday at 4 p.m. to file paperwork to run in the Aug. 13 special election primary. On Thursday, Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) announced his intent to seek the Democratic nomination. Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6) are considered likely candidates, according to NJ Spotlight. Among high-profile Republicans, only conservative activist Steve Lonegan has announced plans to run.