New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday chose a longtime loyal colleague, state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, to temporarily fill the U.S. Senate seat that opened up this week after Frank Lautenberg’s death.
Chiesa, 47, has never held or run for political office and will not seek the office in an October special election to fill the seat for a longer period, Christie said.
Appointing a caretaker to the Senate means that Christie has not anointed anyone the Republican favorite for the special election. Christie said he’ll evaluate the choices once that field is set.
The jockeying already has begun, with one Democrat and one Republican in the race and others likely to join them before a Monday deadline.
For now, the office will belong to Chiesa, who worked with Christie in private practice, the U.S. attorney’s office and in another Trenton job before Christie made him the state government’s top lawyer. He will take office effective Monday just ahead of expected debates on immigration policy.
“I will try to contribute in any way I can,” Chiesa said, noting that a limited time in Washington — just four months — is likely to restrict just how much he can accomplish.
He will be the first Republican to represent New Jersey in the Senate since 1982, when Nicholas Brady was chosen by Gov. Tom Kean to serve out a term after Harrison Williams resigned amid scandal. The last time New Jersey elected a Republican to the Senate was in 1972.
Lautenberg, a liberal Democrat, served nearly 30 years in the Senate. When Chiesa takes office, the Senate will have 52 Democrats, 46 Republicans and two independents who generally vote with the Democrats.