Gov. Chris Christie has named state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa as the interim US Senator for New Jersey.
Chiesa will serve until the October 16 special election. Chiesa has said he is not interested in running for the post on a permanent basis and therefore will be a caretaker. Christie said that he will appoint an acting attorney general for the state on Monday. Chiesa, a close aide, headed Christie’s transition team when he was first elected in 2009 and became attorney general in January 2012. Chiesa may or may not return to the AG position after his brief time in Washington finishes.
At today’s press conference with the governor, Chiesa described himself as a conservative Republican “generally speaking.” It is expected that he will be sworn in on Monday.
Incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg died on Monday at age 89. He had announced in February that he wasn’t running for re-election. Newark Mayor Cory Booker is considered the frontrunner in the Senate election to finish out the late Sen. Lautenberg’s term.
Gov. Christie is taking a lot heat for scheduling a stand-alone special election with a cost of $24 million rather than holding the election for Lautenberg’s seat on a regular Election Day in November 2013 or 2014. Christie said earlier this week that he didn’t care how much the election would cost.
He insisted that the people should decide who represents the state in Washington. Speculation is rampant, however, that Christie himself wanted to avoid running for re-election next November when Booker was on the ballot at the same time. “The Republican said his decision was dictated by state election law and sources say his office believes it would lose a court fight if he had scheduled the election a month later in November instead. But the move all but ensures criticism that he is unnecessarily spending millions of taxpayer dollars to serve his own political needs. The timing means that popular New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker will not be on the ballot — potentially stoking Democratic turnout — when voters decide whether to give Christie another term in November.”
Christie, however, is considered a shoo-in for a second term.
A Senate special election primary for both parties is scheduled for August 13.