Governor Chris Christie has named Attorney General Jeff Chiesa to temporarily fill the late Senator Frank Lautenberg's United States Senate seat.

Governor Chris Christie announces his appointment of state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa as an interim U.S. senator (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

Christie says that Chiesa, a Republican, will not run for the office in the upcoming special Senate election.  Christie said he'll appoint an acting attorney general Monday, theoretically leaving the job open for Chiesa to return.

He praised Chiesa's ability to handle the tough duties of the attorney general's office and his ability to work with others. "Jeff has received bipartisan support from leaders on both sides of the aisle, and was confirmed by a unanimous vote in the NJ State Senate," noted Christie.

Chiesa, who describes himself as a conservative Republican, would be an independent voice in Washington. "Anybody who knows Jeff knows he has a mind of his own. He always has," Christie said.

Lautenberg On His Mind

Governor Chris Christie shakes hands with state Attorney General Jeff Chiesa . (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

Christie said he had been thinking about who might replace Lautenberg because he knew the senator was ill. He said he went to Chiesa's home Monday night to meet with him and his wife, Jenny. Chiesa texted Christie the next morning, the governor said, declaring: "I'm in."

 

 

The Bound Brook native was Christie's chief counsel until he was nominated in December 2011 to be attorney general.

Chiesa has known the governor for more than 20 years. Their relationship began when Christie interviewed Chiesa as a law clerk for the firm Dughi & Hewit. Chiesa would spend nine years in the U.S. attorney's office before leaving for a short stint as a partner at the law firm of Wolff & Samson. He then worked on Christie's transition team.

He praised Chiesa for handling the responsibilities of his office well and says you will not find anyone with a bad thing to say about Chiesa, who has served as Attorney General since 2012. Chiesa also served as Executive Director of Christie's transition team and headed a review New Jersey government operations.

A Surprise Choice


Reaction From His Opponent

State Senator Barbara Buono, the Democrat nominee for governor, tweeted her reaction. Citing the $24million cost of the special election, Buono tweeted "NJ Voters: What would YOU rather spend $24 million on? Property tax relief or (special election)?"

On Tuesday Christie called a special election to permanently fill the seat held by Democrat Lautenberg for 5 terms with a primary on August 13.

Congressman Rush Holt (D) and political activist Steve Lonegan are the only candidates to announce their intention to run. They must collect 1,000 signatures and turn them into the Secretary Of State's office by 4:00 p.m. Monday afternoon. Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick and state Senator Joe Kyrillos (R) have both said they will not run.

The Associated Press contributed to this story