New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has named state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to temporarily fill the U.S. Senate seat that opened up this week after Frank Lautenberg’s death.
Christie has scheduled a special election for October to fill the seat until it expires in January 2015. The winner of that election would have to run again in 2014.
Lautenberg served nearly 30 years in the Senate. The liberal Democrat was 89.
Rep. Rush Holt became the first Democrat on Thursday to announce he’s seeking his party’s nomination for the seat. Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan is to announce Thursday that he’ll seek the Republican nomination.
I said on Monday I was going to select the person I thought was going to be the best person to represent New Jersey between now and Oct. 13. During the last few days as I’ve gotten to deliberate on this decision, it became clear to me that Attorney General Chiesa would be the best person to represent the people of New Jersey in the United States Senate.
Christie had said he wanted to move quickly to fill the seat, but because of the timing of the special election he set — the general election is Oct. 16, followed by an Aug. 13 primary is Aug. 13 — the appointment will be relatively short-lived.
Christie’s decision to set the special election this year as opposed to allowing his appointee to serve throughout the following year, as Republicans wanted, was based on advice from New Jersey legislative officials who said Christie likely would have lost a court challenge by waiting. The governor’s team insists the process he laid out follows to the letter the statute for replacing a senator who dies in office.
Governor Chris Christie cannot seem to please either party with his decision, which actually pleases me.
But it has enraged fellow Republicans, who already viewed Christie with suspicion after he embraced President Barack Obama in the final week of the presidential election after Hurricane Sandy. The special election timeline also infuriated Democrats, who wanted it set for Nov. 5, the same day as the governor’s re-election vote, to juice turnout on their side and boost their chances of unseating the popular incumbent.