New Jersey's newest senator says he's a 'conservative Republican'
June 6th, 2013
02:51 PM ET
10 months ago

New Jersey's newest senator says he's a 'conservative Republican'

(CNN) - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appointed his state's attorney general to temporarily fill the U.S Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

The GOP governor, who made the announcement Thursday at a news conference at the state capitol in Trenton, introduced Jeffrey Chiesa, a fellow Republican, as his choice to temporarily succeed Lautenberg, the longtime Democratic senator who died Monday at age 89.

Christie also announced that Chiesa will not run in this year's special election to fill Lautenberg's seat.

Christie's decision changes the balance of power in the Senate, with the Democratic party's 55-45 majority (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party) over the Republicans slipping to 54-46.

Christie praised Chiesa, who he's known for two decades.

"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 October 13," Christie told reporters. "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."

"I've appointed someone that I have great faith and confidence in and somebody I know almost as well as my own family," added Christie.

Chiesa served as executive director of Christie's transition then and then chief counsel to the governor from January 2010 through December 2011, when Christie nominated him to be attorney general. He heads to Washington on Monday.

Chiesa, who described himself as "a conservative Republican," said he'll have to learn quickly about the issues that he'll be voting on in the Senate over the next four months.

With the primary election just two months away, the first candidate in the race to succeed Lautenberg jumped into the race earlier Thursday.

The move by Democratic Rep. Rush Holt comes as a Democratic state senator in New Jersey vowed to introduce a bill that would move the date of the Garden State's November gubernatorial and legislative elections to the same day in October that Christie announced he would hold the general election in the special Senate contest.

Holt, a Democrat who's in his eighth term representing New Jersey's 12th Congressional District, said Thursday morning in a statement that, "I ask for your support as I seek to serve as your Senator in that seat. The reason is simple: I believe I am the best candidate to continue the passionate advocacy for progressive values that Sen. Lautenberg exemplified."

Although he has yet to make a formal announcement, Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker is collecting signatures to run in the special election. Spokesman Kevin Griffis confirmed the news to CNN, adding that "our volunteers are collecting signatures," which he said was consistent with the necessary steps they've been taking the past several months to prepare a candidacy. Candidates hoping to run in the race must hand in 1,000 signatures by 4 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon.

Booker, considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, earlier this year announced he was exploring a run for Senate in 2014. He made the news before Lautenberg, whose term was up in 2014, announced he would not run for re-election.

Rep. Frank Pallone, who's also considered likely to make a bid, has not made any announcements this week. A Democratic source with knowledge of Pallone's thinking tells CNN "an announcement will be forthcoming" but added that it would come after the late senator's funeral process is over, "out of respect to Lautenberg, who was a close friend to the congressman."

Pallone has the biggest war chest of the three men, with approximately $3 million cash on hand. Booker, who is seen as the favorite in the Democratic nomination battle, and who has the potential to raise a large sum of money thanks to his star power and national connections, currently has a smaller war chest than Pallone, with Holt having around $700,000 in the bank right now.

On the GOP side, former Bogota, New Jersey, Mayor Steve Lonegan says he'll run. Other possible candidates include Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, Rep. Jon Runyan, and biotech executive John Crowley. State senators Joe Kyrillos and Tom Kean Jr., who've both run for U.S. Senate in the past, seem to be leaning against making another bid this time around. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnic has said he won't run.

Tuesday Christie announced that the Democratic and Republican primaries will be held on August 13, with the general election coming on October 16. The winner would serve the final 14-and-a-half months of Lautenberg's term. An election to a full six-year term will be held in November 2014.

Christie's announcement to hold the special Senate election in October was instantly slammed by both national and state Democrats. They argued that the move was a political ploy by Christie, who is up for re-election this November. Legislative elections are also being held in November. If the special Senate election were held on the same day it would most likely increase Democratic turnout in what's considered a blue state, especially if Booker is on the ballot.

By placing the special Senate election in October, Christie avoids Democratic turnout tied to this issue possibly becoming a problem for him.

But Democrats attacked him because of the cost of holding the special Senate election in October rather than waiting a few weeks till the already scheduled general election, saying Christie's wasting taxpayer dollars.

The New Jersey Office of Legislative Services estimates it will cost $12 million to state taxpayers to conduct such a general election.

Christie said Tuesday that state law only permits the option of an October special election or an election in 2014. And he added that "there's no political purpose" behind his decision on the election date.

"A $12 million cost, while not insubstantial, I don't think in the context of a $32 billion budget is something that should dissuade us from giving people an opportunity to get an elected United States senator down there as quickly as we can," added Christie Thursday.

A Democratic state senator, stating that "we've got to start thinking outside the box," says she'll introduce a bill as early as Thursday which would move the November general election to October 16, saving the taxpayers millions of dollars.

"This is at a time when we don't have money to waste" Sen. Shirley Turner told CNN, adding that she came up with the idea Wednesday.

Turner says the fellow Democratic lawmakers she's talked to are supportive of her move. She hopes to pass the bill through committee next week, with a vote by both houses of the legislature, which are controlled by the Democrats, before the current legislative session ends later in June.

A political adviser close to the governor, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, told CNN that "we aren't surprised she (Turner) would introduce legislation solely for partisan gain."


Filed under: New Jersey • Senate
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. JI

    So the fiscally conservative Governor from the broke state wants to spend $ 24 million to hold a vote 3 weeks before his election day. He clearly does not want some of the voters in NJ to show up during his election bid. Maybe Christie should pay the $24 million bill given that it is for him, not the people of NJ? What's next, is Christie going to stop black voters from showing up to vote?

    June 6, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  2. The Real Tom Paine

    In all honesty, WHY is anyone surprised by this? Christie wants somone who is loyal to him and who will advocate for his state: did anyone really think he would pick a member of the opposite party, excluding the fact that Christie wants to be the next President? Chiesa will cast a few votes, nothing major will pass this year anyway, so why are people working themselves up about the obvious?

    June 6, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  3. Johnp40

    Even if temporary, this still provides one more vote against Czar Obama.

    June 6, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. sf

    change the balance of power? ya right...even with 46 these republican idiots hold power because of that ridiculous filibuster rule!!!! how the hell did this rule get put in the first place?!!! i don't know about you but 51 out of a 100 WINS THE VOTE!!! it only takes ONE extra vote! I'm sick of republicans and their tactics!

    June 6, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  5. The NRA is a T e r r o r i st organisation....and MORE JOBS has been created under President Obama 2times over than under GW Bush!!! ***FACT***

    Chistie did not respect the wishes of the NJ Electorate; and that is nominating a Dmocrat who held the seat before passing!!!...if a Dem Gov. had done this the right-wing NUTS will be calling him all unprintable names in the book, but this FAT SLOB of a gov had to bend over to Dick Armey to him from the Tea-Party right!!!

    Its better to leave the seat open & empty until the next election than to have a sitting Gov decides the wishes of the electorate!!!

    Sen Lautenberg must be turning over in his coffin today while he's being buried. RIP!!!!

    June 6, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  6. The NRA is a T e r r o r i st organisation....and MORE JOBS has been created under President Obama 2times over than under GW Bush!!! ***FACT***

    Chistie did not respect the wishes of the NJ Electorate; and that is nominating a Dmocrat who held the seat before passing!!!...if a Dem Gov. had done this the right-wing NUTS will be calling him all unprintable names in the book, but this FAT SLOB of a gov had to bend over to Dick Armey to do him from the Tea-Party right!!!

    Its better to leave the seat open & empty until the next election than to have a sitting Gov decides the wishes of the electorate!!!

    Sen Lautenberg must be turning over in his coffin today while he's being buried. RIP!!!!

    June 6, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  7. QS

    So waste money on a special election that didn't need to exist to secure your Governorship, then appease your party by picking somebody who has no chance of winning in the actual election.

    And this is the guy conservatives are so in love with for 2016!?!

    June 6, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  8. Marie MD

    Oops! The real rethug christie shows his true right wing colors.

    June 6, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  9. Pete in Guilford

    "Chiesa, who described himself as "a conservative Republican," said he'll have to learn quickly about the issues that he'll be voting on in the Senate over the next four months."

    Not really. He can just vote however his Tea Party and corporate overloads instruct him to. Nothing to learn. Couldn't have an easier job—and a great pension for life too!

    June 6, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  10. PeachPie

    It sounds like neither the Dems or Repubs like Christie. He must be doing something right!

    June 6, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Funny how people take something and then create a whole new reality with some great imaginary connections

    JI – why did you double the price tag? for effect? then how do you get to spending some money to keeping black from voting (racism)???

    June 6, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  12. Roger

    Christie should just appoint a permanent Republican senator of his choice. It is not only his perogative, but also his duty. He was elected by the people of NJ to fulfil these duties so whoever he appoints will be representative of the people of NJ. Moreover, you can bet your rock-bottom doller that the Democrats would do the very same thing without blinking an eye.

    June 6, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  13. reasonablebe

    this could be interesting.

    June 6, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  14. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I hope that he is a reasonable man and not one of these crazy teapublicans who will only want that way.

    June 6, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  15. g.r.r.

    Yesterday, I was impressed by Christie from allowing an election as well as his putting his state before politics.
    I now realize that he is as sleazy as any other neo-con out there.
    Too bad. I had high hopes.
    I will not be voting for him.

    June 6, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  16. Kaylan

    Doesn't anyone remember reading in the article that state law only permits the option of an October special election or an election in 2014. Just have someone verify the facts of that and then we'll know who is playing politics here. I'm just saying!

    June 6, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  17. Intruth24

    "Is it me, or does this mark the first time any Democrat in NJ was concerned about spending $12M on anything?"
    --------------------------------------------------
    No it's you!

    June 6, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  18. Robin

    I agree, a special election just one month before the regular election is bald faced politics. But couldn't Christie just appoint a Republican for the remainder of the term?

    June 6, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. Woman In California

    By placing the special Senate election in October, Christie avoids Democratic turnout tied to this issue possibly becoming a problem for him.

    Still think he shares your views?

    June 6, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  20. Ken

    I am sure all the same pople on this site were upset when Duval Patrick picked a democrat to replace John Kerry. Must have been a total shock that such a coservative governor like Patrick in a conservative state like Massachusetts would pick a democrat to replace that right winger Kerry. Wow, has to be a record for the most sarcasm in one paragraph.

    June 6, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  21. NJ

    "$12 million to state taxpayers."

    "In other news Jeff and chris were recently awarded 6 million dollar donations from anonymous donors."

    such is life in NJ

    June 6, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  22. Mopo

    So GOPers and Libs are both angry at him...sounds like he made the right decision.

    June 6, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  23. screamin2012

    It's pretty funny reading these comments while 99% of the people would do the same thing he is doing if in his position. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place with this. In a way he is saving his own job because he knows the turnout would be high and could hurt his chances. Not because the Democrat running against him is better, but because of just pure turnout. Christie knows that Booker, who I like, will get a large turn out which would work against him. Smart in my opinion. If you had a job and had an option to either delay someone from potentially taking your job would you do it? If you say NO you are an absolute fool. Smart for Christie for playing the same game that each party does. He is letting NJ citizens choose earlier than making them wait until 2014 which he could have done, but just not on the same day as his election. SMART PLAY!

    June 6, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  24. cebundy

    I can't believe that Christie would spend the taxpayers money to hold a special election, especially when he was asked what he would do if Lautenberg were to die, and he said that he would not burden the taxpayers the $10 million or so that it would cost to hold a special election. Now he's holding a special election that will cost around $23 million. And you what purpose? Too appease the GOP by temporarily filling the position with a Repub? To avoid having Booker on the ticket for Senator in November? So much for the taxpayers? How many teachers, police and firefighters will that cost them?

    June 6, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  25. chuck

    @SF
    This balance of power is nothing new. It just so happens that the Dems have control but not "full control". This is by design. There were times when Republicans had the control and the Dems used the "filibuster rule" as well. Again, all part of the design. Please educate yourself and stop acting like this is something the Republicans made up just for them to use againt the Dems. Cry baby!!!!

    June 6, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
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