New Jersey's newest senator says he's a 'conservative Republican'
June 6th, 2013
02:51 PM ET
9 years 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. Jinx9to88

    The GOP heat got to ol'e Crispy Cream Christie. He knows dang well that seat will be back in Dems hands before to long. Nothing will get through the senate in the next few months with the filibuster queens, Rand Paul and his girlfriend Mitch McConnell.

    June 6, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  2. don in albuquerque

    Great, just what we need. Another voice from the 1940's. We'll remember you too, Chris.

    June 6, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  3. korkea aika

    i'm a dyed in the wool Democrat and I like Christie. But it stops there. I can't find another one in the whole country I'd give a nickel for.

    June 6, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  4. Booger

    Well this is fine.

    June 6, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  5. Gary

    Remember the song about the guy who found a snake, took him in, made him a pet. Then the snake bit him.
    "You knew I was a snake when you took me in"

    June 6, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    ""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."

    And yet we have to listen to GOPers/teatrolls rail about $1M for something or other they don't like being a HUUUUUUUGE deal in the context of the entire federal budget. Yawn. Just more 'conservative" hypocrisy.

    June 6, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  7. Wulf

    Korkea – I am 100% with you. As a independent (left leaning) I would vote for Christie based upon everything I've seen. The problem is that the rest of the republicans behind him seem to be absolutely the same crazy folks we've been seeing the last couple of years. If the GOP wants any future they need to stop pandering to such extremist and try to focus on more middle ground issues.

    June 6, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  8. proudamercn

    how respectful to Lautenburg. fat boy christy just nailed a 89 year old corpse.

    June 6, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  9. mikeinthevine

    Let's see, the electorate picked a Democrat for that seat for how many years? Now Christie puts a conservative republican
    in there. So much for non-partisan Christie. You knew he'd fold to the far right eventually. Coward!

    June 6, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  10. Wake up People!

    I told you he would get on his knees for the GOP. Trying to get back in their good graces huh big boy?

    It definitely didn't take long for him to show his true colors......
    Nothing but a big, fat phony.

    June 6, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  11. Maddog2020

    Christie did the right thing. appoint a senator and have a special election. Nothing to complain about here.

    June 6, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  12. obama mama rethinking (actually starting to think)

    Republican governors fix the economies in Wisconsin and NJ and yet there are still enough clueless people that keep voting for democrats. Obama has done little good for the US economy, and yet, there are people that believe that we need more democrats. Truth is that we spend TOO much. The current group of national democrats are killing the future US economy.

    Korkea: There are good republicans and democrats throughout the nation. Open your mind. The world is a big place.

    June 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  13. Larry

    Are you GOP's happy now? You can quit crying now!

    June 6, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  14. Alpha Deus

    Will this be a new republican like all the others...same old Sh-itt, different colored plating

    June 6, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  15. mike

    I like Christie, but replacing a deceased senator with one from the opposite party is a DIRTBAG move.

    June 6, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  16. mcwreiole

    I am a New Jersey Republican (from the endangered list) but I am also a realist. A democrat will occupy that seat again in a few months. Come on, New Jersey, Rush Holt?? Frank Pallone?? Two dyed in the wool, out of touch old-era politicians, steeped in cronyism and masters of the back room deals that keep them well financed and in their jobs. I wouldn't trust either of them to tell me the time of day. Get rid of these old hacks and look to Cory Booker, a man who will represent us honestly and sincerely.

    June 6, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  17. nuclear mike

    Oh gee the Governor did the grown-up thing...and made a real decision for once!!!

    June 6, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  18. mary

    Doesn't seem right that a Republican can be appointed to replace a democrat.

    June 6, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  19. derp

    Thanks Chris, we voted for a Democrat. You gave us a republican. Nice to see you respect the wishes of our voters.

    June 6, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  20. Funny

    What a bunch of whiners!!!!!!

    June 6, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  21. Cindy

    Christie needs to run on a Democrat platform because he is not a Republican. He is just a new jersey mobster and that is why him and the chicago thug president get along so well, they speak the same "lets %$# all americans" language. Leftist who are calling themselves liberal because it sounds nicer than than the socialist pigs they actually are, absolutely love Christie and if that doesn't tell you the truth about Christie then you need to be sure to be voting under democrat too.

    June 6, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  22. chachabrown

    I still hate libs

    June 6, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  23. billfit

    Sounds like you're the one crying Larry. BOO HOO HOO! LOL!!!!!

    June 6, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  24. Alan S

    Odd how quick Jinx9 and Don in Albuquerque are to criticize Christie for this appointment. GOP heat? Yesterday Gov. Christie announced a 2013 election to fill the empty seat and, as Jinx9 wrote "that seat will be back in Dems hands". That was not the action of a man bowing to "GOP heat". But Gov. Christie is a Republican. For him to appoint a fellow Republican hold the seat for a few months, especially when Christie announced that his appointee would not run for the seat in November, seems pretty reasonable.

    And actually, don, I'm not sure another voice from the 1940's would be all that bad. That was the decade the completed its recovery from the Great Depression, won a World War on two fronts, created the U.N., NATO, and the Marshall Plan, and elected Harry Truman. Not such a bad decade, all-in-all.

    June 6, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  25. Joe SKinner

    "Christies appoint changes the balance of power in the senate" ummm NO. thanks to filibuster abuse you need 60 votes to do anything, this doesnt change S*hit.

    June 6, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
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