The death of Frank Lautenberg, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, came just three days before today’s anniversary of D-day. This is worth noting because Lautenberg, 89, was the oldest serving member of the Senate and its last World War II veteran. Today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tapped NJ attorney general Jeffrey Chiesa to replace Lautenberg.
Chiesa – whose name is actually pronounced Key-AY-zuh – will fill the seat left vacant by Democrat Lautenberg until the special election, which Christie has set for October 16th. The winner of that election will then have to run for the seat again in 2014.
Christie and Chiesa have worked together before in the United States attorney’s office and the attorney general ran Christie’s transition team, following his election as New Jersey governor in 2009. Chiesa was appointed attorney general in 2012; in New Jersey, attorney general is an appointed, rather than elected, position. Speaking at a press conference, Governor Christie said of Chiesa “You won’t find anybody, I think, who will have something bad to say about Jeff:”
Republican Chiesa does not intent to seek the Senate seat in October’s election. Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota, NJ, has announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for the seat. Democrat Representative Rush Holt also announced Thursday that he will run for the seat. He may find himself in a primary race with Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who was known to have been planning to run for Lautenberg’s seat even before the Senator’s death. The Democratic race for the seat may be a crowded field; other than Holt and Booker, several names are being mentioned as possible candidates. The Republican primary as likely to be much simpler, with fewer competitors. New Jersey is a heavily Democratic state; according to a report in the New York Times, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by about 700,000.
When Christie tapped attorney general Chiesa to replace Lautenberg, it came as a surprise to many, who had expected that former state attorney general David Samson would get the nod from the Governor. Describing himself as a Conservative Republican, Chiesa was reluctant to dive into the political fray too quickly. Speaking after the announcement, he said “I need to learn about the issues before I can make any meaningful judgments.”
Those who wish to run for the seat in October are having to make some quick decisions; they must file petitions by Monday, to be eligible to take part in the August primaries. Christie has come under fire for his timing of the special election; many have said that the expense of an additional election was unnecessary, as Christie’s own re-election content will take place in November. The special election will cost the state an estimated $24 million. In response to the criticism, Christie said that there was no perfect decision, in this case. Christie’s appointment of attorney general Jeffrey Chiesa to replace Lautenberg for the intervening few months will have no effect on either the balance of power in the United States Senate or in New Jersey.
Written by Graham J Noble