Christie names his Attorney General as caretaker Senator
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie named his Attorney General, Jeffrey Chiesa, to serve in the US Senate until a special election is held in October to fill out the term of deceased Senator Frank Lautenberg.
Chiesa said he won't seek election later this year.
Christie's announcement at a hastily arranged news conference ended days of intense speculation over whom the Republican governor would appoint to serve nearly five months before voters elect a replacement for the 89-year-old Lautenberg, who died Monday.
New Jersey voters haven't sent a Republican to the Senate in four decades.
On Tuesday, Christie made the controversial decision to hold two special elections -- an Aug. 13 primary and an Oct. 16 election -- to fill the Senate seat at a cost of almost $25 million.
Some Republicans have criticized the approach as a political move on Christie's part, aimed at keeping Newark Mayor Cory Booker -- who has expressed interest in the Senate seat -- off the November ballot. Booker could attract more Democrats to come out to vote and possibly erode Christie's margin of victory over his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono.
It's an open question just how often Chiesa will side with Republicans in the Senate:
When he appointed Chiesa attorney general, Christie said he was bringing a "no-nonsense" approach to law enforcement. Those who went toe to toe with Chiesa in the courtroom said he never had a political agenda.
After two years of dealing with some of the most controversial policy matters as chief counsel, Chiesa won fans in both parties.
He certainly isn't going to be popular with the gun lobby:
Chiesa indicated his opposition to the death penalty in an interview with New Jersey's public media network. While the incoming senator explained that he supported the death penalty when he was younger, he now opposes it because "in the one instance where you're not right about that, there's no way in any way to remedy that decision and the consequences of administering that decision."
Christie's choice for the U.S. Senate is also a strong supporter of a gun buyback program, testifying before a state legislative committee that "gun buybacks are helping to make New Jersey safer, and because they're paid for with criminal forfeiture funds, they don't cost the taxpayers a penny." The state's buyback program, which Chiesa described as "a valuable part of a broader anti-gun-violence strategy," netted 10,000 firearms as of last month.
Well, the best that can be said is that he won't be there very long.