By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
Jeff Chiesa was a surprise pick. Of the dozen or more names in circulation this week, the pundits overlooked one of Chris Christie’s closest confidantes.
“I said on Monday that I was going to select the person who I thought would be the best person to represent New Jersey between now and October 16, when all New Jerseyans get an opportunity to elect the person to succeed the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg. 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 the state of New Jersey in the United States Senate,” said Christie.
Chiesa is a registered Republican, 47 years old, a resident of Branchburg, who was Christie’s Chief Council before being named Attorney General.
“The governor has given me some extraordinary chances to serve in public life. None of them that I expected, this probably least of all,” said Chiesa. “But to have this chance to continue to serve in public life is a wonderful opportunity for anybody. I’ll use my best judgment and the skill that I have to conduct myself in a way that’ll make everybody in New Jersey proud.”
Chiesa will be sworn in as a U.S. Senator Monday but has decided not to enter the August primary, so he’ll hold the office for a little more than four months.
Christie said he went to Chiesa’s home Monday night to make the offer and got a “yes” on Tuesday morning.
“I said, now, are you gonna run for it or do you just want to serve on he interim basis. And he said I have no interest in being a political candidate, governor, I’d rather not run. And I said fine. You don’t want to run, Jeff, that’s fine,” recounted Christie.
The two men go back to 1991, when Christie hired Chiesa to join a law firm in Cranford.
“I’ve known him since he was a brand new lawyer 22 years ago and we’ve been together much of the time since then,” Christie said. “So I’ve appointed somebody who I have great faith and confidence in and someone I know almost as well as I know my own family.”
It was odd to hear Christie introduce his friend as Senator Chiesa, but that will be his new title. The scramble to replace Chiesa now in the fall will take center stage, with Steve Lonegan already in for the Republicans and Rush Holt in for the Democrats.