Attorney Gen. Jeffrey Chiesa appointed to U.S. Senate - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa appointed to U.S. Senate

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Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa (official state government portrait) Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa (official state government portrait)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has appointed state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to be the temporary successor to the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Chiesa, who worked with Christie in the U.S. attorney's office before becoming the top lawyer for the state government, will take office on Monday.

Christie has scheduled a special election for October 16 to fill the seat until it expires in January 2015. The winner of that election would have to run again in 2014.

A primary election would be scheduled for August 13.

"Jeff has decided to not run for the job," said Christie during a news conference at the Statehouse.

Chiesa, a Republican, has worked for Christie almost his entire career. He was Christie's chief counsel until he was nominated in December 2011 to be attorney general.

"I've only had these chances because of the governor," Chiesa said Thursday. "I don't kid myself."

Chiesa, 47, has known the governor for more than 20 years. Their relationship began when Christie interviewed Chiesa as a law clerk for the firm Dughi & Hewit. Chiesa would spend nine years in the U.S. attorney's office before leaving for a short stint as a partner at the law firm of Wolff & Samson. He then worked on Christie's transition team.

"I will try to contribute in any way I can," Chiesa said.

As attorney general, he has overseen gun buyback programs all over the state, but has not had a particularly high profile.

Raised in Bound Brook, he attended the University of Notre Dame as an undergrad and went on to get a law degree from the Catholic University of America. He is married with a son and a daughter.

In New Jersey the governor appoints the state attorney general. Christie said he will appoint an acting attorney general Monday, theoretically leaving the job open for Chiesa to return.

Christie has scheduled a special election for October to fill the seat until it expires in January 2015. Whoever wins in October would have to run again in the fall of 2014.

Lautenberg served nearly 30 years in the Senate. The liberal Democrat was 89.

The races will shape up quickly because of a deadline Monday for candidates to file papers declaring they are in the race. A primary is set for August.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Rush Holt became the first Democrat to announce he's seeking his party's nomination.

In an email Thursday to supporters, he explained why he's running. "The reason is simple," he wrote. "I believe I am the best candidate to continue the passionate advocacy for progressive values that Sen. Lautenberg exemplified."

Holt, now 64, was assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory for most of the 1990s before being elected to Congress in 1998. Around his central New Jersey district, it's not uncommon to see a bumper sticker that proclaims, accurately: "My congressman IS a rocket scientist."

He's considered one of the most liberal members of New Jersey's congressional delegation. He's pushed for laws against racial profiling and has been critical of drilling for oil and natural gas on public lands and waters.

Two well-funded Democrats, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, had expressed interest in the seat before Lautenberg died, but neither has made an announcement so far. Booker began raising money to seek the seat in January and has brought in about $2 million.

The only Republican in the race so far is former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan, a conservative who has twice sought his party's nomination for governor.

Lonegan, who runs the New Jersey office for American for Prosperity, said Wednesday that he looks forward to weighing in on national issues such as the Obama administration's handling of the attack last year at the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and the selective scrutiny of conservative groups' nonprofit tax applications.

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