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Christie Picks Chiesa For Senate As Holt Announces Run For Lautenberg’s Seat

Primary Is Aug. 13 And Election Is Oct. 16; Acting AG To Be Named On Monday

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has appointed state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa as a temporary successor to the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

The governor made the announcement at a news conference in Trenton on Thursday.

Chiesa, a registered Republican, will hold the office until a special election takes place in October and Christie said Chiesa will not run for the seat. He will take office on Monday.

“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 Oct. 16,” Christie said. “During the last few days as I’ve gotten to deliberate on this issue, 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.”

“I knew this day might come. Senator Lautenberg had been ill and I knew this day might some, so I didn’t start thinking about this on Monday. I’ve been thinking about it on and off for some period of time,” Christie added.

“He will not be a candidate in the primary or general election and that’s his decision,” said Christie.

VIDEO: Watch The Announcement

Christie said he spoke with Chiesa and his wife at their house on Monday and then got a text message from Chiesa the next day saying he was in.

“This is an incredible honor for my family and I,” the self-proclaimed conservative Republican Chiesa said at the news conference.

“I’ve only had these chances because of the governor,” Chiesa said. “I don’t kid myself.”

Chiesa said he’ll try to contribute in any way he can in the limited time he’ll serve as U.S. Senator.

“But I don’t kid myself into thinking that I’m going to go down there with a handful of draft bills,” he said.

Chiesa said border security would be one of his priorities while in office, but dismissed any notion that he will serve in the Senate as an extension of the governor, saying he has a mind of his own.

“I think the first thing we have to do is make sure the borders are secure,” Chiesa told reporters, including CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer. “From there, the issues are new to me and the details are new to me and I’ll get down there and  meet with my colleagues and discuss with them the things that make the most sense for the people I represent.”

Christie said he’ll appoint an acting attorney general Monday. He was non-committal about what will happen to Chiesa after the special election, Kramer reported.

In the 1990s, Christie hired Chiesa to work in his law firm. He has served as Attorney General since January of 2012.

Chiesa, 47, is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame where he earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting. He earned his Juris Doctorate from The Catholic University of America. He has never run for political office.

Chiesa will be the first Republican to serve as senator from New Jersey in 31 years. Then-Gov. Tom Kean appointed Nicholas Brady in 1982 to take over the seat vacated by Harrison Williams, who resigned amid a scandal.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rush Holt announced Thursday that he will seek to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Lautenberg’s death on Monday.

“I believe I am the best candidate to continue the passionate advocacy for progressive values that Sen. Lautenberg exemplified,” Holt said in a statement.

Nominating petitions for the special election are due June 10. The primary will be on Aug. 13 and then the general vote will be on Oct. 16.

Whoever wins in October will have to run again in the fall of 2014 when the term is up.

“As an educator and a scientist, I know that investing in education, research, and infrastructure are the keys to a stronger, more secure middle class. These are the investments that kept the American Dream alive in the 20th century – investments such as the GI Bill, which made it possible for a young Frank Lautenberg to go to college, to build a business, and to join the United States Senate,” Holt said.

Holt, a Democrat and former rocket scientist, represents the 12th Congressional District, which includes parts of Union, Middlesex, Mercer, and Somerset counties.

Rep. Rush Holt (file / credit: Holt Campaign)

Rep. Rush Holt (file / credit: Holt Campaign)

He has been in office since 1999.

“In my 14 years in the U.S. Congress, I have fought back against this destructive ideology and built a record of accomplishment on issues that matter to New Jerseyans,” Holt said. “We need a United States Senator who will recommit our nation to these progressive values, who will make the investments needed to keep the American Dream alive in the 21st century. This is not a time for easy cynicism; it is a moment to do the hard work to get our nation back to our best ideals.”

Lautenberg’s funeral was held Wednesday in Manhattan and he will be buried Friday morning at Arlington National Cemetery.

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