WASHINGTON -- Chiesa 2018?
New Jersey's interim Senator, who hasn't held elected office since being his high school senior class president in 1983, said Wednesday that he'd consider running for public office in the future after having an "amazing" (if brief) experience in the Senate.
"For me, it’s a family issue right now," Chiesa said, ruling out a run in 2014 (when Cory Booker will be up for re-election).
But, on the last day of a roughly five-month stint in the Senate, Chiesa added, "Is it something we’d think about later? Yeah. But for now it’s not something that makes sense."
As for next year, he said, "no – unequivocally no – that is not later."
Chiesa, a Republican appointed by Gov. Christie in June to temporarily replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, was already out of his temporary office and his staff of 16 had mostly moved on. He was working Wednesday on an iPad in a small conference room near the Senate rotunda, with three aides on hand. Booker will be sworn in Thursday.
In an interview with three New Jersey reporters Chiesa still seemd awe-struck by his chance to be in the Senate. He has had high profile roles before -- as Christie's chief counsel and New Jersey's attorney general -- but here he was a peer of some of the biggest names in American politics.
He talked about his first day - meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (two figures, he noted, that he'd often watched on TV) - "then was on the floor of the Senate speaking to Pat Leahy, John McCain, so that whole experience was sort of a tidal wave. And then the vice president swore me in – all on the first day. So that was an amazing experience."
He talked about meeting Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito -- "for any lawyer to have that chance is just remarkable" -- and getting briefings in the situation room from Vice President Biden (on Syria) and the White House with President Obama (during the recent shutdown).
He had special praise for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) as an "inspiring figure. He's on the list of people who have been extraordinarly generous to me … I’ll miss him."
"Anybody who doesn’t enjoy the chance to be in the Senate, I don’t know how you couldn’t," Chiesa said. "The toughest part of it is if you have a young family, like I do, trying to balance that part of it out." (His children are 12 and 15).
But as for the work itself: "every time I walk in there it’s amazing, you’re going to go cast a vote and then you’re on the floor having a chance to talk with all the decision makers. It’s an amazing experience."
He had dinner with two dozen or so fellow Senators recently, and received a glass box with an etching of the Senate chamber. Today will be his last in the Senate - it's not clear yet if any more votes will be scheduled - and then he returns to Branchburg, where, he said, "I have pretty good anonymity still."
Chiesa also talked about his thoughts on the recent shutdown, civility in the Senate and his biggest vote -- on immigration reform. We'll have much more from him in Thursday's Inquirer, on Inquirer.com and Philly.com.