Chiesa sworn in as N.J. senator

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Acting Senator Jeffrey Chiesa is the first Republican to represent New Jersey in the Senate since 1982, when Nicholas Brady was chosen by Gov. Tom Kean to serve out a term after Harrison Williams resigned amid scandal. The last time New Jersey elected a Republican to the Senate was in 1972. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

WASHINGTON –A Republican Jeff Chiesa was sworn in as New Jersey’s new U.S. senator today on the floor of the Senate, becoming the first Republican to represent the New Jersey in the chamber since Nicholas Brady in 1982.

Chiesa, 47, was appointed last week by Gov. Christie to replace Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died June 3. He will almost immediately face votes on a sweeping bill setting agricultural policy and paying for the SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps) and, within weeks, the controversial immigration reform package working its way through the Senate.

Chiesa has never held elected office, but described himself as a conservative Republican when he was appointed. But he has said little about his specific policy views and was not expected to speak to reporters Monday, according to a press aide.

The new senator is expected to serve only until around mid-October. A special election then will determine a long-term replacement for Lautenberg.

Chiesa was sworn in by Vice President Biden.

"Congratulations, Senator. Welcome to the United States Senate," Biden said. A large contingent who had come with Chiesa applauded from the gallery.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky) and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat, were all on the floor to greet Chiesa. (Reid struggled to pronounce the new senator's name - key-AY-sa).

Chiesa's aides are set to meet with Lautenberg’s chief of staff Tuesday to discuss a transition.

Donna Mullins, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Rodney Freylinghuysen (R., N.J.), will be Chiesa’s chief of staff, PolitickerNJ reported.

Chiesa was formerly New Jersey’s attorney general, a job he was also appointed to by Christie. The two men have a long alliance – Cheisa also worked with Christie in private practice and when Christie was New Jersey’s U.S. Attorney.

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