Newark Mayor Cory Booker has decided not to challenge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie next year, and instead will explore a 2014 Senate bid. Booker announced his plans in a YouTube video and in an Op-Ed published in The Star-Ledger.
A Senate bid by Booker could set up an expensive primary with current Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg, 88, who is up for re-election in 2014. Lautenberg has not shown any inclination to step down, telling the Bergen Record’s Herb Jackson in April, “I’m going to stay as long as the job is not done completely." But some Democrats have quietly murmured that Lautenberg, the oldest serving senator, should bow out after five terms. After he retired for the first time in 2000, Lautenberg hated it so much that former aides say he leaped at the chance to return in 2002, when Sen. Bob Torricelli faced federal corruption charges.
In the YouTube video, Booker says, "As I explore a run for the United States Senate, I look forward to consulting with Sen. Lautenberg. During my lifetime, he has been one of New Jersey’s most important leaders. It would be a privilege to continue his great legacy of service."
Teasing what could become a platform for a 2014 run, Booker says, "We must confront a catastrophic debt crisis that could devastate the middle class, find ways to empower hard-working low income Americans, bring urgency to the effort to educate all our children, reform a broken immigration system, deliver marriage equality to all Americans, and bring sanity to our national gun safety laws."
Booker was encouraged by some state Democrats to challenge Christie, but it was widely assumed he might make the easier run at national office. Christie has record-high approval ratings in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. So far only one Democrat, State Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, has announced a challenge to Christie. It's unclear if others, like New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney or Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, might now decide to throw their hats in the ring.