Aging New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg announced today that he will not seek reelection in 2014, clearing the way for an expected run by Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
“I am not announcing the end of anything. I am announcing the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws, protect children from toxic chemicals and create more opportunities for working families in New Jersey,” Lautenberg told the New Jersey Star-Ledger. “While I may not be seeking re-election, there is plenty of work to do before the end of this term and I’m going to keep fighting as hard as ever for the people of New Jersey in the U.S. Senate.”
At age 89, Lautenberg is the oldest member of the Senate and the last World War II veteran in the upper chamber. He was widely expected to retire at the end of his term, to create an opening for the ambitious Booker, but when Booker recently publicly floated a potential bid, Lautenberg seemed to find new vigor for his job and took pot shots at Booker.
A Lautenberg aide even went to the press to attack Booker, telling Politico of the Newark mayor, “This guy is self-absorbed and disrespectful.” Many Democrats had hoped Booker would challenge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but he chose not to in 2012. That prompted the Lautenberg aide to say, “It’s shameful that he avoided challenging a Republican just so that he can take on a long-serving, loyal Democrat.”
But apparently the hatchet has now been buried and Lautenberg will step aside to make room for the younger Democrat. Other Democrats may challenge Booker, but he is the clear front-runner.