Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., will not seek reelection next year, opening the door for Newark's Democratic Mayor Cory Booker and others to run for the Senate seat.
"I will be traveling to my hometown of Paterson tomorrow to announce that I will not seek re-election in 2014," Lautenberg said in a statement. "This is not the end of anything, but rather 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. 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."
It was unclear for some time whether the 89-year-old Democrat, who has served five non-consecutive terms in the Senate, would seek out another six-year term, even after Booker expressed interest in the seat. The 43-year-old Newark mayor is considered an up-and-coming Democratic star and has said he's exploring the possibility of running for Senate. A Quinnipiac poll conducted last month showed that if Booker leading Lautenberg by 21 points in a hypothetical primary matchup.
Last month, when asked whether Booker's potential Senate challenge was "disrespectful," Lautenbergthe younger Democrat to a child in need of a spanking. "I have four children, I love each one of them. I can't tell you that one of them wasn't occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK," Lautenberg reportedly said with a smile.
Booker today released a statement hailing Lautenberg's service and his legacy.
"Newarkers know, from our airport and the roads we drive on to our schools and services for our seniors, Frank Lautenberg has helped empower people and strengthen our city," he said. "On a personal note, Senator Lautenberg has been a strong model of leadership and service to me since before I even considered entering elected office. Since I have been mayor, he has been an invaluable partner in so many of Newark's recent accomplishments and successes."
Now that Lautenberg has bowed out, Booker is expected to face a number of other Democrats in a primary for the seat. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., has privately said he intends to run, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports, while state assembly speaker Sheila Oliver and state Senate president Stephen Sweeney have also expressed interest. On the Republican side, TV and radio personality Geraldo Rivera says he is considering running.
Lautenberg is the last World War II veteran serving in the Senate. Before going to Washington, he was a successful businessman who co-founded the firm Automatic Data Processing.
In the Senate, Lautenberg has been a longtime advocate of Amtrak and other transportation causes, as well as environmental, health care and veterans' issues. Lately he has helped lead efforts in the Senate to craft gun control measures, introducing a bill to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.