Booker and N.J. Dems still trying to push Lautenberg out of 2014 race

posted at 2:01 pm on January 11, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham

In other elderly senator news, New Jersey Democrats are rather unceremoniously nudging Sen. Frank Lautenberg out of the 2014 New Jersey Senate race. When Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced in December he would pass on contesting Gov. Chris Christie, he announced he’d run for Senate instead. Lautenberg had not made an announcement that he’d be retiring, but most politicos assumed Booker had at least consulted with the 89-year-old elder statesman. Turns out he hadn’t, and still hasn’t.

On Sunday shows last week, both of Lautenberg’s potential opponents talked openly about running for his seat while Lautenberg was laid up with the flu—an unfortunate bit of timing that paradoxically makes their comments seem ruder but their desire to run seem more reasonable. Booker even said he’d tried to set up a meeting with Lautenberg but the senator had to reschedule. Let’s hope for a show we can just sit back and watch:

A political action committee, Pac Plus, is already signing up potential Booker supporters online.

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, a regular Lautenberg ally, also wants in, saying on MSNBC on Sunday: “The senator knows that I’d like to run, and I, of course, have been talking about this for a long time. It’s definitely something that I’m considering and I’m interested in.” But Pallone added, “I think maybe we should be worrying about this Senate race a little later. I’m not saying I can’t beat (Booker). I’m just saying we need to concentrate now on getting these (Sandy relief) bills passed in Washington and deal with the Senate race later.”

On Monday, Booker avoided the question of whether he would run in a primary against Lautenberg. “I want to give him the space to make his own decision,” he said on CNN. “I’ve announced my intention to run, but the reality is, we’ve got a good senator. He’s been loyal. He’s been there for a long time. And I think he’s got a decision to make.”

I know people have their issues with Christie (and he’s getting too Huntsmanesque for me), but it is fun to watch a competent Republican figure reduce the Democratic Party of a blue state to electoral convulsions like this. They may very well have a three-way Democratic primary for a Senate seat and they’ve got no one to run for Governor— in New Jersey. Jim Geraghty covers the dismal state of that race:

At this point, the lone Democrat running against Chris Christie in New Jersey’s 2013 governor’s race is state senator Barbara Buono of Metuchen — a relatively little-known state lawmaker, who begins about 40 points behind the GOP incumbent.

Now there’s word that New Jersey Democrats are so worried about their prospects against Christie that longtime rivals are willing to contemplate a truce over it.

When he became governor in 2009, you couldn’t have found one person who would have predicted New Jersey politics and fiscal policy would look like they do today.


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